“It’s fine, everything will be fine. We’ll get through this. You’ll get through this. This will pass.”
Do we know this? We all know this, in our late teens, in our mid-twenties, in the years later, we all know this. But we still need constant reminding. We need a comforting hand to hold ours and reassure us in as many words. We need a few jokes to make us realise that no matter how big the problem, it will seem small when we’ve put it behind a length of time. We need to break through the tears into jerks of laughter at the egging of someone who’s being at their silliest best to remind us that there is more to life in the present moment.
But do we know this as children? Do we know this as little people who have only just begun walking alone to school?
As children, our foresight is adorably limited. It can’t look beyond next morning and if there is a big, life-changing event such as a dentist’s appointment on the following day, our minds can’t even look beyond the night. And retrospection? That’s just too long a word. And in any case, such critical nights do not allow us the time to think of those things. We’re too busy polishing our teeth in the hopes that the dentist doesn’t notice that this nocturnal ritual has been treated as less than sacred on other nights.
We don’t know then that everything will be fine, that our teeth may not be in such bad shape after all, and even if they are, they’re not all going to shed like dry leaves the next morning and the dentist? The dentist might not use any of his scary instruments on us even so because our teeth are going to regenerate – in very embarrassing ways – so we have a great, big second chance!
In any ordinary situation, any normal kid would be scared to report his fears to his parents. The parents may either notice, if they are watchful, the kid may own up, if he can’t contain it, or he may keep to himself, suffer, and then eventually come to any or all of the realisations spoken of. Things get better. We get through them. Things pass.
If the kid owns up, he may be met with a number of possible reactions. Anger, indifference, love and reassurance being the most common ones.
What we go through as children shapes so much of the weird characters we turn out to be as adults. Why do we forget them?
Why do some of us suffer more than others? Some of us are kids who prefer to sail our own boats, stuck in the doldrums as we may be, we suffer the nights alone. We come out stronger the next morning, feeling a little silly about ourselves. Those of us who belong to this set of kids, are faced with two choices the following day – we can either carry our realisations with us and brush our teeth religiously then on, or we can throw the faint caution to the winds and start on the path of taking things for granted – the catalogue of things growing as we grow, to encompass not only teeth, but assignments, money, work, people.
Some of us are the brave-hearts who feel a guilt weighing upon us. We feel the need to confess, we feel the need to make corrective promises, triggered as they may be by fear or panic.
And so we find ourselves – confronted by one or the other reaction. When met by love, we congratulate ourselves and avow allegiance to our chosen path of what we then come to believe as righteousness. When we encounter anger, we apologise, get angry in return and on the eve of the next critical event, we are either too scared or too resentful to share our worries a second time. When met with indifference, we are actually met by a face lit up by the glow of a computer screen and a murmured acknowledgement, or by a lack of opportunity to be heard… because of heated arguments that drown our voices, because of missed responses at the end of a phone line, because of no one to share with… When met by indifference, we are met by no one at all. And that is when we begin to feel that there is nobody – we are on our own.
And that can lead us down on paths that lead just about anywhere – our choices come to define us, we are the ones who pay for the bad ones and enjoy the good ones as well – whether they are agreeable to others or not, is something we do not check – because we had started to believe we are alone.
Those of us who were met with indifference may have found, along the way, people who led us to believe we are, in fact, not alone. We may have been duped at instances. We may have found true friends who’ve stuck with us. We may have begun to have meetings again. We may have even forgiven our parents and our families or whoever they were, for being the faces of indifference – for being nobodies.
At the threshold of a time when we may soon become parents, while we must remember that our own kids are on their way and we must be lovable sniffer dogs who can sense their miseries from a mile, we must also not forget that we are still kids. And when another kid comes up to us to share, we must try not to be nobodies.