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.
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?