Trust Your (5-Year-Old) Gut
I lived in Brooklyn last summer—a three bedroom apartment, two people per room. The kitchen was nice, as were the two bathrooms. Oh, and my roommates of course. But the location perhaps was the best part about the place; it was practically right on top of a major subway stop, with others scattered around the area too. Access to the city couldn’t have been more superb.
This was convenient for me especially. I spent last summer nannying for a West Village family. Two working parents with one little boy, an only child. He was rambunctious and sensitive, temperamental and silly, and 5 and three-quarters. If you know me, you’d know I’m not much of a kid person. But he and I, over time, came to enjoy hanging out with each other; kicking the soccer ball around in the park; ordering Domino's and watching The Polar Express (yes, even in July).
I felt a bit guilty for the type of job I worked, though. I approached the summer wanting an impressive internship, and a paid one. That’s what seemed to be expected of me based on the school that I go to, and that’s what I saw most other kids doing. Or so I thought. So to interview after interview I went, hoping I could solidify something just right. And nearly every employer told me the same thing: “This isn’t paid, but we can offer you school credit!”
When living in NYC, “school credit” doesn’t quite cover rent, weekly groceries, a $121/month subway pass, etc.
So I spent my summer hanging out with Cam. And I know now that what I learned through/from my 5-year-old buddy is far more valuable than anything I would’ve learned managing some startup’s social media accounts or bussing coffees from office to office, day after day.
There’s something about being 5. The sparkle; the energy; the zeal. And there’s one thing in particular that stood out to me, observing this 5-year-old on the daily:
Kids trust their guts. In every sense of the phrase.
Of course, this observation is by no means revolutionary, but...
Figuratively, they gravitate toward other kids they like and avoid those they don't. They steer clear of the monkey bars if they look scary, but hop right on if they seem fun. They run across the street when the walk sign lights up. They see a toy store and are immediately lured in.
Literally, the eat what they want, when they want. The ask for a snack if they’re hungry. The don’t want to eat what’s on their plate if they don’t like the taste or aren’t in the mood. They just—exist. And they listen to their bodies, without even realizing it.
I’d pick up Cam every afternoon from a rec camp at the local elementary school, and we’d walk back to either the playground or the apartment, depending on the weather and his energy levels. The corner bodega was on the way, either way. We always stopped in, and I got in the routine of keeping a few dollars in my back pocket for this daily ritual (cash-only).
He’d enthusiastically scamper in, beelining it to the back snack shelf (always). He had his go-tos, but sometimes he’d surprise me and switch it up. He’d hold an item up to me with questioning eyes, and I’d either give him the nod of approval or the “Not today man, choose again” look.
His two favorites were Original Nacho Doritos and boxed Barnum’s Animal Crackers—his tried-and-trues. He also loved Pirate’s Booty, Oreos, but not potato chips—never potato chips.
I’d make him dinner most nights, but sometimes I'd order him a takeout grilled cheese from the BBQ place a block over. He only ate the sandwich—never the side of fries. Maybe he had something against potatoes, but I wasn’t complaining—it meant I scored a free side of fries every once in a while.
So, my point in sharing these small, seemingly futile stories?
I think we could/should all take lesson from 5-year-olds (and not just in terms of food).
Like what you like. Choose what you want to choose. Listen to yourself and your body without overthought. Exist, enjoy, feel your feelings, and sparkle.
I wouldn’t recommend, however, lying down on a grimy bodega floor and throwing a tantrum when your babysitter says no to your request for an entire box of Hostess Snowballs. But, perhaps, when the desire to throw a tantrum strikes: sit with the feelings you're experiencing. Find a release method that is healthy—whether it’s a boxing class, meditation, a crying session, etc.
So, trust your gut. And channel your 5-year-old self. On that note, I’m gong to go make myself some cinnamon toast…