Child Watches, Child Learns
I was sitting on the upper deck of the tram on my way to a friend’s place earlier today. It was raining heavily and it was a pleasure to hear the pattering outside, but my attention was drawn towards the very front. A very agitated kid of around 18 was standing in front of his seat and seemed to be in a trance – he would glance at his watch, then peer outside the window and then look back at his watch over and over again. In my curiosity, I looked fixedly to what would have been very rude staring.
After a few seconds, I realised that the kid was cognitively disabled. He was probably late to get somewhere and was flustered because of that. Without giving a second thought from then on, I went back to enjoying the rain outside.
My thoughts were soon interrepted when I heard some noise in the front. The kid had approached a man and his daughter of maybe 5 or 6 in the front and was saying something in Cantonese. The man was clearly disturbed by this kid’s approach, but instead of maintaining a calm demeanour on public transport, he screamed very loudly, and raised his umbrella as if the kid was a severe threat. The man’s daughter, seeing this, put her hands on her ears and nearly started to cry. The kid also retreated to his seat, his shoulders drooped. I turned my sight back the girl, and I could see her repeatedly glancing towards her dad – apparently trying to gauge if the threat was over or not. After a minute or two, the father took the daughter and went to the lower deck. I was wondering why the father had reacted so strongly – in what could have been an opportunity to teach good manners to his daughter he had taught her something entirely different.
The kid continued to keep checking his watch while standing in the front. A short while later, a man and his son boarded the tram and occupied the same seats which the man and daughter had just left. The man (who had just arrived) soon after sitting realised that the unsettled kid near his seat was probably late for something. However, in stark contrast to the reaction of the previous man, he softly asked the kid to sit down since standing on a moving tram was dangerous. The kid smiled and sat down almost immediately. To my surprise, the man’s son started conversing with the kid in Cantonese, and they even shared a few laughs!
I continued watching the interaction until my stop arrived and I had to disembark. I could not help but draw parallels on how different each parent had reacted to the child they were sharing the journey with. Both kids had mirrored their parents reaction – and what different reactions they had been!
Prejudices are taught and passed on (unknowingly or not) to impressionably children who don’t know better. It is amazing how much of an image we are of our parents who raised us.