Saturday, September 25, 2010

For the love of mice

Last night a four-year old I babysit for exclaimed, angrily and dramatically:
"For the love of mice!"'
Then he said he wanted to whisper something in my ear:
"For the love of Christ!" (His mother swears sometimes, and his father really disapproves.) He added, "But we're not supposed to say that."
He looked up, worried:
"Is it all right to say 'for the love of mice'?"

This reminded me of how senseless many adult things are to kids - and also of how logical children are, in their own way. Their logic is pretty unhampered by knowing the reasoning behind things, so it's sometimes hard to see. I always feel like I've solved a mystery when I spot it.

This is a better example. Another child I babysit for always wants to walk on the double yellow lines in the middle of the street, and gets really mad when I won't let him. The other day, the penny dropped: I had just watched him cross a street at the crosswalk, stepping only on the white-striped lines (not the black spaces between them). The next street had no sidewalk, and once again, he wanted to walk on the double yellow lines in the middle of the road.
"But why not on THOSE lines?" he said and that's when I got it. (And explained what they were for. He hasn't asked to walk on them since.)

I love child logic -- when I can spot it -- and it doesn't often appear in books. Lewis Carroll uses it-- not one of my favorites NOW, but as a child I did like Alice. I liked the way she reasoned things out and thought she was really smart. The idea that her reasoning was funny never entered my mind. I actually don't find it funny now, either, but I know it's supposed to be.

Maybe that's why children's logic isn't written about more: children would approve of a character who displayed child logic, but not find her funny. Adults might -- but they might also find it boring or silly. What *I'd* like to do is write a mystery that used child logic -- their logic could solve the case. Adult readers might find the kids' thinking funny at first but then (as in all the best mysteries) everything would tie together and make sense at the end -- including the kids' thinking.



Grace Lin said...

great post, libby! that is pretty funny about "the love of mice," but you are right it does make perfect sense to a kid...would love to see you write a mystery using child logic!

Libby Koponen said...

Thanks, Grace!I'm glad you think it's funny too -- sometimes I wonder if I'm spending too much time around kids. And thanks for the encouragement on the mystery.

Anna Alter said...

So cute. And sounds like a great book title!