It was well into the afternoon by the time we parked up lakeside in the small French town of St. Eloi des Moines.
Before long, our boys had occupied a shady spot beneath an oak tree, unfurled their blanket, and tipped out a large bucket of lego; a mere stones throw from the lake.
Like a magnet they were soon joined by two other inquisitve children: one from France, the other from Germany, and it didn’t take long before a medley of foreign accents began volleying above the plastic figures engaged in heroic action below. Yet, curiously, despite their inability to understand each others’ native language, there seemed no sign of frustration at this apparent lack in communication. Furthermore, over the following hour there was no yelling, no hitting, no snatching and no fall outs….
And so began our lesson (taught by the kids) about how best to communicate when the expired air we use to create and form words, turns out to be of no more use than musical notes to a deaf person. When the words we’ve learned from kind people who wiped our bibs clean and put a dummy in our mouth, are now as useful as…. a credit card at an organic vegetable market?
It was during this time- as we sat awkwardly with the other parents, scrambling to find a verbal connection- that we began to witness a more basic, primitive level of communication from the children: eye contact, body posture, head shakes, head nods, the movement of facial muscles to express a smile…
What came naturally to them was somehow difficult for us. I for one kept trying to fill the silences and acknowledgements with words.
Yet it struck me, during a brief moment of linguistic abstinence, at just how uncomplicated the childrens’ transactions were, and how they still managed to communicate effectively.
Without speech, there was no way of being deceived, conned, lied to… not that I’m saying that kids do that, but rather, they began to take each other at face value, body language value, head nodding value, and eye contact value. There was no veil of words to cleverly hide behind, or confusing articulation that clouds ‘better judgement’.
And from that afternoon spent by the lakeside, shaded by wide branches of a broadleaf tree and surrounded by countless pieces of lego, we witnessed the simplicity of their language, as we watched four children, from three different nationalities, interact and communicate in a way far deeper than words could allow.
“That’s it!” my wife exclaimed, after we’d packed up and piled back into the caravan. “Next time we’re stuck for conversation we’ll just pull out the lego..”
And honestly, who would I be to argue.