Kids might not be so good at following instructions, but they have- for ages- been good at copy pasting what they hear or see. The other day, some kids were discussing one of their friends’ houses that they had recently visited, and one asked, “Have you been to their house? It’s so empty; you could play football in it”. Now any adult will tell you that not even the darkest kid will independently conceive such a statement in their minds; and if they did, it would mostly be based on something they had previously overheard.
One might try to argue that nowadays kids are so ‘digital’; they seem to know everything, thanks to technology. That to some extent would be correct, but of importance here is the fact that when a baby is growing up, one of the major factors that shape them into who/what they grow into would be the environment they’re brought up in. The age of the kids on focus here would also be of massive importance; based on my sheer knowledge, none of them was above six.
With that in mind, how would one expect a kid to grow up if s/he often hears his parents/grownups around him criticizing other people, what they have and what not…? To some, this concept might seem alien, but not to me. I’ve been un/lucky enough (depending on how you choose to look at it) to be caught in an extremely uncomfortable moment where I, or my family rather, was the topic of such a distasteful conversation…
A few years ago, my family was to meet up with my extended (paternal) kin at one of my uncles’ place since we all lived in different parts of the city so we could travel together to the countryside to visit my paternal grandma. At the time there was some sought of tension between my mom and her in-laws; the beef runs way back, before I was even conceived but I don’t wanna delve into that at the moment. It’s for that precise reason that my mom had opted to sit out of any family get-togethers, to avoid any altercations that could inflict more wounds on the already existing ones.
My dad, the gentleman he is (when he wants to be…) couldn’t leave mom alone; he also chose to remain behind, to keep her company when my sisters and I were gone. Ergo, we made arrangements to have our uncle (the host) pick us up because we were not so familiar with the place; we had only been there once before.
My uncle, whom we’re not so close with, came to pick us up. He was alone. He came into our house, which he’d never been into before, to help us carry our luggage. In case you’re wondering, we have a very strained relationship with our paternal relatives. I’ve mentioned that in some previous posts. In my own understanding, I have over time attributed it to the fact that dad married mom against his family’s wishes; apparently dad’s family is affluent, whereas mom’s family isn’t so endowed.
In all honesty I thought that kind of prejudice only happens in telenovelas: rich hunk falls head over heels in love with a beautiful girl from a very humble background; his family objects vehemently, branding the innocent girl a social climber, and subsequently they all conspire to make the girl’s life a living nightmare…Smh!
A few minutes later we were on the road, headed to my uncle’s. On the way we stopped at a mall, where his wife had been shopping, to pick her up. Under different circumstances, we would have jumped at the idea of meeting our aunt especially after such a long time, but at that moment it only meant we would have a pretty hellish ride.
As we had envisaged, the ride was quite unpleasant; and it had nothing to do with the car’s upholstery or bumpy roads. It was all my aunt’s doing. See, in a nutshell, she’s very outspoken and if you ask me, she doesn’t really give a rat’s ass whose toes she steps on. I remember her asking my uncle in hushed murmurs, how our house looked. That didn’t catch me off guard because I knew she was capable of that and more but I was disappointed because I thought she would have the decency to ask that discretely, preferably in our absence. Then again, maybe she thought we didn’t hear.
“It’s big,” my uncle replied reluctantly. I bet he too felt uneasy about his wife’s indiscretion.
Hungry for information, she went ahead to ask- in her own words- what the house was ‘filled’ with since it was really big. The blatant derision in her voice irked me. At that time, I didn’t know how to react; I was torn between bursting into a fit of laughter at such barbarism, and cutting in the conversation just to express my outrage; but I knew better. I don’t recall my uncle answering her; I guessed he didn’t want to partake in such unmitigated savagery. I respected him for that.
Now in reference to James A. Baldwin’s quote, I try to imagine what would have happened had my sisters and I been at an impressionable age? If we weren’t the ones on the receiving end. We would have possibly repeated my aunt’s scathing words later, when mingling with other kids, just like my neighbours’ kids had.
In my opinion, if you want to know how people refer to others behind closed doors, just listen to their kids or see how they act while in the midst of other kids… They’ve never failed to imitate. My take here may be deemed uninformed, but if my cousins (my aunt’s children) are anything to go by, then I know I’m right…