An acquaintance talked about her wishes: “I stay in so much, and I want to go out a lot, I want to dance at night, to laugh, to enjoy the glitter and the weather and everything!” All well and good but for one thing: she was 75, with serious health problems. Yet she refused to accept some facts of life and tortured herself and those around her with those lamentations. It is a very understandable wish, to be young again. I don’t know if everybody wants a second chance at youth when they are old, but I do know how it is possible to carry the feeling of Youth through life. Children of course give us lots of vicarious experiences and keep us on our toes. When my five-year-old rushed along Broadway in New York after school singing at the top of her lungs I had to rush after her. When we went to the playground I ran around and sometimes had to climb on things to extricate my kids when they were stuck or scared. The birthday parties alone can drive anybody crazy. There is a great bonus in all of this: while the kids were young I remained a young mother. A friend of mine gave birth at 42, another at 44. I tell both of them the same thing, “Nobody asks you about your age. They look at the baby, they look at you and they see an exhausted but happy young mother”. Frankly postpartum depression which seems to be a very popular topic among celebrities is a mystery to me. I mean, you gave birth, what did you expect, that you’d be able to hop and skip and jump at once? Sure, the first months there is no sleep, no rest, and there definitely is a feeling of being cooped up. But also every day brings something new, the baby grows by the second, and you learn a lot. Your feelings expand, your horizons broaden, your weight gradually goes back to normal, and you find a lot of new friends if you wish. Mothers communicate at any playground, any event.
When we went to Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park, the kids saw an attraction and begged, “Dad, please throw a ball, we want that large toy, what if you hit the target!” Daddy threw the ball, hit the target and we were presented with a huge soft toy, a dark blue tiger with black stripes. I knew at once that we’ll have to carry it with us on all our moves from place to place. How? We packed it into an empty computer box and the youngest kid got a kick out of grabbing the box by its handles and placing it on the security belts at airports. I cannot even begin to imagine the number of kids who played with the toy through the years, or the number of pictures taken, and the process still continues. Though somewhat the worse for wear the tiger is still a magnet for any child.
Our kids belong to the “Harry Potter” generation. For years parents and educators complained that modern children do not read, that nothing helps, and then J.K. Rowling almost single-handedly solved the problem. Naturally the screen versions helped, with their lovely trio of friends in the center. The books are exceptionally well-written. I believe that one of the attractions for adults is the way school is shown. All of us probably had a nasty teacher like Severus Snape and a few boring ones. Many of us were fortunate enough to encounter a Dumpledore or a MacGonagall. It is known that if a child has even one supportive adult in their life, that’s enough for their growth. They will realize their potential better, their grades in all the school subjects will improve. It does not matter what exactly the said good teacher teaches. A know cases when a future journalist’s or a chemist’s favorite teacher happened to be a mathematician, or when a future physicist listed a teacher of handicrafts among their best instructors. Sometimes parents are sadly lacking in parental skills, or they are abusive or indifferent; in such situations a trusted adult may play a huge role in the child’s life indeed.
Any educator well-disposed towards children and young adults would feel a sort of reflected youth throughout their career. When one is kind, patient and understanding, there may be payback in kind. Former students come to visit and to share their successes. Families with young children become part of our own background and help us stay connected. It is not necessary to have children of one’s own to remain in continuous contact with the younger generations. Naturally having your own children and later grandchildren helps, but there are other opportunities in the persons of nephews and nieces, godchildren and good friends. The way they behave and talk, their interests and hobbies, joys and woes make our life richer.