I love children. I am entranced by them and delight in their creativity and even their honest outbursts of tears or frustration. To me everything a child does is pure and genuine. I found my place when I, as an attorney, landed in Family Court where our only goal is to do what is in the best interests of these unique little beings. What I’ve found most recently though is that Family Court has expounded my definition of “children.”
Walking into the courtroom one day I was struck by a girl sitting all alone at the Respondent’s table. Her head was down in the crook of her elbow, her face turned to the side unmistakably sucking her thumb. I thought that she must be a juvenile delinquent in court for some petty crime but was surprised to learn that she was in fact a Respondent-mother accused of neglecting her newborn infant. As I watched this child-mother suck her thumb I thought about the comfort a pacifier brings to my baby boy. Suddenly I felt torn by this young child-mother and the horror of the neglect she might have exhibited towards a helpless beautiful newborn. Although our role as a court is to protect the newborn my heart ached for the mother, neglectful perhaps because neglected herself and left with only her thumb for comfort.
Looking back on the incident, I appreciate my bias that this child-mother pulled at my heart strings simply because of her youth. What if she was years older and like a typical respondent, would she not still be sucking her thumb? Why is it that I am drawn to babies and sometimes look away and indeed even turn my back on the elderly? How old will my daughter be when her adorable little routine of calling me into the potty to wipe her butt after she poops becomes gross? Will I – like the older generation I now see – eventually delight in spending time with my grandchildren over my children – simply because my children became adults?
Understanding that my love for youth is a bias has helped me learn patience in dealing with adults, myself included. The impatient man who runs a red light is like a child who can’t wait to open his birthday gifts…the inconsiderate mother who delights in comparing her over-achieving child with others is like a child who longs for praise for her crayola masterpiece. . .the politician who is more concerned about his legacy than about how people are living under his rule is like a teenager insecure about what others think of him. And when I find myself defensive, I know that it is my ego lashing out for something I missed in childhood.
I am also learning to delight in the uniqueness of every person no matter what age – I try to find the purity in their actions and beauty in their ingenuity. I believe, after all, that we are all children.
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