The Child We Bring Growing Up


In kindergarten, I was this kid who always put her head on the table, looked sleepy all the time and disinterested with the class. I WAS, as a matter of fact, disinterested. The class was still learning A is for Apple, B is for Ball while I had already been writing and reading before kindergarten. The effect: I was always picked up last for classroom activity and the highest grade I could ever get was a B. Because your grade in kindergarten is based on your activity and participation in class. Because of that, too, other students did not want to play with me during recess time. I was not the “IT” girl they wanted to hang around with. I was the lousy kid. And that was why I always spent the recess time on the sideline. Alone.

There was this little competition to recite Al-fatihah for all kindergarteners in town. Every contestant, winning or not, was given an inflated balloon after each performance. Perhaps the committee ran out of stock or something, but I was not given one. My friend was. So on the way home, I was always looking down at my toes and wondering: “have I been a bad kid? Did I mess up the competition? Was I a shame to the school (my kindergarten)? Am I better off not joining the competition at all?”

Man, it’s a hard life being a kindergartener. :p

I remember that one time, in kindergarten, we were on an excursion trip. Basically it was just downtown but the journey seemed like an eternity for the little me. There was this bad boy, a brat, who constantly made a trouble. The mother shouted at him, ordered him to stand down and be still. She said: “Menengo! Onok raksasa ndase lincing ngemploki arek TK, loh.” The loose translation: “Shut up. There’s a giant beast with pointy head looking to eat kindergarteners.” I didn’t remember whether the boy complied with the mother’s command or not as I was shivering in the corner, scared to death of the image of the giant beast with pointy head I drew in my head. The only memory I have from the excursion is that monster.

We all have blueprint for everything. For me, that monster is mine for fear. To this day, I still have nightmare of that, occasionally, along with the trip home feeling of being a shame to the school for I did not get an inflated balloon.

Adult can be cruel that way.

We do that kind of thing, or rather not doing things, that seem so trivial but actually imprint them onto our children’s mind.

Why do we do that?

We interact with them all the while treating them as mini adult, thinking what is okay for us is okay for them. What is safe for us is not going to be harmful for them. We take too little time to understand them and their world. We talk to them but don’t really speak their language. Instead, we ask them to level up, demand them to understand the language we are speaking. And if we fail to communicate, fail to make them understand what we mean and what we want, we label them as a bad kid. A brat. A trouble maker. A kid who cannot fit in.

One day, our colleagues came to visit with their kid. He was your definition of a bad kid, a troublemaker brat who could not stay still. He refused to listen and basically turned everything in the house upside down. The parents were helpless and did eventually give up saying sorry for the mess. My hubby came to him and handed him a piece of paper and a pen. The brat drew lines on them.

“What is that?” asked hubby, talked at the same eye level with him.

“River.” Said the kid. And he drew another shape, and it was another different thing and so hubby asked again. The brat told him the story. They were doing that for sometimes and both had a good time.

The kid was telling hubby his version of reality as he saw it. For him – and the rest of them – that was not living room they turned upside down. That was a battlefield and he was the Satria Baja Hitam (or i dunno, somekind like that figure) fighting an alien invasion. It was not a dirty broomstick but a mighty sword he used as a weapon. The sofa was the shield and the table was the earth invested with people desperate for protection. From him, our hero, the Satria Baja Hitam.

So, don’t tell me I didn’t have a reasonable fear of giant beast that was out there looking for kindergartener to eat. The beast, was as real as the monitor you are now facing.

Where am I going with this? Why does this matter?

As much as what you don’t do matters, what you DO do and say matter more.

Now, how many of you occasionally say “stupid” when your kid cannot do simple mathematics operation? Or fail to tie their shoe laces on their own? How many of you say: “Look at Shelly, she didn’t wet her bed.” That kind of remark, that kind of accusation and comparison you said in casual tones, defines your kids. They grow up not confident with their own intelligence. They grow up feeling more inferior than the rest of the gang and that they are not worthy of what they actually deserve.

If only the teachers in my kindergarten bothered to ask what was going on to me, perhaps I could have answered. Perhaps I could have participated more. Perhaps I wouldn’t grow up thinking forging relationship (friendship) is so hard. Perhaps, if I was told that the balloon was still being inflated, or that I could borrow one from my friend, I wouldn’t grow up wondering whether I am good enough or not. Perhaps if we are sensible and *really* speak with our kids, using language they understand, the world could actually be a better place to live in for all of us.

We are the product of our childhood. There is always that ‘child’ within us that we bring into our adult being. If the ‘child’ is that messed up, no wonder some of us always anticipate WW3 with fear. And the rest really prepare to make it happen.