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What is it about kids that make us like them so darn much? I see a baby (particularly now that we’re trying to conceive) and my uterus practically aches. The instinct I feel seems almost hardwired into me — definitely not learned. So what is it about children that we are so drawn to? Why do we “ooh” and “aah” over them so?

Some people say it’s an innate drive designed to ensure the continuation of the species. Just like some say sex feels good so that we want to have it and thus ensure that humans stick around for a while, they also say our innate drive to shelter a crying, screaming infant ensures that it lives long enough to learn how to take care of itself . I can see this biological angle, for sure…but I also see a somewhat philosophical one.

When I look at a child I see pure potential. The world is so big to them — the possibilities for the future seemingly endless. What will they be? Whose lives will they touch? Will they invent something that cures a disease? A new prosthesis? Will they grow up to take care of inner city children, or starving children in Africa, or will they raise their own family? Will they be an artist, seeing and creating things with an eye that seems on another dimension altogether? How will they live their life, and see and change the world? Seeing a child and having that “I-so-desperately-want-a-child-so-he-can-have-his-very-own-life-adventure” feeling in the pit of my stomach is, I think, largely part of what inspires people like me to want to make a life — to want to create it, protect it, and help it to grow, learn, and take off on its own journey.

I used to feel this excitement around only babies and very young children, and thought kids were cutest when their age was still in the single digits. But I met a coworker’s ten-year-old today who just made my heart melt. I think this could be because I’m getting older, and ten just doesn’t seem that awkward and gangly anymore. Today ten seemed wide-eyed, full of magic and life and innocence.

Ten seemed like the future.

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Look at Whitman go.

There was a child went
forth every day,
And the first object he
looked upon, that object
he became,
And that object became
part of him for the day
or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or
stretching cycles of years.
The early lilacs became
part of this child,
And grass and white
and red morning glories,
and white and red
clover; and
the song of the phoebe-bird,
And the third-month
lambs and sow’s
pink-faint litter, and
the mare’s
foal, and the cow’s calf.

-Walt Whitman

I’m a Whitman fan anyway, and when I read the imagery in the piece above I instantly fell in love with it. The imagery was just so…visceral, tactile. I love that kind of writing! Reading this prompted me to wonder what objects I became — for a day or for a season — after encountering them in my youth. I reflected, pondering on my childhood and deciding this:

The draped honeysuckle
became part of me,
And violet dew-dropped
morning glories and
baby starlings
rescued from the flue;
And earthworms plucked
from drying walks,
and bare feet on
thick green grass
and hot Georgia
pavement; and rough bark
of climbed trees
and fences.

What objects did you become, or what objects do you think or hope your child has or will become? I would love to hear, even if it’s in sentence form!

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