Something that recently struck me was children, and my strategy towards spending time with them. I quite enjoy working with kids and just in general hanging out with them. Sometimes it kinds of feels like people don't entirely get what it is that makes me "good with kids" but I find it to be pretty straightforward, and really it's not very different than my strategy for interacting with most people.
First of all, kids just like attention and I have plenty to give them. This is no different than the attention that I give to anyone who asks for it. I've always enjoyed asking questions and learning about people's lives and children often have such rich and varied inner worlds. Some of them can talk endlessly about their interests with a remarkable degree of passion, which I find really awesome.
More than just being willing to hang out, children have a quirkiness and exuberance than I often find missing in older people. I have a fairly unique and childlike way of seeing the world myself, and it's quite wonderful to see aspects of that reflected in children. I feel like younger versions of myself still exist; the 7 year old, 13 year old, and 18 year old me are being kept and nurtured deep inside, and it's always wonderful to have excuses to let them shine.
It's kind of funny how my strategy is completely opposite to many other people my own age. A lot of them will go up to a child and play with them a little and enjoy their cuteness and novelty but ultimately grow tired and eventually excuse themselves. On the other hand I remain aloof for a while but if they start to play a game or ask some interesting questions then that's when I grow interested and then can happily spend the rest of the night with them. That's the reason I don't enjoy spending time with babies who are too young to talk. Most 3 or 4 year olds can express something interesting but younger than that and it's hard to figure out what they're thinking.
I also really like how many children, especially younger ones, are so physical in their play. I think it's a shame to lose touch of being fit and using your body as you grow old, but there's little risk of that happening if you spend time around kids. They're so creative with the ideas they come up with as well. There's no generic repetitive exercises here. They're constantly coming up with new games, or ideas to make old ones more interesting. So many fun and unique ideas to pass the time, all of which also just happen to keep you active and running around.
There's an openness and a lack of judgement as well. Being so young, many children have relatively eclectic and unique interests. In my experience sometimes people might not always be too interested in what they're into, so just showing a small amount of interest can have a huge payoff in how much they trust and respect you. Just being willing to indulge their personalities and feelings is not always something that adults are willing to do. It's not even about buying them expensive gifts, but just genuinely listening to them and respecting their time. This often pays off because they're willing to hear about my eclectic and unique interests as well.
I feel like a lot of my attitude towards children was directly informed by experiences that I had growing up. I always liked it when people would listen to what I had to say, and I especially liked it when older people wouldn't talk down to me and instead show me what they do and what they care about. As a result I make it a point to be honest and authentic when I spend time with children, and I think that helps to build a level of trust.
Another common thing that happened a lot when I was a kid was running into rules and restrictions that really bothered me. I always wanted more freedom than I was really allowed and so I was always pushing back against rules that I didn't feel were necessary. I believed then, and I still do, that kids are capable of much more than you might think they are if you just gave them a little bit more responsibility As such, I feel like I treat children with the trust and freedom that I wish had been afforded to me. I think this helps a lot to have them view me as less of a disciplinarian and more as someone who's on their side.
In general the best way to connect with someone, of any age or background, is to treat them like an equal. This might be a little bit radical, but when interacting with literally anyone (including children) I genuinely do see them as my equal. There's a quote about John von Neumann, who was one of the greatest geniuses of the 20th century and arguably the smartest.
Von Neumann would carry on a conversation with my 3-year-old son, and the two of them would talk as equals, and I sometimes wondered if he used the same principle when he talked to the rest of us
I think that the willingness to do this and build bridges across generations is entirely about attitude. I think that there's a great deal that can be learned from keeping friends who are much older and much younger than you are. I've been privileged enough to call people of all ages a friend, mostly through family, and I think being able to do so has a number of benefits. There's so much that can be learned from both 10 year olds and 30 year olds, and if you're interested in learning (which I definitely am) then you should go and seek these people out. I guess that's a big strength of having a large family. Being exposed to different people and viewpoints gives you the opportunity to learn a lot and teach a lot too.