20:37 Tuesday 24th July 2018

Just how early is the pattern set? At what age is the template formed for a person's personality?

I remember the precise moment, at age 4, when I decided to try talking to myself. I'd been told it was "the first sign of going mad" by varied relations, which never made sense to me, so...I wandered around the playground for half an hour, asking myself questions and trying to come up with answers.

And seemingly, I didn't go mad as a result. Thus proving my family didn't know what they were talking about. Just as I suspected.

But where did the suspicion come from? When around the same age I asked my mother what happens to you after you did, and she said something about "paradise", and I realised she didn't believe a word she was saying...what observation prompted the realisation, and what temperament prompted the observation? Presumably the same one that prompted the question.

For the first week or so, my oldest student was Ryaan, age 17. Liked to talk about how much he loved Islam and believed in the literal truth of the Qu'ran. While being intensely curious about why people chose not to follow the muslim path of prayer, marriage and children. Also curious about drugs, alcohol and shameless sex. So basically, your average teen covering severe doubts with overconfident bluster.

Bushra. I think she was 14. Enters the classroom and immediately goes into zoneout mode. Not rebellious, not dumb - just enters a dream world at every opportunity.

Next in age was Nau'ura - or Nora, if you prefer. She's 13, dresses like a partygoing 18-year old, loves pop music, tries to play the mature and sensible adult taking care of children, and isn't remotely interested in learning english.

Then Yusef, Bushra's brother, a 12 year old boy who combines wanting to be gregarious with social awkwardness. Good grasp of basic english, quick to learn new words and grammar, much happier in the classroom than the outside world. Watches violent war films but doesn't seem to actually like them. The Turkish Sheldon Cooper, and I like him.

Malika. She's 10, knows every meme going, loves flowers and memorising lists. Without a doubt the brightest of the lot, and has worked out the way to remeber stuff is frequent repitition. But can't manage to generate sentences. By which I mean, she's the only one to even try, but she just can't. Could probably memorise the dictionary, and do it well, and enjoy doing it, but putting three words together in a row is a paradigm shift away.

Aya is 8 and... there's not much to say about her. Dutifully does the tasks, but has no curiosity or passion. Like her older sister, she probably could memorise the dictionary, as a purely mechanical exercise, never asking why she was doing it. One of nature's civil servants.

Almassa is (I think) 7. And she's fiercely independant, impossible to dominate. Unfortunately she's also stupid and lazy. Stupid as in "It simply didn't occur to her that jumping up and down on a trampoline while holding a baby, whiplash might not be good for the baby's head". Lazy as in "never does anything unless she's asked". Stupid and lazy as in "hasn't mastered the alphabet of her native language".

Wessam is 5, but with a mental age of 2 or 3. Almost zero language, and a habit of taking off his clothes whenever he feels like it. And vaguely toying with his errect penis in front of his sisters. He's got two kinds of crying. First, the outraged howl of frustration when he doesn't get his own way. But second, an entirely different sound, that he can turn on and off at will, as a way to manipulate adults. Yes, he's got strategy, and tactics, planning, and possibly fallback positions.

Almaha is an absolutely adorable 3 year old girl. Endlessly chatty with basic Arabic and bits of English mixed in, takes every opportunity to get herself picked up and/or hugged by anyone. She's got something in common with Wessam - an absolute refusal to wear underwear and a habit of, um, displaying the fact in class. It seems only the teacher is bothered by this. But her crying is a simple response to anything she can't handle - being hit by a sibling, not being able to climb down stairs, or her schoolmarmish finger-wagging at some minor rule-breaking ignored.

The youngest person in the house is Emir. He's one, he loves being hugged by everyone except me, and he shows signs of problem-solving intelligence - untying simple knots, and planning which toys to use in which order.

So I think I know who will be what in 25 years time. Almaha probably won't be a flasher, but the gregarious innocence is there. Almassa will be amoral and selfish, but too disorganised for real crime, Bushra will float through life, Ryaan will call himself a muslim but will find excuses to break the rules - but only the minor ones. And Malika will follow her father into academia, probably something high up and medical.

Some would be tempted to ascribe this to genetics, by which they mean predestination, not heredity. Because we've got five people here from the same parents, and little else in common. But it does seem that when we say the childhood sets the pattern, it's very early childhood indeed. And the influences are as mysterious as they are powerful.

1 comment:

  1. Who knows what the future will bring. But there's enough of them to form a band! Or a volleyball team!

    Toddlers love to be nekkid. It is liberating to be au naturel. It's when they start grade school that most parents work at keeping those kids in clothes.