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Is it Innocence or Wisdom?

Aug 17, 2007
Innocence is difficult to find in today's world. Every generation says, "These are bad times, we really have it hard." It's probably more accurate to say that these are challenging times, and every generation has its own unique set of challenges. The Encarta Dictionary defines innocence as "an absence of guilt, harmless, freedom from evil, lack of worldly experience, not recognizing the harmful intentions of others." If we accept this definition, then perhaps two examples come quickly to mind: watching a month-old puppy sleep, and gazing into the eyes of a toddler-age child.

Little kids, especially barely verbal kids, watch and listen to everything. All kinds of things fascinate them; the graceful motion of goldfish, the gentle waving of tall grasses, the color yellow, and the bouncing of a beach ball. All the things adults take for granted, toddlers find endlessly amazing. They believe everything we tell them; they have no concept of lying, or even fanciful jest. Myths, childhood legends, make-believe, wonderful fantasies of all sorts and even bogeymen that lurk in their closets at night are all real to them. Kids believe it just because we say it. Like the sleeping puppy, their total absence of guile seems to last such a short time! This innocence seems to vanish within the first few years of their lives, never to be reclaimed.

What takes the place of childish innocence? We can only hope that it is wisdom. As children learn the ways of the world, this knowledge can sometimes be disappointing. There's no such thing as Santa Claus or Superman. The tiny puppy grew into a big dog that bites if its ears are yanked. Grandmother died - she isn't "sleeping." And there are monsters, but they don't live in the closet at night; they are teachers and babysitters and the nice man next door who has some strange pictures of naked kids.

Life is the wind that erodes the soft rock of innocence. Over time, kids tend to start accepting the world as it is, not as it should be. A child's reasoning becomes things are what they are. Unfortunate events are reduced to their simplest forms: a tornado blew our house down; some people from another place didn't like us so they blew up our buildings; people get sick and go to live with God. Much of this is the way we as parents handle life ourselves. Do we offer simple stories to try to explain events and situations? Or do we tell the child what adults understand to be the truth and let them figure it out from there?

Strange, isn't it? Even when they know the truth, little kids still have the wisdom to tell it like it is and cope with it, whatever "it" may be. They don't have ulcers, drink too much alcohol, or brood about ways to take revenge on someone who hurt them. They trust that they'll have food to eat and clothes to wear. They don't worry about paying the mortgage; they just put their toys away before bed like Mommy said. As adults, it seems incredible that we too were once as innocent as our youngest children are now. Then life happened - so did divorce, addiction, unemployment, war and illness.

So many times, it is all too easy to sigh and say that this is how life has to be for our children too. But even when Pandora released evil upon the world, hope remained in the box. Maybe our children will inherit a better world; we can certainly do our best to hope for that. Not everyone surrenders the innocence of youth and some folks are lucky enough to maintain a small portion of it as they age. If our toddlers can do this without becoming bitter or jaded by the worries of the world, then they have gained true wisdom.
About the Author
Graham Johns writes regularly for YourToddler.net where you can read many more articles on calm crying in toddlers and babies . Also go to Family Life for a range of informative articles on family dental plans and much more
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