Saturday, May 3, 2008

Young Kids Notice Differences

Part of the class on blending cultures was a discussion on what people gravitate to when entering an unfamiliar crowd. It's been scientifically proven that people gravitate toward others who look similar. I've not studied this first-hand, but it was presented at the class. It was mentioned that even children do this.

I've only observed children around age 4 asking about skin color differences, but darn if the next Monday, a little girl in my daycare who is one month shy of turning three asked why another little boy who I was helping to use the potty is "brown all over." I explained that he was born that way and that people look all different ways, etc...

I found it interesting that this particular child would be the one to notice and mention this difference because of her family background and situation. She has the least educated parents, is the most unfit physically, her mom came from a physically abusive home and I believe this child's grandmother, who lives with them, drinks heavily. She is the most immature emotionally, but has highly developed verbal skills. Her parents are together, but unmarried, she has much older brother who is very overweight, born when his mom was a young teen, and a teenage uncle who dresses in what I believe is called Gothic, with long straight black hair (he's spooky looking), and, as I mentioned, grandma lives with them. She's watched a lot of movies I'd never show a child that age, like Pirates of the Caribbean, and she's highly imaginative, often time inappropriately so, as she struggles to process all the information she's been exposed to.

She leans toward being hyper-vigilant in the way the adoption books describe it in children who are always in survival mode. She needs to be in control and lately has been dominating how the other children play to the point where I have to be diligent and notice when the others have ceased playing with her to pursue their own interests because this girl will follow them, grab them and try to pull them back into her game.

So, I wonder, what made this child, of all of them, notice and verbalize the difference in skin color? Is it just coincidence or her need for control and to notice what is like her and not like her, or her lack of social exposure? One of my other girls, just one month younger, very highly developed mentally and physically never mentioned it and didn't seem that interested when the other did.

I do know that the younger girl has a more balanced family and social life. She has an older brother, by three years, and he plays t-ball and has play dates and that sort of thing. Her uncle is from India so there is already cultural exposure within the family. Her parents allow one DVD on the weekends, chosen carefully so that it's age-appropriate and they go out regularly to ball games, jogging, bike riding, visiting friends, etc... The first little girl doesn't seem to go anywhere but Wal*mart an St*rBuck's and the library.

I feel sorry for this little girl because she is sooo needy even though it's clear her parents love her. Her need for attention is extreme and she's devious and has a very hidden mean streak (she has laughed on several occasions when one of the other children has fallen and hurt themselves). If it continues into her teens, I can easily see her following in her mother's footsteps with teenage pregnancy as she looks for attention and love. It's heartbreaking because she is very intelligent and artistic. She has a well-ordered mind and would probably do very well academically if it wasn't for her under-developed emotional status and issues.

I hope I can make a possitive difference in this child's life.

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