Ask any seasoned performer, regardless of genre, and they will tell you that acting with a child will relegate you, at best, to best supporting actor/actress. It seems that in the arts, as in life, children have a way stealing the scene. Let a new mother enter a room with a baby and most conversations and activities will immediately focus on the infant, with platitudes and gestures reserved for the newest among us.
I, who has no children of his own, have been known to “borrow” one. No, I’m not referring to renting one for the afternoon. I am talking about my tendency, upon confronting a child, to attempt to gain their attention and engage them in conversation. If you can get them to laugh, you earn an extra star.
I’ll admit all children are not immediately, how can I say this, “loveable”. They exhibit all the warmth of a repo man, testing the limits of, well, everything. But even then, they present a challenge that most adults openly accept as they attempt to seek out the inner child. Why, I don’t know. Perhaps we have a gene that requires us to do that.
But here’s the thing. We don’t do this with each other. Let a stranger walk into a room, and our initial reaction is quite different. The willingness to accept that we bestow on the child, doesn’t carry over into adulthood. Instead, an invisible shield is erected and the process of letting the other person prove themselves begins. And, unlike our response to the child of marginal traits, we are not apt to be as accepting, if at all.
I am sure psychologists understand this and there is probably even a name for it. But to the unenlightened, like myself, it is somewhat of a mystery. Why do I try so hard to gain acceptance from a child while I am not equally forthcoming with an adult. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with life’s experiences, and particularly today, when attitudes and opinions have become much more hardened and held as gospel, we attempt to insulate ourselves from strangers. After all, if you find you don’t like them after a little exploratory conversation and/or observation, you can choose to exclude them. The old guilty until proven innocent syndrome. The child, on the other hand, has not had the benefit (and I use that word loosely) of this experience. They are still tasting everything for the first time. They do not have an agenda beyond investigating their environment openly.
I guess it all comes down to divergent points of view. The adult tends to approach a person yet unknown to them as a stranger, while the child approaches them as a friend they just haven’t met yet. I sure wish I could do that.