The Well-Hidden Wisdom of Children


Our favorite family ice cream stop is the Pied Piper Creamery. Tucked away in Berry Hill, one of Nashville’s quirky business districts, the PPC expanded from the original that has blessed East Nashville for years. With flavors like Baklava, Pancakes, Halepeño, or Red Velvet Elvis, we always taste four or five before deciding which to order.

Last week was fall break for the kids, so we made an afternoon run to the PPC for what is probably our last ice cream outing of 2011 (I got two scoops: Baklava and Mocha). On our way home the sun hovered bright and low over south Nashville’s hilly spine, and from the back of the minivan my ten-year-old daughter said:

“Hmmmm, what a beautiful sunset on a cloudless sky.”

To which my eight-year-old son proclaimed with gusto:

“The perfect time to watch a horror movie!”

I’m laughing now, even as I type it–it was so incomprehensible. Then my daughter asked:

“What’s that about?”

We were all wondering.

This is part of the magic of children. Though they see differently, they see clearly. In fact, you could argue that they are sharper and more aware than we old-timers at five, or six, or seven times their age. Where our minds are cluttered with habits, fears, plans, and presumptions, they are blessedly unencumbered by life experience. That’s why finding your “inner child” is not a quaint notion to simply disregard. It sounds hokey, but I re-learn how to live when I listen to my kids. They have things I lack. They are more honest, more transparent, more spontaneous, and more needy than I allow myself to be.

So, what was Jonah talking about? Why was that the perfect time to watch a horror movie? Here’s what he said:

“Because it is so beautiful outside that you wouldn’t be scared.”

When he’s 16, do you think he’ll still acknowledge his fears with such careless ease? What about when he’s my age, or yours?

When you spend time with children, whether they are yours or not, look for ways that you aren’t like them. They are our model for the charge Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew 18: “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.”


  1. Derek

    Randall, wow. This really is so true and thank you for posting!

    As the father of three kids ages six and under, I too always marvel at how they express themselves so purely.

    Thanks for the gentle reminder to listen to my kids’ expressions more intently.

    Kind of like when we assume that a person’s motives are driven by an agenda. Although our kids and most certainly have hidden motives for their actions, many times these actions are driven from a mind that has not yet learned to put up a defense.

  2. Derek

    That last paragraph should read:

    “Kind of like when we assume that a person’s motives are driven by an agenda. Although our kids at times have hidden motives for their actions, many times these actions are driven from a mind that has not yet learned to put up a defense.

  3. Peter B

    Wow, did I need this reminder. God has been working on my heart — slowly and subtly — over these past few months. Time with my little ones is so short.

    BTW, your ice cream shop sounds fantastic. Do they really spell Jalapeño that way? If so — that is too awesome for words. What do they pack into that one?

  4. Evan

    Children are always learning. And we too often think we have got it all figured out. That is definitely one of the most important part of being childlike- being open to seeing things in new ways and seeing things in new ways. Thanks for this light, clever post Randall.

  5. Rebekka

    I love this. LOVE! Reminds me of Madeleine L’Engle who said, “And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”


  6. PaulH

    Very wise of you not to disregard his desire as something “foolish” or “not good”, but seeing into his heart. Good job being a watchful Papa. I would have missed that.

    By the way, have been enjoying revisiting War & Peace with my dogs’ evening walk this past week. Sheer artistry sir.

  7. Hollend Fallang

    Andrew- Just wanted to say thank you for sharing your wonderful God-given talent last night in Post Falls, ID. Loved the concert and you were hysterical. Blessings be upon you and yours. I took my 3 children and wife. 9, 5, and 11 months, and for the wife………don’t think I should go there! Thanks again for sharing your gift GOD is good! Hollend

  8. Mindy Anders

    Love this. Mine are 5, 3, and 1; like you, I hear delightful, unguarded sayings like this every day. I mean to write them all down, but for some reason when I get a chance to, it’s hard to remember exactly how they put things…

  9. Laura Droege

    Beautiful. Mine are 8 and 4, and I have no problem finding ways they are different from me! I was an only child and raised as a “mini-adult”, expected to be in tune with the adults around me, so I missed some of this child-stuff; personality-wise, I’m pretty uptight and have a hard time playing and having fun. So when my kids act like normal kids and say those impossibly delightful, utterly unpredictable things that kids say, I’m amazed and thrilled and reminded that I need to be child-like, too.

  10. Stacy Grubb

    Thanks so much for this reminder to not take these years for granted. I have a 7 year old and a 3 month old. Looking at them, I go from wondering what she’s thinking to wishing he would be a little more discreet with the contents of his mind. When he was younger, he had radical ways of explaining things. When describing something he was recalling from memory or was making up, he said he saw these things with the eye in his brain. He talked early and often and has always been candid with his feelings and opinions. I told my dad that it felt like this golden opportunity to hear from the horse’s mouth the sorts of things that go on in a very young child’s brain. I hope he’s always so expressive, free-thinking, and willing to share, but realistically doubt it will survive puberty in one piece. Oh, I’ll never forget the time he approached the father of this beautiful little redheaded girl (the day he met them, I might add) and said, “This is kind of awkward, but you have to know, I’m in love with my friend’s sister. My friend is your son.” Sorry, S.D. If it’s any consolation, I now have a beautiful redheaded daughter of my own to protect from mongrels like mine. I would understand if we’re banned from the November 11th concert.

    Thanks again for the reminder to always keep my eyes and ears peeled and my mind open to the wisdom of children.

  11. Chris C

    Randall, very nice. Concise, explanative and clear along with a little jaunt to the creamery. 🙂 My five kids are all past the ages when life was more simple and carefree. We’ve homeschooled (well, my wife has homeschooled) all five, and even though there was much activity and planning, those earlier years were filled with more of the wonderment and sublime simpleness of children. People say that those years go by too fast – and it is too true. I wish I would have treasured it more and and worried and stressed less.

    Children are a great gift. Thanks for the article, Randall!

  12. Naomi

    I love it!
    Reminds me of an astute observation made by my eight year old nephew. Upon visiting our new, and sparcely furnished upper level apartment, he informed his mom, “Nathan and Naomi must have a lot more money than we do…(why’s that)…they don’t have a basement, they don’t have a TV, they don’t have…” and so on, until he reached the conclusion: “We spent all our money; they saved it!”

    Yeah. Right. I wish 🙂

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