Confessions of an Unsociable Child
Monday, January 29, 2018
As Chinese New Year fast approaches, reunion dinners and family gatherings are aplenty. Even for us adults, remembering every distant relative's name can be a challenge. Ever wondered what goes on in your toddler's mind when he is made to greet each and every one of these unfamiliar faces?
Well, here's an honest take into what he might be thinking and better still, mommy's heartwarming response to her unsociable child.
Here’s the thing. I don’t like people.
I know what you’re thinking. I’m only three, how could I possibly know enough about people to decide whether I like them or not?
But you’re both ancient, and you know a lot more about people than I do, and you don’t seem to like them either.
You don’t like the rude drivers on the road. You always complain about the neighbours who put their flowerpots on the road to stop other people from parking between the houses.
And you definitely don’t like a lot of people on that thing called ‘Face-Book’, which isn’t really a book at all – it’s just something on your phone that you spend hours reading (also, why are they called your friends when you don’t like them?)
I know that I’m supposed to make friends with the other kids in nursery. But I don’t know what to say to them. I think it’s a lot more fun to run around and touch everything that I’m not supposed to, like the front gate and the computers in the school office.
I like talking, but I’m happy talking to myself. I talk to my toys too.
My teachers are nice, but I’d like them more if they weren’t constantly telling me not to touch the computers. I mean, surely that keyboard thing is for me to learn the letters of the alphabet.
They keep telling me to sit with my friends for circle time, but I don’t want to. Why can’t I listen to the music and stories, and walk around at the same time? Why can’t I look at the CD player where the music is coming from? Why can’t I touch the book and point to the pictures?
Every time we go to an uncle or auntie’s house, you make me hug or give high-fives to about two-ty... oh sorry, twenty people. I love all the aunties and uncles and kor kors and che ches, but why are there so many of them? And then we have to do it all over again when we are leaving.
There are so many things around me that are much more interesting than people.
Please, Mama, can’t I just play by myself?
Dear unsociable child of mine,
We love you and we understand you.
You are an active and curious boy. We know that you love to explore things physically. You learn with your sense of touch, which is why you can’t help but fiddle with things (even, or especially, those that you’re not supposed to touch).
You’re too impatient to stay in one spot or to listen to verbal instructions. You prefer to try things out for yourself and figure them out in your mind. You stay completely focused on the task at hand, even when it seems like you’re ignoring everyone around you (although I know it’s deliberate when I call you for shower time).
You have no interest in children your age, but your attention can be engaged by older children and by adults who know how to communicate directly with you and keep you challenged. That doesn’t mean you don’t like children, just that you haven’t learnt how to find common ground with them.
In life, you will find that many people won’t understand you. Some will try to make you conform to their idea of ‘normal’, and others will call you naughty or anti-social.
But here’s the thing about people: sometimes, they will surprise you. There will be that one teacher you’ll remember forever, or a favourite auntie who always gets you. Some people will become your best friends.
In the meantime, you’re only three. It’s ok if you prefer talking to your toys.
Elizabeth Goh used to be a full-time reader before she had her son. Now, she only reads children's books. She uses all those words that she has picked up to write stuff for other people.