Monday, September 9, 2013

Acting Like a Two Year Old: The Rights of Children

Big boy at his one year birthday party. Now he's approaching three and leaving babyhood behind, not by his parents' hand alone, but through his own process.

Acting Like a Two Year Old: The Rights of Children. The the title of my never to be published or written sociology treatise.

Before I became a wife, and later, a mother, I'd often call individuals "childish".

"You're acting like a child," I might say scornfully.

Or, "He's acting like such a two year old," a girl friend might say as we mourned the downgrading of a 'boyfriend' to 'loser' status.

"Don't be a baby!"

These phrases are so common in our speech. I wonder how the children who run freely, and so much less than freely, below our eye level, feel about such things. Adults talk like this in front of children as though children can't hear.

Certainly most children are riveted to what adults say, so long as they are saying something interesting. "Pick up your toys." "Go to bed." "Come with me." Not interesting. "He's acting like a child." Interesting.

Adults act like children can't hear us. Adults use the word "child" as though it is a slur. How strange that we despise the little beings we work so hard to love, guide, and care for.

We lament how quickly they grow, but then cut them down with the very word. The very word that they are. Child.

Somewhere between 18 months and 2 years, Beren sat at the table 'misbehaving'. I don't remember exactly what he was doing, but I said, "That's what babies do. You are becoming a big boy now."

Let's take that apart:
Babies are stupid and incapable.
You were just a baby, so you were stupid and incapable.
Anytime you feel little and needy, you once again become stupid and incapable.
I am rushing you out of childhood.

This came at a time when Beren chafed at spending time with a friend's child, who was much younger than Beren. I was disappointed that it was so difficult. I realized that I wasn't helping the situation.

Jared and I agreed to not use 'child' or 'baby' as an insult. We also agreed that we wouldn't differentiate between babies and children as leverage, as in "Big boys do ______", and if you don't then you are not a "big boy."

I imagine myself in a room. I am four feet shorter than everyone else. Three people are discussing me directly over my head. What I did that day. The sweet things I did. The annoying things I did.  "She was such a two year old today!" I feel pretty small as the conversation goes on.


1 comment:

  1. "Acting like a child" is a compliment! Can be used for adults who display lots of energy, curiousity, and a disdain for regimentation.

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