Through the eyes of a 9-year-old: Observations from a child of today
From the music of Willie Nelson, to following in the footsteps of her idol, Mark Cuban, and living life by her favorite phrase from Todd Beamer, “Let’s Roll,” Jacqueline has quite a few thoughts to share.
“Our greatest natural resource, is the minds of our children,” Walt Disney said. Today’s children are nearly submerged in a virtual world that opportunistically immersed itself into their lives—apps, games and social media pulling them in directions that generations prior could never even begin to conceive. Then, they were pushed even further into isolation, life in quarantine, no teachers, no friends, no playdates, no birthday parties… The virtual world they were living in part-time consumed them and became their only world.
One weekend, I decided to have a discussion with a child living in a time of social distancing, self-isolation and virtual school. She, as most of our children, was thrust directly into that world of technology, from which so many of us parents try to shield them.
Jacqueline recently turned 9. She is the youngest of my three girls. She describes herself as “nice, but also a little bit mean,” when she fights with her sisters and calls them “Meany Matt.” That’s about as bad as it gets between them—the “s” word, to my girls is “stupid.” It ranks pretty high up on the offensive name calling list—so much so they skip it if they find it in a book.
She misses school and her friends and teachers, but also enjoys being home with her family.
“It makes me a little bit sad because I can’t see my friends,” she says. “But it also makes me happy because I can stay home and I can save lives, like they say on the commercials… that I can save lives by just staying home.” She pauses and adds, “But the thing I think about most often is my family and how much I love them.”
My husband and I have never been ones to shield our children from the news and world events. We want them to be informed. They know about current events and are obviously aware of the Coronavirus and its impact on our country and the world. So, what does she perceive COVID-19 to be?
“Coronavirus is a nasty, green poky thing. Not just one. It’s multiplying. It’s hurting people. No! Not just hurting people, but making people die and get real sick. Everyone… Old people, young people, kind of young people and kind of old people. Everyone can have it.” She adds that if there were one thing she could do at this moment, it would be to make it stop and not have a single other person get it.
As many girls, mine love to play Barbies. The Barbies each have their own names, personalities; they have entire lives. I asked her a little about her favorites and what makes them special.
“My favorite might be Crimson or Chloe or Maya or Tracy. They are special. Chloe, she is special because her skin tone is kind of tannish. Crimson is unique because she has a different color of eyes and she has rubber legs—most Barbies don’t have rubber legs. Maya, why I like her is because she looks like she would be a nice person if she was real and I make her be kind. Tracy, she is unique because she has a little mole and it was meant to be there, on her cheek. She’s a teacher.”
The differences are what make them special and her favorites. What a wonderful world it would be if we could all see our differences as beautiful and qualities to be celebrated.
Jacqueline has always been independent, resourceful and strong-willed. When I was pregnant with her, I had kidney stones and I had to have a stent put in. She would find that stent and play with it, causing me excruciating pain.
She was considered a high-risk pregnancy and had an OBGYN and a Perinatologist looking after her and my pregnancy.
When she was born, the room looked like a lecture hall full of doctors and nurses covered in PPE ready to jump in if something went wrong. The silence of the fear in the air was deafening. Were her lungs strong enough, since she was born early and would be so little?
As she let out her first scream, the silence in the room was overtaken by a chorus of laughter, not only from relief, but because her scream was so obnoxiously loud and powerful. Half of the room happily walked out knowing there was no need for their services.
She was tiny but mighty from that first day. I could hear her scream all the way from the hospital nursery as they brought her to me. Her cry was boisterous, demanding and definitely not the soft cry of most newborns. I knew this child was going to be a force and she has yet to prove me wrong...
“My favorite color is purple,” she says with a dimpled smile. “It looks happy, if it were real. But to the other colors, it is real.”
Her charisma is infectious. It’s difficult for a person to meet Jacqueline and not connect with her—a stranger in a grocery store or the piano performer at a luxurious restaurant in St. Croix. She’s a people person. They simply are drawn to her, and she instinctively knows how to keep them around. I asked her who the most important person in the world is to her right now.
“It’s hard to say that. It’s hard to answer that question because there are a lot of people. All of my family, my teachers, my old ones too.”
She begins to say something and stops herself. I pursue, “What else were you going to say?”
She responds diplomatically, “So, I was going to say someone who some people don’t like, but they can like him too. And it’s the president. It’s important that he stays safe and makes the right decisions because we all count on him because he is our president. It’s important for our safety.”
Jacqueline is also a child of faith. She prays every night, talks with Jesus and has many prayers memorized. “I think about my family and I think about being holy. Like being close to God and Jesus. You might need Him for any reason really, and He is the one who made you.”
She said she admires the saints who gave their lives to God. “They are all really amazing because their love for God was so great. And they prayed and preached and spread the word even when faced with hate. And they gave up their last dime! All for God.”
When she gets scared, she says she turns to God. When she gets angry, she goes to her room and “breathes.” She says adults who are stressed about life, work and their kids should do the same. “I would say not to be afraid. Stay calm and don’t go out right now. Write notes to other people and make them feel better. Do something at home for other people.”
If she could be a grown up right now, Jacqueline says she would work in a grocery store. I asked her why, since this has never been on her list of careers. “Because it helps people with food and I won’t be broke.”
However, her goal when she grows up is to be like her “idol,” Mark Cuban. “I want to be an interprenter (entrepreneur). A business person, like Mark Cuban. He was an interprenter and look at him now. He owns the Dallas Mavericks. All because he was an interprenter.” It’s no surprise her favorite Disney princess is Tiana—she was spunky and an “interprenter” who owned her own restaurant.
She even created a business plan and started JB Organic Soaps. But then Covid-19 hit so we decided to hold off for a while. Even though the lavender soaps are made of the finest ingredients, we thought there might not be so much demand from people to buy soap made by a 9-year-old.
One of the things I’ve done with all three of my girls is introduce them to art, film, music of the past. And they love it. They listen to music from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, more than they do current music. Jacqueline loves Willie Nelson, along with Imagine Dragons. Her favorite song? “On the Road Again,” by Willie, of course. This is one she listens to nightly. And it always puts her in a good mood, she says.
They are fans of nearly every movie genre from a time long past: westerns, the ‘70s Charlie’s Angels, Happy Days, Hitchcock movies, 007 with Sean Connery, Doris Day movies, old romantic comedies, mysteries and more. Jacqueline says her favorite movie is a movie made nearly 60 years before she was born: Roman Holiday—with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, It’s her favorite “because there wasn’t any sad stuff in it and it was funny.” But the person she looks up to is Kate Jackson—that would be Sabrina from the ‘70s Charlie’s Angels.
“She was successful. She was my favorite character because she was quick, as in thinking fast and running. She was smart and she solved a lot of cases.”
I asked her if she had a favorite saying or expression. She was quick to say, “’Let’s Roll’ because those were the last words Todd Beamer said before he died. It’s a very nice and strong way to say let’s go. I like that!”
If she could get a message to every person in the world, Jacqueline says she would say this: “Thank you for being good people. Give money to the people who are poor and be nice to everyone. And do not be on the electronics a lot, but use your imagination because so many people are on their phones these days.”
Yes, we could all use our imaginations a bit more.
A wise man, Fredrick Douglass, once said, “It’s easier to build strong children, than to repair broken men.”
We are in a critical time where our children’s lives have changed drastically. It is more important than ever to build up our children, spend time with them, love them, allow them to be creative, to dream... And, maybe take Jacqueline’s advice: Get off our phones and use our imagination. I envision the world would definitely be a better place for it.
By: Ivana Segvic-Boudreaux