Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Who has heard this?

"Think of the starving children in Africa!"

I think I was about four years old when I first became aware of this ridiculous statement. Even at four, I questioned it. How on earth did me eating food I neither wanted nor (in my mind) needed, help to save the poor children in Africa from starving to death.

All it did was give me nightmares as I worried about those poor hungry children, and also made me worry that the adults in my life were not as intelligent as I really needed them to be. We, adults, need to be very aware of what we say to children. Children are people, just a bit smaller, but they think, they feel (sometimes apparently, more than adults do) and they reason. And they start to do that way sooner than most adults realize.

I guess I was one of those children who over thought things. Or, maybe it was because even then, as now, I thought in pictures.

Everything anyone says to me causes a video to play in my mind. Frequently resulting in a highly amusing slide show. But more often than not resulting in something much more emotionally disturbing, such as starving children in Africa - particularly as every news program or magazine, particularly when I was growing up, were filled with photographs of unfortunate bloated starving babies. Even as a tiny child my heart was broken by the suffering depicted. I wanted so much to solve the problems of the world, starting with every unfortunate beggar and vagabond who approached me in Dublin for as long as I lived there. As an elderly adult I now tend to avoid watching the news. Thank goodness for the Good News Network on Facebook. How I love that!

I once watched a TV 'demand' (can't think what else to call it) shortly after I arrived in Texas, it was Operation Smile - delivered by Roma Downey and I staggered to my computer in tears, desperate to give them my money. As far as I know, the only result of that was a massive amount of spam demanding money.

Ever since I was a small child I realized that some people do and some people don't. That is, some people can walk in your shoes, and some can't. Is it a matter of compassion or imagination? I prefer to think it is imagination, or lack thereof.

Maybe some can but choose not to, but there are some who have no choice and I was always one of them. I will feel your pain, and have nightmares on your behalf, so you don't have to say much to get me fighting on your side - always assuming I believe in your cause, because if I do not I will train myself to NOT be on your side. That is another skill the unthinking adults in my life gave me.

A perfect example is when I was about 6 years old.. I was still sucking my thumb and my parents despaired of ever stopping me, in fact I vividly remember my mother telling me I would walk down the aisle sucking my thumb. Well, stories of teeth sticking out and stomach full of worms were beginning to bother me - these seemed, in my logical mind, to be believable results and I considered them to be undesirable. Then, enter the asshole who was responsible, perhaps not single handedly, for making me feel totally inadequate. The Professor of Spanish and Italian at University College Dublin, a colleague and friend of both of my parents, and my mother's future boss. He told me that if I continued to suck my thumb I would grow a thumb down the back of my throat.

Well, I wasn't stupid (OK, I thought I was .. but I was not) and that made me decide that adults told lies and none of what they said could be believed. I continued to suck my thumb till I was well into my forties. No, I didn't walk down the aisle with my thumb in my mouth, and I never sucked it in public, but when I was tired or upset, my thumb was my comfort. Probably my defiance.

The moral of this story is be very careful what you say to kids. Never assume that they can't figure it out. And always be prepared for the fact that they just might be smarter than you are, but they need to believe that you are at least of average intelligence, for their own safety.

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