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'Childish' Children


My two daughters are now nine and eleven years old, both students at the local elementary school. They are doing OK in their schoolwork, and the report cards they bring home at the end of every term usually have lots of 'good', a few 'very good', and hardly ever a 'more effort needed'. I guess they are fairly average, typical kids, not super-smart, but certainly not dumb. They get along well with their teachers and classmates, they have plenty of friends, and are always busy with this activity and that. Sounds perfectly normal, right? Well, I guess so, but I have to confess that there is one aspect of their behaviour that leaves me quite unsettled.

It is their continuous 'childishness'. Now of course, children are supposed to be childish, that's what the word means, but when, oh when, am I ever going to see some adult-type behaviour starting to poke through? For over a decade now, I've been waiting patiently for them to get to a stage where we would be able to speak together intelligently, but their lives are still just full of playing 'house', stuffed animals, more playing 'house', fighting with each other, still more playing 'house', around and around in an endless cycle. If I try and speak to them of anything else, during our time together at dinner for example, it's like talking to trees. No response.

A while ago we visited my friend Yajima-san, and I had a chance to see how his 10-year old son, Mikio-kun was doing. I couldn't believe what I saw! This kid had his nose in a book on rocketry and space exploration. There was an aquarium in his room, and he was surrounded by models, robots, and books on dinosaurs. Now there's a kid I could talk to!

But I shouldn't let this little story get side-tracked into the quicksand of 'sons vs daughters'. It's not the 'girlishness' of my kids' activities that leaves me out in the cold - it's their generally infantile nature. Never do they express anything remotely like an adult idea, and they are deaf to attempts at conversation. To them, I seem to be just someone who puts food on the table and provides a place for them to stay. A caretaker.

If my own mother and father ever read this, I am sure I can guess their comments. "Now it's your turn! You see what it's like having kids? They eat your food, grow out of clothes week by week, and then one day, just take off. Talk to you? You must be joking!" But was I really like that as a child? Surely I made plenty of intelligent and interesting contributions to family life ... didn't I? Perhaps it's just as well that my parents are living a few thousand miles away, so I can't hear them laughing!

So I guess I'll stop worrying about this. I'll do what I can to encourage their 'intellectual' development as they grow up, but will try not to expect too much in the way of an active 'return' on my investment. It's my job simply to provide a stable platform for them, a base from which they can explore their ever-widening world. It's their job to look outward into that world, not inward towards me. And then one day they'll fly away. And who knows, perhaps in the future it'll be their turn to complain ... "My kids never talk to me." Do you think so?