all of the selves we Have ever been
Beware! Children are watching us.
Many years ago, I stopped at my mother’s house for a visit. She was busy working in the kitchen. My nephew was playing in the adjoining family room. My mother and I began to chat about a situation involving two adults that we both knew. As we each expressed how puzzled we were by the actions of these other adults, my nephew poked his head into the kitchen and said, “It’s like I always say, things are never what they seem.”
Like he always says? He was only three! He had been walking upright for only two of those years and forming complex sentences for only one of them. Yet, here he was all full of insight. The situation was clear to him. He was already becoming an expert on human behavior.
When my daughter, Emily, was in kindergarten, she came home one afternoon and sat herself down at the foot of my bed where I was sitting to do some mending. Emily proceeded to tell me of an incident that had occurred on the playground that day. The teacher and the principal had gotten involved and given all of the girls a good talking-to. Emily recounted the details of that conversation. She then went on to share some of her additional observations from the playground that day. I told Emily that this news was very concerning, and I was going to have to call the principal. Emily said, “Well, I think you should!”
I phoned Vickie, the principal. She asked me how I knew about the day’s events. “Emily told me,” I said.
I also shared Emily’s additional observations from that day. Vickie told me that she and the teachers had been meeting and worrying about how best to handle the situation, especially with the parents. She was relieved by the additional information that Emily provided. Vickie inquired why Emily had not spoken up during the talking-to. “I asked Emily the same thing,” I said. Emily had rebuked me, “Clearly, Mom, it was a time when children should not speak!”
Emily was barely five and already an advocate for truth and justice, but she also understood the constraints of adult social norms. All was clear to her, and Emily was on her way to becoming a woman of action.
Soon after the start of his first grade year, my son’s class was scheduled for a full week of standardized testing. Rather than be nervous about the testing experience, Sam was excited. This seemed like big kid stuff. Each day of that week, Monday through Thursday, Sam came home and gave an update on the testing. From his reports, it sounded like all was going well.
On Friday, Sam came home, slammed down his backpack, and made a big pronouncement. “Well, Mom, I hope you won’t be disappointed in me!”
“Why would I be disappointed in you, Sam?” He had definitely aroused my curiosity.
“Well, Mom, all week the teacher has been reading the tests to us. Today, we had to read all the questions ourselves.”
“Face it, Mom! Just face it! We’re in first grade. We don’t know how to read!”
Sam was discouraged by the adult logic. I could see his point.
Sometimes grown-ups make no sense at all.
And sometimes children are smarter than we think.
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