<<This post is long and rambling. May I suggest you read it while listening to this?>>
We have a Christmas themed rotating musical cookie jar that the Co-op parents had given me before we left Doha. It is rather a delightful object – I suppose a British thing : The creation of such lovely and durable tins for cookies that are gone in a trice. I use it to store the kids’ Christmas stockings. Knox discovered them the other day and asked me what they were. Naturally I wanted them immediately put back into the tin. But I calmed myself and told him they were Christmas stockings, for Christmas chocolates, and they must go back in the tin so they will be available for Christmas, which happens a few days before your birthday.
“Remember the chocolate santa that Oma gave you? And how you had found out how to open it up and was eating it happily. And Quin saw you eating it and wanted it and didn’t know how to open it, but I didn’t help her. And so she discovered how to open it herself? And you guys both really enjoyed the chocolates?”
I do not know if he remembers, but he may have seen the video of it. He asked why the stockings should be returned to the tin. And I told him “because they are for Christmas, for the Christmas chocolates. And not used before then.” Which he accepted cheerfully and immediately set things back to rights. Intermittently in the following days he would proclaim to me, and to others who would listen, that the stockings are for chocolates. He seems to quite look forward to it.
This rotation of toys has been particularly successful. For Quin. She has just turned two and we had a week of dessert celebrations: Chocolate cake on Sunday, candy necklaces from Ikea the next day, pudding on Thursday. She blew out the candle herself. At least, she would have done if Knox hadn’t insisted on helping. I have had to intercede on her behalf a few times due to Knox’s eager ‘assistance’ to her work.
We have recently deployed a bubble gun. Knox has yet to tire of it. One time we went to the park and some children were there blowing bubbles. I was afraid of Knox’s bubble gun ‘showing up’ on them and went around to the other side, telling Knox we should avoid competing with their efforts. A boy about 4 years old came up to Knox and invited Knox to chase him around with his bubble gun, which of course Knox was happy to oblige. After a while the bubbles ran out. The boy immediately came over and offered to refill with his own bubbles. And then they went round again.
I feel like an inflexible old codger next to their agile brains. While my mind is filled with worries of equity and fairness and avoidance of violence their game is quite simple. I hear around elementary a stronger hierarchical tendency may emerge. This is the age I recall of cliches and exclusion. I suppose in Lord-of-the-Flies situations primitive humans generally do tend towards such behavior. But I have also read of classrooms where teachers are trained to notice such things, and though not redirect forcefully, to guide elementary students to consider their actions and view their maligned classmates not as others, but rather in partnership. I find this fascinating. For in my elementary experience the teachers were mainly charged with the academic performance of the students. And as long as physical or sexual aggression did not occur, teachers did not interfere in social torture. In middle school there were even teachers that actively encouraged antagonism between students to deflect aggression towards themselves. It was definitely a world of them v.s. us. Eavesdrop on any conversation ‘high achieving’ academic track high school students in Taiwan, and the conversation will inevitably turn to The Game – acing the test, predicting what the teacher shall test next, staying in the teacher’s favor while critiquing their lecture skills behind their backs. There is a culture of worship for those who test well in Taiwan. And I have had the good fortune to come close to some of this rarified air. But listen in on the conversations and you will be astounded by the narrowness of scope. And I truly feel – what cost this is to our human capital, to direct our young brains to a narrow pursuit at the necessary exclusion of other values? And the currency of the reward so situation specific?
Knox said next time he would like to play with that boy again.
I would like to note that Knox is very good about not using the bubble gun indoors after I informed him it is only an outdoor toy. He is able to simply hold it when we are in the MRT. This I also find interesting. I am hopeful that this is due to him having a stable environment, and Quin will eventually display as much as her brother, though she seems more impulse driven than he was (at that age) in relation to delectable morsels.
I really like the linked experiment above because it also suggests what we might employ in means of public policy. It is often said that Economics operates under the (false) presumption that people make rational choices, so the invisible hand will maximize societal prosperity. The disproof of this argument is that voters are shown to often make self-defeating, irrational decisions.
I believe this is a false premise. The fact is the function of society and government acts as environmental impetus for us. We still make rational decisions, but the maturity of our decisions, I would suggest, is dependent on the security of our environment. The more secure and involved we feel, the more likely we are to make broadly altruistic decisions that may not benefit us short-term. Removing social security creates narrow-minded constituents that are actually acting in a rational manner as best they know how within their environment: For there is no guarantee that more community-minded decisions will come back to benefit them. Worship of the invisible hand is a simplistic viewpoint that ignores the influence interest groups and individuals have over the the market, eventually skewing it towards dysfunction. I would also state that, in this scenario, wealthy groups and individuals are also acting rationally in rapaciousness. For individual restraint does not deter others in your field for being rapacious.
And I do not believe that flaming antagonism between rich and poor makes change more likely, considering human nature. Unless we wish to stomach violent social upheaval, which is an uncertain shuffle of resources that involves uncertain physical security for most of us who do not have the reflexes of post-apocalyptic super-heros.
But I was talking about this rotation of toys being particularly successful for Quin. She has been observed to take these out individually, work on them, and put them back, working steadily through most of the items on the shelf. I have rarely seen this in Knox at the same age. Her concentration face is most beautiful.
I am wondering how to reestablish Knox’s confidence for building tracks, of which he is capable of but keeps whining for assistance. Perhaps playing this vid of another 3 y/o building tracks in the TV screen. It is calm enough to be just background. So he feels like he is doing it alongside another small person?
One day when Quin was napping, and I was pretending to nap, Knox was very quiet. I peered out and saw that he had taken out the jigsaw puzzles by himself and was working on it.
and then there was the time Quin spontaneous lined up blocks.
Knox seemed to have read something in mandarin the other day: “時間到了。” I am not sure, for he would not say if he guessed it or read it. I am pretending nonchalance in his presence as I eagerly spy on him.