Sunday, February 27, 2011

Permission to Act Like a Child


Amaya recently discovered mud, and she’s been testing its components and applications.

She intuitively knows that playing in the mud is not acceptable in her normal every day clothing so she sneaked into the house for her swimsuit, and (knowing intuitively that she was trying to be sneaky) I, unobserved, peeked out the back window to see her and Minami playing in the mud. Or maybe I should call it bathing.


By the time Jake had come home all traces of the mud play were washed away (except for a ruined swimsuit) so I showed him the pictures. He thought it was kind of naughty. He said, “Did she ask?”

As a child I was the kid in the neighborhood who said, “My mom won’t let me get wet!” (even if it was pouring buckets outside.) I’m sure I was dirty because as a child you are so unaware of your own uncleanliness, but I still worried about “getting dirty” as I ran around the forest and climbed trees and scrambled through blackberry bush trails.

I remember being in trouble a lot, for not asking. I forgot because I was caught up in the moment and there was no thought for safety, cleanliness, or time. Now I see Amaya acting the same way and I’m always saying, “You have to ask!”


There’s a lot that doesn’t seem safe, anymore, in our world. I can’t imagine letting Amaya walk to school on her own (I know, I live in Laie, but still), ride bikes down the street, or even talk to someone as they walk by the front yard. I have her on a pretty long leash, as everyone around here knows, but I am not ok with her even being in the front yard unless she’s with an adult.


She’s as compulsive as a two-year-old, though she often shows the logic of an adult. She certainly has the ability to understand social cues better than most adults. She always figures out when you’re treating her like a kid and trying to control her. Her reaction to this is very immature (tantrums and physically disruptive behavior are a constant for us), but she’s been this way since she was born. She hated being a baby and all along the way she’s looking for more movement and testing her boundaries.

At times I meet kids who seem to have none of her social prowess and are more reserved. They’re very well-behaved, however (and never annoying).

I guess what I have in Amaya is the trade off: extremely social, bubbly, loving, bossy, and wants to be up in your business. Her skill in the semantics of language shocks me. Especially when she busts out with “Dammit” in the right context even though she has never once heard us say it—and I’m not sure where she has--unless Jake or Kipper or Sponge Bob has a potty mouth when I’m away.

3mud(This is why she’s banned from watching TV next door, although she pretends to forget sometimes, and it’s difficult to enforce. I never thought I was going to have to be that parent. Even though, before I had kids, I laughed at that Will Ferrell video where he gets his 2 year old daughter to swear like a sailor, it makes me feel a bit sick now. It must be a process with parents, because using soap as a punishment is starting to sound like a real option.)

With her, sometimes I have to remind myself to let go of some control, because she does thrive with independence. Not that I don’t find myself trying to reign that in. But playing around in the mud, climbing the lemon tree, visiting everyone in our compound and bugging them, making her own bento lunches, packing all her toys into backpacks to go show someone, and dressing up like a “cat doctor”, all without asking, seems like perfectly acceptable behavior to me.

It sounds like she’s being a kid. And that’s something that I love watching.


*disclosure: this permission granting for basic child-like activities does not extend to any teenage or teenage-like behavior. When she turns 12, she’s grounded until she goes to college.