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December 10, 2018

Echoes and the impressionable young minds

My son is in that age where he mimics everything. It reminds me of a story I read when I was a young child about an echo. A little boy was walking home from school and noticed some bigger boys shouting to a wall and then listening. He asked his mother what they were doing and the mother said they were listening to the echo from their shouts. The little boy was very fascinated and asked if he could try doing the same thing. The mom was in a hurry and told him so, “Don’t worry” she added at his disappointed look, “You will be able to hear an echo when we get home.” The little boy was excited and could hardly wait to go home and try what he had seen the boys do. However on getting home and trying it out, it didn’t work. He could not hear his comments replayed back. “Don’t worry,” his mom said, “you will hear it at dinner time”. Soon enough it was dinner time and the little boy and his baby brother were seated ready to eat. “Oh mom” wailed the boy, “Cabbage again, I hate cabbages”. “Hate cabbages” a little voice quipped back. “I don’t want rice, I want chips!” whined the little boys. “No rice, want chips.” repeated a little voice.

It did not take long for the little boy to figure out what his mom meant by an echo. He realized that everything he did and said was repeated by his baby brother who was watching and learning…

I have seen the same thing with my son. He tries out everything he sees us do. I know this is nothing new but after all these years I had forgotten how easily a young mind picks and synthesises information. For instance when he falls, trips up or makes a mistake he will go like “ooh oops” exactly the way I do it. We have always had family devotions and though he can’t clearly articulate the words at 20 months he easily sings along and makes phrases ending with the same sounds, it’s really cute to watch and we have endless fun discovering what new thing he has learnt.

However the flip side is that as a family we have had to be more vigilant in how we act, what we say and what we watch. For instance, once the boys were watching some detective series where there was some action between the good guys and the bad. Baby was around playing with the dog (a whole other story) and seemingly unaware. All of a sudden he went to the toy box where Toriah’s water gun was and picked it up, pointing at the dog he mimicked shooting saying “tuu tuu tuu.” Wow! That more than anything spoke to the bigger boys of the need to be careful over what they watched and allowed to play when the baby was around.

They realised that where they could easily distinguish between reality and fantasy, Thayu could not and they needed to help him recognise that whereas water guns and action games could be fun, that was not the reality that he needed to embrace. It was interesting watching them trying to explain that fighting was only acceptable to protect a country, family or faith. Something I had been drilling in them for years.

For many people having a young child seems like tough work, for me it is a gift. Being older and wiser I can relax more and enjoy the gift better. That and the fact that I can take a breather and allow the older siblings to sit in for me and pass on what I have invested in them as I take a cup of tea and finish off a magazine article.

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