December 07, 2010

Little people

KIKAY, my eight-year-old grandniece-slash-goddaughter, is visiting over the weekend. Most of the kids in the neighborhood annoy me, especially the screamer behind my home—the bratty monster—but Kikay is a delight, and I’m not just being subjective here because we’re related.

Like when I went down this morning, I found her “reading” the front page of the newspaper. (Yes, we are one of the very few families that still subscribe to a hard copy, since my Mama doesn’t care to go online to read the paper the way I do.)

So I sat down beside Kikay on the red sofa and asked her to read the headlines aloud (never mind that they were scary...“N. Korea readies missiles,” etc.), as well as some paragraphs in the stories. I just wanted to make sure she was at the appropriate reading level, and correct her pronunciation of some words if need be. Except for the confusion over “readies” which she pronounced like the “e” in “read,” everything checked out...yes, we have a bright one here! Woot-woot!

But our girls really have been fast learners in reading and are astute. It reminded me of a niece, Boo-Boo—now all grown up and in her 20s—doing the very same thing every morning. She, beside my Pop, who had started all of us on the newspaper-reading habit, would open to the business news and look for the peso-dollar exchange rate, while the grandfather was perusing the front page.

Boo-Boo was only about six years old then and still living with us. Maybe she heard us talking often about the foreign-exchange rate, or exclaim how the peso went up or down while we watched the news on TV. As fate would have it, for a time she did work as a forex trader, and is the math genius in the family.

Her older sister was the talker when she was a toddler. If she wasn’t telling stories about what she had read in a book, or what activity she recently did with her parents, she was always asking questions about every little thing that fascinated her. I remember that even our driver then, who would try taking over answering questions she had thrown at my Mama and me, would also give up, exasperated at her stream-of-consciousness questions. Not surprisingly, now pushing 30, she is also a writer and sells bank products.

Kikay isn’t as sophisticated as her titas yet, but with a little more training and more weekends spent with me, hah! I’m sure she’ll turn out just as clever. (Or be a freak and scare the living delights out of her classmates just with a killer look! Mwahaha! Cue in evil witch laughter here.)

But it’s interesting how these little people have personalities all their own already. One would think that at such young ages, they still have no minds of their own, and are just blank slates absorbing all what’s being said to them, or the other things happening around them. However, it’s their reaction to the outside stimuli that indicates what kind of personality they have and how they may eventually turn out. Portent of things to come, I always say.

My friend Cassie’s precocious daughter Koolits, for instance, has always been such a drama queen even before she went to pre-school. She dishes out lines like she was a 25 year old and is seemingly impatient with her mom when the latter doesn’t get her. I can’t help but laugh out loud when Cassie posts Koolits’ latest spiel on Facebook.

Here’s a typical conversation:

Cassie (on the phone): Hi, Koolits!

Koolits: Hi, Mom.

Cassie: Whatcha doin’? Have you eaten merienda already?

Koolits: Yes, I already ate. Uh, Mom, I HATE TO SAY THIS, but I’m having pancit canton again.

Five years old going on 25? You bet! Hahaha!

With Kikay, except for the occasionally difficult feeding time—she can be a picky eater—she has always been a joy to bring anywhere. She hardly raises a fuss and is well-behaved even at Church, for instance. She certainly is not one of those who will chase other kids down the church aisles, and be a constant embarrassment to her parents trying to listen to the priest’s sermon.

I remember the time we had to hurriedly go home to our province because my brother, her Lolo Daddy, had passed away. It was the first time for her to ride a plane and she was only five years old. She quietly just observed what was going on as all the other passengers filed into the plane.

As the plane started taking off, I just told her it was like riding a car as well, but faster because it would bring us to a far away place, across big bodies of water and cities, and not just to SM or The Podium, which were very near to our home. Adults have to explain these things sometimes just to try to allay whatever fears the child may have. But I don’t think I actually needed to explain it to Kikay. She was fearless.

But I knew she would be bored soon enough, as kids most often are these days. In our haste to get to the airport, she wasn’t able to bring her favorite toy, which probably would not have fit in her small backpack anyway. So I espied a magazine in the seat pocket in front of her and took it out for her to read. Turned out to be Forbes magazine.

I thought she would lose interest in it soon enough—I had no glossy magazines with me, and was just reading a newspaper—but Kikay kept on turning the pages, then stopped at some pages, seemingly reading them. I wondered what she was thinking about when her eyes fell on words like gross domestic product, junk bonds, or a stock’s P/E ratio. (Well, we got to start them early, why not?!)

But typically, her eyes would linger the longest at the slick gorgeous ads of high-end clothing and shoe brands. And I thought, “Dear God, not another kikay in the family!”

Kikay has always been the quiet type, I suppose she gets it from her dad, as her mom has an attitude that can’t be mistaken as anything but coming from our side of the family. When Kikay’s visiting, and everyone else is out or I’m busy writing, she plays by herself with her own toys, as she waits for her playmates at the park to come out. She knows how to amuse herself with her coloring books, story books, and, when the TV is switched on, the cartoons.

In other words, unlike other children these days who can be such a pain to hang around with, hindi siya mahirap aliwin. And as often as adults do, I was hoping at the back of mind that when Kikay grows older, she would apply the same resourcefulness and self-sufficiency in her work. (Oh, but please, God, don’t make her a corrupt government official!)

Having kids around can be a joy. You observe them and see how they react to other kids or to adults, and more often than not, you marvel at how God is so smart to have created such wonderful creatures. It also gives you hope that perhaps, despite the tremendous amounts of crises the world finds itself in these days, the future is still going to turn out fine.

(Originally published on Dec. 3, 2010. My column, Something Like Life, is out every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. Photos and images from the Internet.)

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