The older I get, the more I appreciate youth.
I don’t mean the stamina that has leaked from my bones, though I certainly would take a dip of that if the fountain were found.
I don’t mean not being able to remember a word, advanced mathematics or where I left my eyeglasses.
I’m not even talking about the agility that let me run, jump and throw with ease, though it would be nice to feel a wooden bat connect with a fastball one more time and slide into second just before the outfielder’s throw.
When I say I appreciate youth, I mean I’ve learned to appreciate it in the young.
That includes college students who question and have a passion to learn.
I enjoy listening to them talk of their newfound interests, of their dreams and of the obstacles they face.
I like giving advice, some of which I know will go unheeded, but some of which will stick in a brain cell.
I deal with fewer middle teens than when I parented kids that age, but it’s fun to watch their brains catch up mentally and emotionally with their bodies.
The idealism they begin to develop is interesting to hear as it becomes toned but remains unblemished by the compromises they will feel compelled to make as they grow older.
I even appreciate the youth of junior high students as they make the transition from childhood to adolescence.
That age is a challenge, but often needs the mentoring of grown-ups beside their parents, who are often the targets of their rebellion.
Almost as challenging and needful is the group right beneath them. Still children in body, intellect and emotion, their innocence is eroding, but this group of Tom Sawyers and Becky Thatchers is fun. They still remember how to play.
Their younger brothers and sisters are often the most fun for those of us who have become grandparents.
One of the best things about them is that they are sponges for information. They listen, they watch and they learn.
Unfortunately preschoolers can also be sponges of misinformation as they form a view of the world that can be difficult to change later.
Their penchant for repetition can be a test of a parent’s sanity, especially after watching “The Wizard of Oz” 32 times in a month.
More than any other group, they tend to wear out their parents.
For those of us not responsible for every meal, bath and tear, this phase of youth is pure joy. It’s a time of playing on the floor and having them climb into our laps to listen to a book.
For those who say youth is wasted on the young, I disagree, though a shot of youth would be desirable,
The best way for older folks to get that shot is to spend time with young people exchanging a little of their youth for a little of what we hope they will see as wisdom.