Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the idea of interviewing someone. I've interviewed my peers, faculty members of institutions I'm part of and even family members- however, I've never interviewed a child. Therefore, I decided to interview nine year old Olivia Rohde, the daughter of one of the Café Chef’s in Prescott College. I met Olivia briefly in the Crossroads Café. She had just come off the stage from her school’s production of ‘Peter Pan’ and exclaimed, “I’m a lost boy!” To this, I asked her if she’d mind if I interviewed her, to which she exuberantly nodded in approval. We spent a few more minutes together and really enjoyed each other’s company, and afterward I asked her mother if I could interview her as well. Her mother also replied affirmatively. Instead of focusing on one area in particular, I came up with an assortment of questions for her, feeling as though it may put her more at ease if I wasn’t querying about one element of her life. After creating a short list of questions, I spent time going deeper into her answers and eliciting further information by giving her my legitimate focus and letting her speak without interruption.
First, I asked, “Olivia what is your happiest memory?” She said, “Um, being a baby. I remember some pretty funny things. One time when I was really, really, really little and I was in the backyard and my brother was there and I was sitting on a blanket, this is a happy memory, and I was sleeping and he started to snuggle me… and then I woke up. Also, me and my mom were having breakfast somewhere and we came home and we found my brother and he was putting my mom’s makeup on… it was pretty hilarious. There was purple and pink everywhere.” I asked, “Do you think it’s weird if a boy puts on makeup?” And she replied, “No it’s not weird- it’s just really funny.” I thought more about what ideas she may have as a younger girl about makeup and the ways women relate it to their lives. I said, “Does your mom ever wear makeup?” Olivia said,“Mhm she wears mascara. But I don’t need mascara because I already look like I’m wearing it, hehe. I told my dad’s girlfriend ‘you don’t need makeup to look prettier’, but she just said thank you.”
Then I began wondering her thoughts on being the age that she was and if it suited her or not. I asked, “Do you like being a kid,” and she said, “Yeah, I like it because when you’re a kid you don’t have to work your butt off and pay for bills, and I really never wanna pay for bills, but you have to pay for kids and for gas and for bills, but if you’re a kid you just get to play around and your parents get to pay for bills. You don’t really pay. Yeah.” It seemed as though this topic weighed heavily on her, or at least that it elicited a very strong reaction, so I continued further. “Do you ever feel like you’re getting affected by the stress your parents may feel when they have to do those things?” She said, “Yeah but not in ways that you’d think it would, I get affected because then it’s like I get stressed out, and I get stressed out because I don’t want them to be stressed out and I just want to have a fun time because I’m a kid. And that’s what kids want.” This struck me as powerful because of how self-aware she seemed to be about her relationship to the outer world and the way it affected the grown-ups in her life. I asked, “What advice would you give to your parents,” and she said, “Um, to have fun and relax. Don’t get so, like, blahhhhrrhhhahh, just say ‘don’t do that again’ to someone and then stay chilled out.”
This made me want to know more about her personal self-awareness. I asked, “If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?” She said, “Amazing.” This was one of my favorite answers, because it was honest. This reply was not self-absorbed or obnoxious and in fact it was whispered while she was simultaneously smiling. She knew that she was positively experiencing life and she was grounded in who she was and where that happened to be.
I asked, “What do you love most about your siblings?” Olivia said, “I only like one of my siblings. I like my baby brother. He’s cute and he does whatever you want him to do- and also because he giggles. My older brother is mean, he’s always pushing me around and telling me what to do like he’s the boss.” I asked, “What was the nicest thing you ever did for someone?” To this she replied, “My mom’s ex-boyfriend’s dog was really, really old. Her ex-boyfriend’s name was Cole, he died a long time ago, like two years ago, because of cancer, but he had this dog. We were playing at a river or a lake and he really wanted to get down to the water, but there were a bunch of logs and rocks and he couldn’t really cross because he didn’t know if the rocks were stable or not and he had paws and those are hard to use instead of feet and he couldn’t get down, so I helped him.” This surprised me. Before answering, she became very thoughtful and quieter than during any of her previous answers. I could tell she was truly considering what she had done and somehow this story came to her mind.
Overall, the simplicity in each of Olivia’s answers is what has lingered in my mind past our conversation. Her answers were not pre-scripted, as were many of the adults I have previously encountered. She had so much passion and none of it had been infected by the stresses in her life. If anything, they only upset her because they upset her parents whom she cared about. It feels cliché to claim awe by how purely innocent and youthful she expressed herself, but I truly felt amazed by the wisdom in her answers. I encourage everyone out there to go engage with more of the younger people around you.