When we were in Tanzania Little E was obsessed with motorcycles. They were everywhere (an inexpensive make coming from China was viewed as people’s ticket to riches, so the number of motor bikes on Arusha roads had risen exponentially in the few months prior to our arrival) and whenever we saw one she would point enthusiastically, “AH!” At the duka (a small store) outside our house there was a young man who parked his bike there daily; Little E would lovingly touch the handle bars, mirrors, seat… and the young man never fail to offer her a ride. As a parent it was a only a little unnerving; both that young men were already offering her rides on motorcycles and that she seemed to have such an affinity for them.
There are some items which seem to be universally appealing to children (that is to say, in my experience with other moms who live near me and have similar sociodemographics as my family [I certainly can’t speak for all children]) : airplanes, balls, trucks, ants, four-legged furry animals. When Little E was around 14 months old she was suddenly aware of airplanes. The weekly playgroup we attended on the outskirts of town took us past the airport and she would point and giggle with delight at the site of those planes. When I blogged about this, a friend shared a story of her nephew who, sound asleep on the beach on day, sat straight up on the blanket on which he slept, pointed to the sky as an airplane passed overhead, and shouted “AIRPLANE.” E knew exactly how he felt.
Equally fascinating are the differences in personality between children and how apparent these are, even at very young ages. Typically E is a little reserved, and shy, around other kids. I have noticed her watch them with a careful eye; she seems to be evaluating whether what they’re doing is worth her time and effort. As she has spent more time at daycare and around children her age (although these observations are confounded with her getting older) she seems to be so much more interactive, willing to engage them in a way that she didn’t before. We spent a beautifully warm Sunday afternoon at a friends’ house, drinking beer on the screen porch while the kiddos played. J, their son, is almost 3 and although I’ve seen him have his hyperactive moments was very subdued this particular afternoon. E spent much of her time opening, entering, closing, opening, leaving and closing again the door to the screen porch and J just watched her with curiosity. He seemed to think “What the H@#* is she doing?” But he was tempted by the game, and soon followed her outside (which was more fun than sitting with the adults anyway). Before long they were engaging each other in all kinds of competitions: J created a game where they alternated putting rocks into a watering can, and E created one where they took turns throwing rocks into empty flower pots. E decided they should go for a walk, but J seemed to know that he wasn’t supposed to go into the yard (close to the road) alone. E egged him on and in the end peer pressure won out.
Having grown hungry they came inside and, each with their own bowl of O’s, lounged. Just like the adults. Only smaller.