A few weeks ago I was on a radio show called “Absolutely Mindy” on Sirius XM KIDS PLACE LIVE in Washington, D.C. The show’s host, Mindy Thomas, was extraordinary.
Mindy did everything. She took calls from kids, she interviewed me about Little Airplane and she played requests from her listeners, all on live radio. But what impressed me most about Mindy was how natural she was when speaking with her young listeners.
Mindy is funny, honest and she knows how to talk to kids. Some of her callers were so young they could barely put together a sentence but Mindy waited patiently for them to finish and helped them along when necessary. One little boy just called to tell Mindy that he had a baby sister. Mindy said, “Be careful, don’t break her.” The boy laughed.
I left the interview wishing that I had a radio station and that Mindy was running it. But since I don’t have a radio station, I figured the next best thing I could do was to introduce Mindy to all of you. I asked Mindy to write about whatever she wanted to and here it is! Enjoy!
I play, pretend, imagine, scheme and dream like it’s my job. I never stop. I can’t stop. I don’t try to stop. I find it impossible to take anything for face value and am always turning everything inside out and upside down in my mind to make it appear more interesting. I do the same to find funny where it seems to be missing. I conjure up wild stories about the lives of strangers I pass on the street and, if I met you, an entire life you probably didn’t lead would flash before my eyes as I shook your hand. I am never bored.
None of this is new. I’ve been doing it ever since I can remember and I can remember back to being three and four years old during my preschool days. It’s not necessarily specific events that I can remember but the feelings are still as vivid to me as the words on this page. I remember thinking that I was smarter than adults realized. Not book smart, but life smart. I can remember wanting to act like a grownup. I can remember not wanting to be a grownup. I can remember feeling scammed, gypped and misunderstood by toy manufacturers who created mini versions of vacuum cleaners, shopping carts and play kitchens in primary colors with rounded plastic edges. I didn’t want that crap. I made my own out of stuff I could find and let my mind fill in the blanks. I can remember how everything I did felt like I was doing something much more spectacular because I lived in my own imagination. My bike became a seven-passenger van with a built-in frosty machine. A paper clip became a teeth retainer like my babysitter wore. My closet became a dry cleaning business. My bookshelf became a bunk bed for my babies or a five-story mansion for my Barbies. My Barbies were the stars of my own serial drama in which every episode ended with Skipper going to a school dance that was also a sleepover. Oh man, I could go on forever.
I am still exactly the same person that I was when I was three, four and five years old. Twenty-five years have gone by and no event in my life has been strong enough to disconnect me from the little person I once was. Twenty-five years have gone by and I have a real husband and a real baby and a real mortgage and a real 401K plan (though the current stock market may disagree) and yet I’m still surprised by the moments and the things that make me feel like a grownup: having my own garage door opener, buying laundry detergent, Josh Selig asking me to contribute to this column…It’s about authenticity. It’s about feeling legit.
I’d like to say that these are things I keep in mind when programming a radio channel dedicated to kids, but I don’t. While I’d love to wax poetic about my philosophical approach to children’s programming, I can’t. I don’t think that hard about it. When I’m hosting my show, I still feel like I’m playing radio and I truly believe that my listeners feel like they’re playing with me.
We have fun together, we make stuff up, we’re raw, we’re spur of the moment, we’re familiar and silly and making sense of the nonsensical. We think hard and hardly think. We don’t talk about using our imaginations, we just do. We don’t script, we make rules up as we go, we don’t have a curriculum and we still manage to learn. A lot. I don’t believe in telling kids that they’re special or smart or funny. I believe in treating them that way. I believe that I’m able to empower kids and, in return, they are able to empower the kid that is still so alive in me, too. I believe in childhood.
I play, pretend, imagine, scheme and dream like it’s my job. And I’m thankful every single day that it is.
To learn more about Mindy’s program, just go to http://www.sirius.com/kidsplacelive.
As always, I welcome your comments!