Nothing gets past a three year old. Especially a three year old whose mother has just left the room. The fists clench into tight balls. The lower lip trembles. The eyes well up. The screaming begins.
Teaching little kids who have never been away from Mum before is … not quite the same as teaching teenagers who think they know everything. I’ll take an adolescent attitude over a toddler tantrum any day, thankyouverymuch. Alas, my kids here are young … and for this little three year old, it was a first experience away from Mum that brought on the tears and screaming. And I mean screaming. She settled down after about 45 minutes and the intervention of a Chinese-speaking employee who was able to do a lot more consoling than I could.
So here I am with tiny faces peering up at me expectantly, one recently dried of tears for Mu-um-my-y-y-y.
Independence is one of those things we crave. When we’re kids we want to do things ourselves, and we learn to do things without Mum or Dad hovering over us to correct the way we use the scissors or hold our cups of water. As we get older we like to branch out even further and we come to crave the possibility of living on our own and doing our “own thing”. By 18 we are considered to be legally “independent”. We get jobs and our own bank accounts to fill with our own money. We go shopping and buy what we want with the money we have made. We can be as messy or as tidy as we like in the space we live*.
Part of being independent is being able to be your own person doing your own thing. It all begins with letting go of Mum’s hand and learning to recognise that she will still be there when you need her, and will always be your Mum regardless of how well you write your name or how delicious the cake you baked unaided turns out or how quickly you sign a lease agreement.
Back to those little faces.
We played. We completed some work. The kids left happy and maybe they’ll even come back next week. And maybe, when they’re 26 years old and being told about how much they screamed for Mummy when they first went to school, they’ll be confident – and independent – enough to say: “I still do, sometimes.”
* No comment. But that really is a statement that deserves an asterisk. Ask your mother.