Recently, we took Aidan to one of the rooftop water play area at a mall near our place. It’s a pretty nice place filled with both wet and dry playground, and not at all crowded on weekend mornings so we like to bring him there after breakfast for some play time.
Except one weekend, Mr Thick changed him into his bathers and promptly dunked him under a waterfall.
My poor little man was shell-shocked. He’s a pretty cautious little guy and isn’t one of those daredevil kids running through the play area in glee. Not Aidan. Plus, he has always been a little terrified of loud splashing water so the water jets and cannons and such are lost upon him. After his father pulled that trick on him, he was, suffice to say, reluctant to explore the area further.
It took some persuasion on my part before he would even splash around at the swings and once there, he did not want to move at all. For the entire time that we were there, he was not in the least bit keen to check out the other installations.
“Aidan, do you want to go over there?” I’d ask.
“No, I don’t want,” he would reply.
And then five minutes later, I’d try to persuade him to check out another area: “Mama bring you over there?”
Five minutes later, I wondered if he was bored of the swings. “Want to try something else, buddy?”
“No. I stay here.”
I was perplexed. I mean, the other kids were joyfully splashing around, jumping into the water and frolicking under the sun. Even those younger than him were fearlessly exploring the various watery installations. And here was my toddler, who was perfectly contented with simply swinging and kicking out at the little pool of water at his feet.
I would have gone crazy here as a child, I thought. But no matter how I couched my questions or tried to cajole him, he refused to leave the swing.
I started getting a little worried.
And then I stopped myself.
Who cares if my kid is not like the others? So what if he did not dare to go under the water buckets or weave in and out of the spray jets? Does it matter that he is afraid of the water now? Why was I trying to force him to like something simply because I would have liked it as a kid?
He is who he is.
I guess I had forgotten my own promise to accept my child for who he is and not try to turn him into something he is not. And it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with him just because he isn’t behaving like the other children.
I stopped pestering him with those questions and started to enjoy kicking out at the puddle of water at his feet. I helped to push him in the swing and showed him how I was jumping in and out of the pool.
So he’s a kid who does not play with wild abandon. He may not be gung-ho. That is just the way he is. I can try to help him overcome his fears, certainly. But was I really doing that? Or was I projecting my expectations of what a child should be like on him? Was I expecting him to do as I would?
I must remember that he may be made out of me but he is not me. And he is most definitely not another child – who he is today will be who he is 30 years from now.
I learnt a tiny lesson that morning.