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                Volume 11 |Issue 09| March 02, 2012 |


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Food for Thought

Underage Admonitions

Farah Ghuznavi

It's long been established that growing up is hard to do (not least for those in their twenties and thirties), but you would have trouble convincing some kids of that. For them, the answers to the tough questions in life are pretty straightforward. And often, they aren't quite sure why the adults in their lives haven't figured these things out for themselves - and tell them so.

Like my single friend's seven year old daughter, who is adopted. This little girl has been trying to persuade her mother that she really should get married. She has also spent a lot of time questioning why her mother isn't already married. Recently, she cracked that particular problem wide-open; and I have to say, her logic is infallible. Her mother is a successful professional, and regularly called upon to speak at various events. Based on that, her perceptive daughter framed the problem as follows: “I know why you aren't married, Ma. It's because you give so many important speeches. And you know, boys are darpokes - they are scared to ask you out, because you make them nervous!" Whoever it was that said that they had learned everything that they needed to know in kindergarten might have had a point...

Other kids, who've had a taste of the challenges of adult life - including the disappointment of failing to live up to expectations - are sometimes rather less confident as a result of their premature brushes with reality. One little girl was all dressed up in her ballerina outfit and practising her performance for her father's video camera when she accidentally passed wind. To her utter embarrassment, her two brothers and a visiting friend burst out laughing (though her father, to his credit, managed to keep a straight face). His daughter took her cue from him and also managed to retain her dignity, defiantly proclaiming "Ballerinas fart too, you know!"

Some canny children have even managed to figure out that the adult world can be a confusing place, with or without the experience of having embarrassed themselves in public. So when my friend Anita's son Atef was recently asked what he wants to be when he grows up, instead of replying “astronaut” or “circus performer” or even “doctor”, the six-year-old replied, in a very worried tone, that he doesn't want to grow up. Given the state of the world, who can blame him for taking such a stance?

And then, of course, there are always the children who wish that the adults in their lives would grow up. One of my friends, who lives in the US with her (genius - I am convinced!) daughter, recently had the following conversation:

My friend: Do you think you could learn to drive anytime soon? I'm scared of learning.

Her daughter: I could. But don't you think it's illegal for a six year old to drive a car unsupervised?

My friend: You're probably right, it probably is.

Her daughter: Don't you think it's illegal for a six year old to drive a car even if she is supervised?

My friend: You're probably right, it probably is.

Her daughter: I should think so. I really don't know why we have these conversations, Mama.

Following that line of reasoning, my friend Awrup recently confessed that he is convinced he must have been quite stupid when he was six years old. The reason for this conviction on his part relates to a recent discussion he had with his six-year-old daughter, Amara. After Amara had told her father that she was having "mixed feelings", he asked her – in an attempt to help her sort things out - "What is 'mixed feelings', Ma?"

Graduates of life!

She replied, quite seriously - and, as it turns out, accurately (clearly, she needs no help figuring anything out!): "When you don't know what you are feeling." I must confess, I too cannot recall having been the possessor of quite that level of clarity at the age of six, so I can totally relate to Awrup...

But if being outclassed in terms of maturity by your children is the worst of your worries, I'm here to tell you that it can get worse. My friend Keya has a very bright son, who is a smart-aleck to boot. And as she puts it, it can be pretty frustrating to have your supposedly great parenting phrases, worked on carefully to have maximum impact/influence on your offspring, sent straight back at you when you are least expecting it. Like her son admonishing her, when she was about to give in to her frustrations, by saying - "You can't give up, Ma! Be patient, Ma. Breathe, focus and apply yourself, Ma!” Needless to say, what "Ma" wanted to focus on and apply herself to at that moment was getting back at her smart ass kid Rayaan, who was running rings around her!

And, on occasion, you may even find yourself outclassed by your grandchildren. Like my mother's friend Perween, whose five-year-old grandson told her, quite seriously, that she was getting old because she had so many grey hairs. Undaunted, Perween Apa replied, "Actually, I have even more grey hairs, Aman - if I hadn't already coloured my hair, you would see them." After pondering on this for a minute or two, Aman replied, "So that means that you are trying to trick people into thinking that you are younger?!"

But the ultimate embarrassment has to be when your child isn't even trying to be smart with you, but manages to put you in your place without any effort at all. As another friend of mine recently found, when she was being rebuked by her 10-year-old son. My friend Helen and her husband Bonnie are both soft-spoken and pleasant people, but every now and then the inevitable frustrations of life manage to draw the occasional exclamation of exasperation from them. By and large, Helen hasn't thought that this was a problem. Until her son Josh told her, quite seriously, "I don't think you guys should be using that kind of language when you are angry. Because, you know, if you and Dad keep using those words, I will probably pick them up and start using them too”! Game, set and match to the underage contestants.

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