If you’re looking for some solid words to the wise, forget newspaper columnists and horoscopes. The real source of airtight advice is children.
In their short lifetimes, elementary school students have somehow managed to assemble a significant body of supposed expertise on a wide variety of topics and will dispense recommendations gladly.
One such area of expertise is healthy living. During a nutrition unit, my fourth grade students offered advice that, with the addition of a few exclamation points, could be the title of the next fad diet book or a Better Homes and Gardens article:
Cut Off Sugar for a Week!
Eat some Soft Food or Hard Food!
Eat Lots of Bread!
Drop the Junk Food!
Stop Eating Sweets All the Time!
Eat Fruit All the Time!
Run More Than You Eat!
I don’t think I could agree to stop eating sweets all the time, but the simple fitness formula to, “Run more than you eat,” struck me as quite brilliant.
The year my husband, Nate, and I got married, I asked my third graders how to know if someone is right for you to marry. Their thoughts on the topic appeared to be cobbled together from Kanye West songs, TV commercials, and church sermons:
If they do stuff for you.
If he’s cute and doesn’t argue.
Only if he never cheated you before.
If he comes home right after work that means it.
Think about the good times and bad times. If you had a lot of bad times, he is not your man.
If he loves you for your money, no. But if he doesn’t, yes.
Fortunately, Nate is cute and also doesn’t argue, so he passed that test with flying colors. Next I asked what Mr. Nate and I should do to have a happy marriage. Much of it is actually valuable advice. A strong relationship definitely requires honesty and asking personal questions. However, some of their responses suggest that the third graders were envisioning Mr. Nate’s role in our marriage as a weekend childcare provider or gold digger:
When you are on your honeymoon, ask some personal questions.
You should try not to fight and be happy.
Don’t lie to Mr. Nate.
Ask how your day was.
Don’t look at other men.
Be kind, but honest when your husband asks your opinion of something.
If you have a bad day, tell Mr. Nate.
Buy him something. At the reception party give the present to him.
Get a prenup so if you have a divorce, you stick with your money.
If you have a baby, Mr. Nate can always keep the baby on the weekend.
Whether or not the claims are valid that bread is the key to good health, or that a successful marriage depends on gift-giving, if you find yourself in need of advice, find an eight-year-old. She will set you straight. Or at least make something up that sounds good.
Subsisting exclusively on soft food or hard food, Sarah tries not to fight and tells Mr. Nate when she has a bad day. When she has an entertaining day, as gauged by how many quotes or how much advice from third graders she’s able to collect, she blogs at Dead Class Pets. If it is not the running-to-eating ratio advice you need, Sarah’s students have plenty more where that came from. Their advice on relationships can be found in the new humor anthology, My Funny Valentine: America’s Most Hilarious Writers take on Love, Romance, and Other Complications.