Be Careful, Children are like Sponges!
Kids say the funniest things, as parents have realised from time immemorial. On occasion, guests are treated to an earful of uncomplimentary things their hosts have said about them. Amazing how children miss out on the good things said, concentrating on the embarassing bits to create an icy atmosphere in which stalactites form overhead!
The doorbell rings and the chirpy offspring rushes like a tornado to open it. What follows can never be imagined. “Papa, it’s the Uncle who is full of hot air!” or “The Aunty who broke the weighing scale!” One can think of better ways to start a conversation, right?
Why do children react thus? Do they yearn to be the centre of attraction? Parents are probably to blame. “Come, child! Aunty wants to hear ‘Twinkle, Twinkle...!” The little star stumbles through the rhyme, stopping after every two syllables, till the bitter end. You heave a sigh of relief, and turn to flee, when another bolt from the blue hits you. “How about “Old Mac Donald?” If the earlier was tough going, imagine wading through animal sounds that sound like nothing on earth? Especially if Mom believes in barking, braying, mooing and even hissing? Takes a lot out of you, it does!
A friend of mine refuses to take her kids a-visiting! “Never know what they might blurt out!” she shudders. She once took her daughter to a crotchety old uncle’s house, promising to sit for forty five minutes and no longer. Uncle suddenly noticed the little girl looking at her watch. “New watch?” he barked. “Do you know how to tell the time?” She nodded confidently. “Well, what time is it?” “Time to leave your house!” was the answer. “Ma said we would leave the moment you started becoming grumpy!” My friend didn’t know where to look!
My cousin was explaining the facts of life to her curious four year old niece. She made the lecture as easy as possible, ending with the physical process of childbirth. The little one’s remark at the end had her in splits! “Oh, is that why my mother tells me to sit with my legs together!”
This other little nephew had an imaginary friend. Every detail about the friend was perfectly thought out. He was very adventurous, often going on holidays, enjoying life, eating good food - living life to the hilt! The parents wondered where all the details came from, for often his imagination ran riot. Till the day he stopped talking about his friend. When prompted, he said airily, “Oh, he died in an accident in Australia!” He never spoke of him again.
Children soak up everything about them like sponges - the way their parents speak, what their siblings do or how their peers react to situations. I often lament at the way in which some kids lisp and prattle, and am urged to shake some sense into their parents. For they are to blame, as they indulge in baby talk with them, ruining all their chances of being articulate little people! Children do not need to be fluttery-eyed and irritatingly cute! They pick up language the way they are taught, and have more sense than many parents credit them with.
Kahlil Gibran says eloquently, “Your children are not your children!” but the fact remains they have been loaned to us for a lifetime. Hence, it is up to us to make good stout-hearted adults out of them. For child is, indeed, father of the man, and how he grows up will depend on how well he was brought up! So take care when you bring up your child for, one fine day, you just might want to disown him!
The New Indian Express, January 12th, 2011