The Bud Factor

A couple of months ago my family was attending one of my best friend’s daughter’s second birthday party. There weren’t many kids there, but there was one boy, who was about seven. My son, Evan, who is five, is always more enjoyable to have at parties when there’s someone for him to play with.

As a parent, one thing I’ve observed is that when you’re a kid, you don’t care who you play with. You don’t judge, let alone even know what to judge another kid about. You don’t consider gender, race, age or any other physical attribute — not that you should as an adult either. You just want to play.

Evan didn’t know the boy’s name, so he kept calling him “Bud.” That’s something he got from my dad, who always uses the nickname.

The boy (whose name I still don’t know) didn’t care — he wasn’t judging Evan either.

As young kids grow into students, graduates and adults, judgment establishes a bigger presence in their minds. We eventually become unaware when we’re passing judgment, at least most of the time.

But isn’t judgment just a form of opinion? To me, at least, judgment is more definitive – guilty vs. not guilty. An opinion, on the other hand, leaves room for debate — he may be guilty vs. he may not be guilty.

I’m not saying judgment is always negative. But there’s no doubt that we’re consistently making mental decisions about the people, places, things and experiences around us. Maybe it’s because we become independent thinkers as we get older, using more information to shape our thoughts — right or wrong. That complicates things though — it’s no longer this or that, but this or that with a lot of other considerations.

Everything we do is typically a binary decision: yes or no, do it or don’t, stay or leave, etc. But while we dig deeper in hopes of making the right decision, our children look at everything as an opportunity at face value.

They view another boy or girl as not someone who might have similar interests or what they look like. Instead, they simply see a playmate to run around on the playground with.

Do I want to play or do I not? The desire to play is the decision, not the kid asking or being asked.

Life is much simpler when you’re only five. You don’t have much to worry about, except for that occasional bad dream.

Evan woke us up the other night to tell us about one of those dreams: “Mommy got turned into a baby.”

I’m glad that’s what he considers a bad dream. I won’t judge, Bud.

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