Growing up, I was taught to believe that age brings wisdom, that those who know best have been around for a long time. I might be smart, I might be informed, but when the elders speak, whatever is in question is decided, and whatever is decided is correct.
Being raised with that perspective isn’t unusual. Children, especially very young children, don’t have the life experience or the knowledge necessary to safely navigate the world; that is why parents, caregivers, and other adults protect and teach them. Respect for our elders is logical. Cultivating and encouraging that perspective is an effective means of safeguarding our offspring.
It makes sense, then, to believe that children should be seen and not heard. Except – there are times when children are wise. There are times when children know best.
Consider Anne Frank. Anne and her family hid from the Nazis, beginning when Anne was 13 years old. She and her family were discovered, arrested, and sent to concentration camps when she was 15 years old.
During her years in hiding, Anne kept a diary, documenting daily life and her thoughts and feelings. She was a teenager living in extreme and terrifying circumstances, which undoubtedly influenced her perspective. But in most ways, she was still a child, with limited knowledge and experience beyond her home, her school, her family and friends.
As a child, she wrote enduring words of wisdom and insight that have been and continue to be shared around the world. Her words remind us that understanding, awareness, and intelligence take time to develop, but they are not uniquely linked to age. Wisdom is gained when we listen and observe, believing in the power of hope and kindness; when we are steadfast in our values but open to possibilities, respectful of differences, willing to connect, eager to share.
Today, June 12, is Anne Frank’s birthday. Today’s cuppa celebrates her spirit and the wisdom of children. There are many lessons they can teach us, if we are ready to learn.