Innocence Not Yet Lost
Excess sugar not being all that beneficial to my health, I rarely indulge in ice cream these days. Last Sunday however I wound up at our local Swenson’s eating a banana split. I should say rather that I was eating the odd spoonful or two that my
little boy Sam would allow me to have. My wife had “suggested” that I take Sam for an outing at Big C, so that she could get some ironing accomplished. That idea was heartily endorsed by Sam. “Big C, Big C! Sam go to Big
C!” Oh well, why not? He really does enjoy taking in the sights and sounds, and since we have never gotten into the habit of buying him “stuff” every time we go shopping, he is content to just gawk at everything and give
a running commentary on it all. This afternoon he was particularly well behaved, and so I decided that he deserved a little treat. That’s how we wound up in the land of gooey hot fudge and whipped cream. As we all know, service in Thailand
is often spotty at best. Here however we were well taken care of by a genuinely friendly staff. A high chair for Sam was quickly produced, along with a much needed bib. Some crayons and a picture to color soon followed. This was a great idea,
and kept my little guy busy until our ice cream arrived. I took the opportunity to look around at all the happy families doing pretty much what we were doing, just kicking back and enjoying one of life’s simple pleasures. Just the sight
of these smiling children up to their elbows in ice cream put me in a fine mood indeed. I began thinking that maybe, just maybe, this country has a future worth talking about.
Children, especially someone else’s children, are not everyone’s cup of tea. I must admit that I actually like children, although preferably between the age where they are out of diapers, and the point where they start being talking back to you. I find their innocence and simple enthusiasm for life delightful.
At the school where I teach here in Lampang there are children from pre-school right through mattayom 6 (grade 12). I especially enjoy the being around the little kids, and they seem to have taken a shine to me. Where ever I go I am usually engulfed in a sea of giggles and smiles. “Moon, moon” (spin, spin) the girls cry, or moon kwaang! (Spin very fast). What they want me to do is twirl them around rock and roll style! Faster and faster I twirl them until they wobble away laughing. These children have a pretty sensitive B.S. detector, and seem to know that I genuinely enjoy their company. These smiles are the “real deal” and are priceless beyond measure. These kids are completely unguarded with their emotions, and make no attempt to hide their feelings. You know exactly how they feel about you! No phony mind games with these kids! The only games these guys play are the kind that children have always played, although some of these seem to have their own Thai flavor. For example in addition to skipping rope the same way that children do all over the world, there is a Thai variation that involves holding a static length of string over which girls jump in a complex (or at least complex to me) pattern. Sometimes there are two strings which make it even more of an athletic endeavor. Then there is a game where a line of children make an arch with their arms and two girls march hand in hand though the line while singing a song. I haven’t the foggiest idea what it’s about, but they certainly enjoy it. Then of course are all sorts of games played with balls, or probably everyone’s favorite, just running around chasing each other. Our school has a lot of colorful playground equipment, from swings and see-saws, to what we used to call “monkey bars” and slides of all descriptions. If you could harness a small fraction of the energy generated there, you could probably power half the city!
Rarely a day goes by that I don’t think how extraordinarily lucky these children are. They are healthy, well fed, well clothed, and above all, loved. I have stated here before that I sincerely believe that Thai parents, like parents all over the world truly love their children. Believe me I am not wearing “rose colored glasses”. Yes I know that child abuse exists here, as it does all over the world. But if you could see mothers hugging and kissing their darlings as they drop them at school you have to smile inwardly and feel a little better about the state of affairs here in the Land of Smiles. These blessed children have no inkling of the many horrors that exist in the cold cruel world, and I am extraordinarily happy that this is so. Childhood is all too brief. Many children in the world live lives of such wretchedness that it is beyond comprehension. War, disease, hunger is the day to day reality for tens of millions of children, not games and laughter. A few hours away in places like Cambodia, children are not as fortunate as they are here in Thailand. Thai children have no need to fear the sight of a soldier or a policeman. If they are sick there are medical facilities available. If they are hungry there is food to eat. If it is raining there is shelter. There is plenty of clothing. Even though I sometimes moan about the quality of Thai education, children do have the opportunity to go to school and learn. Many children even have the chance to enjoy an ice cream with their parents on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Next week my little boy turns two years old. Oh how I hope that the happiness of his childhood carries over into the rest of his life. I hope that this will be true for all the rest of the innocent ones as well.
I like your optimism and wish I could be the same. I don't know, but I just see it so differently. I see some really odd things in the way Thais raise children. While I am not a parent and am happy to admit that I do not understand everything they could be doing, some things I just find odd…and some things I just can't help but think are questionable. I should stop here because your submission was wonderfully positive and I do not want to be a negative bastard.