Having no siblings of my own, I always find it both insightful and exciting whenever my six-year-old cousin comes over for a visit. As the buzzing ball of energy that she is, I often have a tough time keeping up with her, unsure of what her busy mind will come up with next.
“Anusha, we’re coloring now!”
“Oh, okay. Let me get the-”
“Wait no. Let’s go outside and look for acorns!”
“Acorns? Why acorns?”
“To feed them to Mr. Squirrel! Otherwise he’s gonna get really angry and go nom nom-” she finishes her statement with an unintelligible growling and gnashing of teeth as if demonstrating how furious Mr. Squirrel will be if he doesn’t get his fair share. Startled, a little confused, and fearful of the wrath of Mr. Squirrel, I shrug and follow her outside.
It is during these silly instances times that I am struck by the tremendous disparity between the thoughts of adults and children. While I would consider amassing acorns in a plastic bag as an inane and pointless activity, my cousin obviously sees it as a highly-qualified investment of our time, reverently holding each acorn as if it is a precious jewel.
Our motives for completing certain activities are also entirely different. In her eyes, everything we do has a definitive and desirable end goal. For instance: “We will draw and color these pictures to give to my parents, and they will be very happy.” or “I will read this book only so we can play later”, or even “Only step on the black tiles, or you’ll step into the lava!”. In essence, my young companion seems to be driven by the reasonable yet simplistic system of operant conditioning, in which she is drawn to positive behaviors for some reward and driven away from negative behaviors in fear of punishment. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong about this mode of thought. I’m just documenting my observations of the juvenile mind.
I, in contrast, perform several daily activities because of the experience itself, rather fixating on the end result. Take blogging for instance. I don’t post everyday in hopes of becoming a renowned contributor to the New York Times or a Pulitzer-prize winning author. I post because the very act of writing just a sliver of my thoughts gives me immense personal satisfaction. Even if I write about something as inconsequential as taking a walk, rain, or sunny days, I love it all. Perhaps it is my ego that allows me to bask in the glow of positive and encouraging feedback from my readers. But nonetheless, I was making a point!
In spite of the disparities between our modes of thought, incentives, ideas, and interests, I really enjoy spending time with my little cousin. With her ridiculous antics, goofy smile, and wide and innocent eyes, she introduces me to the wonderful world of unbridled hope and optimism.