I was recently visiting my brother in Wisconsin for my niece's fifth birthday party, which played host to a few kids ranging in age from a few months to 5 years old.
Being the awesome aunt and uncle that we are, my husband and I bought her a set of 24 Play-Doh colors. It didn't seem like that many when we bought them, but when I told my brother what was wrapped up in the least-Christmasy wrapping paper we owned, his eyes grew.
But, that's the fun part of being an aunt.
After presents were opened and cake was had, the kids decided they wanted some Play-Doh time. One of the children, a 3-year-old boy who was quite the character, spent the entire time methodically cutting a cup of dark blue Play-Doh into chunks with a butter knife. Seriously, he did this for at least an hour. Imagine an adult doing that. It would be creepy.
When I asked him what he was doing he said, "Cutting the Play-Doh," a faint tone of incredulity in his voice as if to say, "Isn't it obvious?"
But it wasn't until the end of the evening that the shining moment of the day occurred.
This little boy had been playing at my brother's apartment all day, having fun bowling, playing a game in which the kids fed a pig little hamburgers until it's belly burst open, messing with Play-Doh and, of course, running around screaming. But at about 7 p.m., when his father and my brother headed out to get some pizza for dinner, this little guy had apparently had enough.
"Mom," he said to his mother seated on the couch. "I'm done here."
"You're done here?" she questioned.
"Yes. I'm done here. I want to go home," he said.
"Why are you done here?" my husband asked him.
"Because I am," he replied, deadpan, absolutely serious.
It was hilarious. I'm sure he didn't understand why we were laughing, but the party ended up moving over to his apartment, right across the hall from my brother's.
Often when I see kids doing weird stuff - babbling nonsense while seated in a grocery cart, doing cartwheels down the aisle of a store, responding to questions by yelling every other word and twisting their bodies around - I imagine how ridiculous it would be for an adult to behave the same way.
Imagine an adult having a tear-laden meltdown because the day's snack was apple slices and not string cheese. Imagine an adult telling you all about his imaginary friend named George. Imagine an adult doing cartwheels down a grocery store aisle, randomly busting a move in a parking lot, squealing with delight at a surprise visit to a favorite restaurant.
But being around kids gives you a social license to do almost all of those things. You can pretend to be a superhero, run wild through a park, roll down a giant snowbank, so long as there is a kid next to you doing the same thing.
Being around kids makes us less worried about how other people perceive us. I mean, if you don't like it that I'm swinging on a swing-set with my niece, singing some song she just made up at the top of our lungs, then that's just too bad for you.
And with that, I think I'm done here.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jackie Stark is a Chocolay Township resident and a staff reporter at The Mining Journal. Her column appears bi-weekly. She can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org