I had a girls’ night out the other evening with my daughter, who just turned seven. We ate Indian food and she told me about the goings on in first grade. At one point (okay, a few points) during our meal, she started making up words (we had a pretend conversation in babble), and a couple other times she kind of spaced out, staring at people in the restaurant, or just got silly.
At one point when she was being a total goof, I asked: “What planet are you from anyway? The Kid Planet?”
“Yes. That’s where I go sometimes.”
“Like when I tell you to put on your shoes and socks in the morning and ten minutes later you’re in your room, barefoot, singing to yourself and coloring, that’s where you go?”
I heard a lot of details about the Kid Planet. I used to call it the Six-Year-Old Planet, but then she had a birthday. And as I discovered, it’s really for all kids, not just six-year-olds. Nobody lives there because, she tells me, “There aren’t any bedrooms,” but kids go there sometimes during the day when they appear not to be listening to the adults. There’s a quiet room and a noisy room, a swimming pool that is 2/3 the length of the pool at our local YMCA (she was very clear about this). Actually there are two pools–one for swimming to burn off little kid energy and one for playing. My kid goes to both. And there’s another room where kids can just go and run around and burn off energy.
“What about babies?” I asked. “Do they go to Kid Planet too?”
“Well, they’re in a separate building next door.”
“How old do the babies have to be before they can move up to the other building?”
“Like three or four.” My guess is that the babies are pretty much in the Baby Building on Kid Planet 24-7 with occasional excursions into our world. From what my daughter tells me, the move up to the Big Kid Building seems be based more on milestones and personal preference than strictly on age. Which makes sense because there are no adults on the Kid Planet, and I can’t see any of the kids actually making and enforcing rules. The whole thing seems to be a sort of anarcho-collective, which I find deeply appealing.
To get into the Kid Planet, my daughter told me that “You just go up to the gate and tell them your name, and then they let you in.” She says this will not work if you’re an adult. Little does she know.
Last year for Halloween, she dressed up as a Magical Creature. She had wings and antennae and ton of glow sticks attached to her clothes. She is an inventive, clever, kind, funny little person. To my mind, she is a magical creature every day.
People say that your kids keep you young. That’s physically impossible. We get older; they get older. So it goes. What our children do is remind us of the little people we once were, of the magical creatures we used to be. We were magical, you know. Those magical creatures are still in us, still part of us. They surface when we forget our adult selves and climb a tree, jump into a pile of leaves, or run through a sprinkler. In short, when our kids remind us of the glorious little people we once were.
The next time you’re in a meeting at work or letting your mind wander while you’re doing the laundry or the dishes or mowing the lawn, take a visit to the Kid Planet. Don’t be afraid. Go up to the gate and whisper your name. If you let yourself remember, they’ll let you in.
–by Susan Petrone