Oh to be 6 again...

I want to live in my daughter’s world.

The other night, she was asking me something about police officers, and then said: Why can’t they be nice? Why can’t they just tell people ‘Don’t do that,’ and not give them a ticket?

I said that would be nice, but some people don’t always listen or follow the rules. I explained that police make us pay when we do something wrong so maybe we won’t do it again (or at least slow down when we see a police car).

She wasn’t satisfied. In her world, people just don’t do things like that.

In her world, there’s still a tooth fairy and Santa Claus, goodness and magic, boundless imagination. That’s the beauty of being 6. My husband is fond of saying, as our children pass through various stages of cuteness, "I want them to stay like this forever." I think 6 is the keeper.

Six-year-olds are smart but not smart-alecks, funny without meaning to be. They surprise you with their insight and touch your heart with their tenderness. They can tie their own shoes and help you set the table, but still run to hug you after school and climb in your lap for a bedtime story.

It’s also a year of huge gains in reading and writing, when they can put all their creativity down on paper.

One of the best parts of my week is when I get to volunteer in my daughter’s first-grade class. I help with Writer’s Workshop, where they try out all different kinds of writing: fiction, nonfiction, poetry,  letters, etc.

Last week they had to make up their own fairy tale, modeled after the three pigs. The stories were all over the map: a moose eating three wolves (interesting twist), gorillas killing a Big Bad Snake with a knife (slightly disturbing), and three bear cubs defeating a wily fox (seems a bit backward, but hey).

Their abilities range from gifted to struggling, but what’s been fun is to see the gains they’ve made.  Children who couldn’t spell a single word at the start of the school year now are putting together entire stories (albeit with creative spelling). Some who barely looked up from their papers last fall now rattle off one creative scene after another.

They love it when you give them a little smile or wave, and nearly burst with pride when the teacher singles them out for praise.

I’m not sure I could teach full-time. Answering to the needs of 24 children for six hours a day would be wearing.

But I love spending an hour a week in the 6-year-old world, where the biggest worry isn’t the latest oil spill or budget crisis but which table gets called on first or who forgot their lunch. And every time I leave, my daughter runs up and hugs me goodbye.

It’s a sweet place.

News-Gazette file photo:  A mural of first-graders at St. Paul's School in Danville.

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