Advice on life and love from fourth graders

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I’m just back from my foray into the fourth grade class Valentine’s party. Pizza was eaten, votes were cast, alliances were made — and broken.

It was boys versus girls in all the giggly party games. The boys were trounced — badly. And isn’t it just always that way really?

When it comes to games of love, men don’t always fare so well. I think it’s because the rules keep changing.

All you need to know

I have come to the conclusion all you really need to know about love you could learn from a fourth grader.

Fourth graders are generally roughly 9 or 10. No longer “babies,” they’ve been around. They’ve paid attention to “stuff.” Yet, they are still young enough (but not babies remember!).

They haven’t, if they are lucky, built really good walls yet. They are only just now learning the overwhelming power that is the fear of “looking stupid.”

They don’t yet know how that fear will come to rule their lives. They still, for the most part, wear their hearts on their sleeves.

Point

I have always suspected children are a lot smarter than adults. They get to the point so much better than we do.

While we are mincing around worrying about how we look, are we trying too hard, or not hard enough? Do you think he’ll call? Do you think she’d like to be my friend? Does this shirt, these pants, this smile make me look stupid? Kids are just running around being themselves. Owning their triumphs — and tribulations.

Overheard

“I’m a really fast runner so everyone wants to be me. But I’m not very good at math, so my friends help me with that.”

Such a fine mix of pride and hubris! Of the delicious sense of being envied, tempered with a healthy dose of “but I’m far from perfect!”

Adults, meanwhile, can spend five minutes of cocktail party chit-chat trying to work an anecdote around to their own fabulousness without seeming to do so. “What? Me? Talented? Perish the thought! But now that you mention it …”

You’re in or you’re out

The fourth graders I’ve seen don’t waste too much precious time on the warming up to friendship dance. You are in, or you’re out. That’s it.

There is something to be said for just approaching a likely friendship candidate and saying, boldly, “So do you want to be my friend?”

If they say yes, fantastic! And think of all the time saved in meeting for coffee (juice boxes?) and wondering if you share the same socio-political beliefs?

If they say no, hey, think of the time you saved there too. No harm. No foul. You just move to the other side of the playground.

Not to mention if you have the healthy attitude of most fourth graders you’ll just try again tomorrow. Things change, after all.

Cruel

Granted, fourth graders can show great love and compassion, and also cut to the bone so thoughtlessly you think they are being raised by wolves.

I watched one child tell another child, “I don’t want to be your friend anymore.” Ouch. Yet, in thinking it over, do we as adults do any better?

Is it less cruel to dodge that falling-out-of-favor-friend’s telephone call for weeks at a time? To slog through a 40-minute conversation about “needing space, and how it’s not you it’s me and hey we can still be friends” when you fully intend to spend very little time with your newly demoted “friend” if truth were told?

Really, the fourth graders, while seemingly cruel, may be unwittingly kind. Like tearing off a Band-Aid. Quick and sharp but then you heal. “I liked you. Now I don’t. The end.” You can’t say they lack closure. Dr. Phil and Oprah would be very proud.

And finally, I think I learned all we need to know from the passed on wisdom of one little fourth grade girl (age 10 — and not my own girl by the way).

Truest love advice

Here are the truest words of love advice likely ever to be spoken. Too young to have fallen for the delusion you can “change” someone you love into someone else entirely, or you should remain friends, or lovers, with anyone who treats you poorly, no matter what their “reasons.”

“No boy is worth crying over, and the ones who are won’t make you cry.” Words to live by for either gender really.

What’s love got to do with it? Everything. As does honesty, friendship and making new friends nearly every single day by staying true to your inner fourth grade self.

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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.

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