Children as Children

November 12, 2008

children at the puppet theatre - paris.jpg

I love this photo.

It’s taken by a photo journalist named Alfred Eisenstaedt whose probably best known for this photo. The photo of the children, above, was taken in Paris at a puppet show just as the dragon was being slain.

The expression of each child in this photo is wonderful.

The girl with her right arm outstretched is trying to tell the dragon (or the slayer) something.
The girl in front of her is freaking. I can hear her screaming, all the way from 1963.
The boy at the far left can’t bear to listen, but must keep watching.
The girl just under the outstretched arm looks like she just had one of her lower molars taken out.
The girl at the far right–the one with the glasses and dark hair–reminds me of this guy.
And my favourite: the girl just right of centre, at the front, with her arm around her friend…priceless. Simply priceless.

Children are so full of wonder and delight. I suppose that’s why I like this photo so much. Each child responds to the world before them differently, but each response, each reaction is real. There’s nothing holding them back; they are who they are. If they’re unhappy, they’ll cry. If they’re glad, they’ll smile. My nephew the other day broke out in a heart-wrenching, red-faced, waterfall-of-tears cry. Why? Because there was no more ice cream. Ha! (I have it on video; I know, I’m cruel)

This photo also resonates with me because I’ve been reading this neat book called The Mystery of the Child by Martin E. Marty. I haven’t finished it, so I can’t comment about the whole book…but Marty’s argument fascinates me. Here’s his thesis:

…the provision of care for children will proceed on a radically revised and improved basis if instead of seeing the child first as a problem faced with a complex of problems, we see her as a mystery surrounded by mystery. The need to deal with problems will, of course, be pressing in the case of every child, but if this need dominates the thoughts and actions of those who provide care, much of the wonder and joy of relating to children will be shrouded or even lost.

Marty spends the whole book describing and defining what he means by mystery. And though I’ve not read the entire book yet, I get it. I know what he’s getting at. Children are better at wonder and mystery, than adults are…and I think this is a bit of what Jesus meant when he said we must all become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).

I’ll probably post more thoughts on this book in the future, but I should say now it is changing the way I think about my work with youth and also the way I think about parenting. No, I’m not becoming a parent soon. But I look forward to it, and what Marty advises actually excites me even more about children and relating to children.

If you like the photo (above) also, you’ll like this too.