My granddaughter the philosopher

February 2020
Phyllis Shragge

Philosophy is wisdom about society, the world and existence. Who are the experts in this complicated field of study? Who should we turn to for guidance when seeking the answers about the meaning of life? 

There is Aristotle, as well as Plato and Confucius. And then there is my six-year-old granddaughter Lyla. She may not be an expert on all philosophical matters, but then again…

When Lyla was just three years old, her mother asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. Lyla, responded with a solemn look on her face: “A woman,” she said. Her succinct answer acknowledged a realistic long-term goal. She was not setting herself up for disappointment.

At the age of four, after delighting in a picture book, she noted: “I like this book. The ending is fabulous!” She knew at an early age that enthusiasm and positive thinking can bode well in life.

And at the same young age, Lyla set an example for our family, and for the world at large, when she told her aunt: “I’ll always remember you.” Lyla values personal connections.

When Lyla was five, her reaction to a song on the radio demonstrated her realistic attitude. She said, “I’m just not feeling it.” Lyla recognizes that our existence has ups and downs. Disappointments are part of life. And also at age five, Lyla assumed the role of prophet. When her brother climbed an outdoor play structure, she warned: “You’re risking your life!”

Her comment: “I love driving at night.  It sends shivers up my spine,” shows an enthusiasm for what others might find mundane.

And she is a good observer of people. Ponder her remarkable line: “No one knows everything, but my daddy thinks he does.”

She comprehends how her body reacts to the stresses of everyday life. While trying to fall asleep, she told her mother: “I need my batteries to stop running.” Lyla understands herself. Her sense of introspection is admirable.

Lyla has respect for nature’s glory. Among her notable quotes is this beautiful phrase: “I can almost smell the fresh, spring air.”  And I’ll never forget: “There’s nothing better than toast in the sunlight.”  

Her sense of the other is profound. Consider this message: “I like Halloween better than my birthday because on my birthday, I’m the only one happy, and on Halloween everyone’s happy.”

Lyla’s philosophy is one for the ages. She realizes that time marches on while we aren’t paying attention. At the wise old age of five, Lyla said to her mother, “Tell me about my childhood.” And she understands that life can be challenging. One day, shortly after her sixth birthday, she noted: “I had the worst day.  It was a travesty!”

Lyla is a great philosopher because she creates her own certainty. When her father said, “I don’t see a girl that’s behaving,” Lyla replied: “Then you need glasses.”

Lyla thinks big. She does not settle for minor dreams. When asked about her new year’s wishes, Lyla said she hopes to be remembered forever.  

The philosophy of children can teach us more than we realize. We think children should follow our guidelines, when in many cases, we should be following theirs.  

Phyllis Shragge is a local writer, mother of five, and grandmother of four.