Ten years ago, when I was a newcomer into adulthood, marriage and this country, I was looking at things in a different paradigm - by things, I mean all things in general and kids in particular. I'd always been more compatible with people out of my age group and the older group of friends I have in my friends' dads and moms is evidence. My vibe with kids was great too. The curly haired, dimpled cutie that lived in our neighborhood was an instant draw towards me. I used to babysit her while her mom grappled with a younger kid and a career path. So, this little one, let's call her Farah, was like a roommate of sorts, sharing my living space and the secret to the stash of treats in my pantry (that existed to cater to all the little ones that I baby sat, out of sheer admiration for kids) Farah's personality was as vibrant as the color of her auburn tresses that cascaded down into Shierly Temple curls. Her middle Eastern descend contributed to her glowing complexion and soulful dark eyes. She was a very confident kid, that was not afraid of speaking her mind out. Once I let her into my house, she'd walk into the kitchen, open the pantry door and demand for a cookie or a candy. "Give me a treat" she'd command, and I'd follow her cues and give her what she wanted. Her confidence came with a fearless streak of curiosity. She'd look around the house and touch and hold everything, including my fine china that was displayed with pride in my "easily accessible by a five year old" kitchen Island shelf. Little did I know about the concept of child proofing.
Farah was an easy definition of a brat for all the neighbors. I was probably too young and immature myself that I'd actually expected a five year old to have impeccable manners and 'under-wraps' curiosity. I was borderline judging her and joining force with the 'holier than thou' mothers around me. For a good couple of years, I'd expected kids to listen, not yell, not demand and not throw tantrums when things don't go their way. It was probably the product of the influence of moms who either thought of kids in two categories, namely - their kids and bad kids, or moms whose child raising experiences went to college along with their kids, or young women like me who weren't moms yet.
And then, one day, in a telephone conversation with a relative about some bratty kid, I said it. "Kids are not dolls - how can we expect them to stay at one place?" I was far from being a mom, but the wisdom dawned upon me that Farah wasn't a brat- she was a kid and kids don't understand the concept of impressing others with their best behavior at all times. If I'd want a cookie at someone's place, I'd not ask them for it - I'll probably wait and get disappointed but would not ask, since I am aware. Since I am an adult and probably since I know how to pretend to not want something.
I say one thing to all moms that label kids - That " It is never a kid's fault. If a certain kid in the school comes and says an utterly rude thing to someone - firstly it might not be what is sounds like. Secondly, the kid is probably parrot talking from what falls in her ear shot. And from my own experience, I had realized that, more often than not, it is not the parent's fault either. In the process of growing up and assimilating all the data dumped onto their tender brains throuh what they see and hear - kids say or do inappropriate things. If an older kid is particularly pesky, I'd probably point fingers at too much pampering, but we never know why they say what they say. So my golden rule with kids is "Never Judge" I'd heard adults who brand kids as manipulative or attention seeking. If a little girl shows interest in dress up or feigns a bottle brush as a mascara wand, it doesn't mean that she'd grow up to be an attention seeking man eater. It is just an innocent process of growing up or at the most, the double Xs in her chromosomes.Many of us probably look it it as the latter if it is the fruit of our love - Sad but true!
In my early years of education, I was a pathetic student. I remember a teacher branding me as a ' lazy fool'. I was too young to understand what it meant then, but those words ring in my ears after a good quarter century. I grew up to be a school topper, but somehow, the "lazy fool" managed to stay fresh in my memory. They didn't cause me any damage - They could have.
If someone wise had opined that children are like God, they had meant it in the same exact sense that children are free of malice, pretense and presumptions. So, the ones that are all grown should step out of their malicious, pretentious, presumptuous shoes and take a second glance at what they are evaluating.
Farah moved out of our neighborhood a few years later - for many, she might be the bratty, ill mannered child. For me, thankfully, she'll always be this exceptionally pretty angel in a child's disguise.