FOR some adults, children’s concerns are seldom taken seriously. In their eyes, important things only exist in the adult world, which should be addressed immediately. In contrast, they always dismiss children’s things as trivial matters. For them it’s no big deal at all to even totally forget it.
In their logic, children can’t deal with big issues. Of course, the adults have also never given children the chance to cope with them. But kids are usually left to handle their own matters alone.
In a rural courtyard, a boy may rush to the water vat, gulping down a big ladle of water from it. With one mouthful left, he starts gargling with his little head swinging dramatically. As he spits all to the ground, chickens, ducks, and dogs in the yard all scramble to get a part of it. “Mum, my mouth bleeds,” the boy frowns with his hands covering the cheek. Then the sensation of pain sets in. He draws in his breath, trying to relieve the pain. It turns out he bit the interior of his mouth accidentally.
His mother then dismisses it with a laugh, “You’re craving for meat. It’s not a big deal. Don’t make a fuss about it.”
Yes, it may be a trivial matter for adults, but still demands attention and action to solve it. Last month, the mum promised after selling a litter of piglets she would buy some meat to make Jiaozi (Chinese dumplings). Now the old sow is pregnant again. The mum has not honored her promise yet. However the boy’s mouth still salivates in yearning for them.
If the boy really counts on his parents to appease his craving, maybe he has to wait till the Spring Festival. Then he takes matters into his own hand. With the slingshot, little knife, crooked chisel, matches, and salt packed, tethering the cow he is looking after around a tree stump, he sets out for the reed field.
If lucky, the boy might catch a wild duck brooding eggs. Even out of luck, it’s still easy for him to capture several big frogs or get a strayed cockerel. Then amid smoke, meat sizzles above the fire. What a mouth-watering feast for the boy!
This one is surely better than the minced pork inside the dumpling. Of course, adults would not have the luck to sample this special gourmet meal. However, at dinner time, his parents’ suspicions are aroused on witnessing telltale clues: Why is the cow’s belly hollow? Why are you eating less? “You did something bad, didn’t you?”
“Dad! I got a question for you. I’ve thought about it very long, but can’t find an answer: why is the chicken called chicken, not cow? Why is the dog called dog instead of frog? And why people are called human beings rather than trees? Who is the one that first gave everything names? What are they based on? There should be some reasons behind it, right? What if people call the cow as dog, dog as chicken, chicken as tree, and tree as human being? Would that lead to chaos?” the boy gives a barrage of questions, instead of responding to his parents’ interrogation.
Then he finds his dad’s face change color from white to red, then to black with his mouth gaping. However, no answer is given. Finally the father finds his voice, poking the boy’s head with his chopsticks, “Where are all the farfetched things from? Even food can’t gag your mouth.”
In a look reeking of condescension, the father puts on an impatient expression. The implication is clear, “what a trivial matter it is!” Is that worth study? In fact, the boy did rack his brain, trying to figure out the reasons. Surely he failed. However, he had not planned to ask his parents because he believed he would not get any reasonable answer from them. Just now he just used it as a distraction.
Nevertheless, there are things that should be handled by adults, for example illness, which no kid can escape.
Adults always disdainfully say, “Being mortal as we are, it’s inevitable to fall ill.” However, why is it always kids who get it easily? And more unbearable are the bitter pills. Who invented them? Unimaginable that they can cure illness for they look more like poisons. It’s really hard to swallow them.
But there are a type of pills that children love – “pagoda candy” (Trochisci Piperazini Phosphatis, widely used by children in China’s rural areas to expel roundworms in their intestines). However, the terrible thing is: after taking the special candy, worms would appear in their excrement. This usually sends children into panic. And they come together to discuss about it. They wonder whether worms are hidden in the pagoda candy.
About the matter of pagoda candy and worms, the adults show the same sneering attitude. “What a big fuss over such a trivial thing! Of course, worms are from you! It’s the pagoda candy that poisoned worms inside you.”
“Hmm, I see.” Since then, when they get ill, the pagoda candy is the only medicine they want to take. Bitter pills, even mixed with sweet water, fail to convince them. As the mixed liquid cools down, the medicine will lose its function. Angered by that, the parents would shout, “If you don’t drink it, I’ll let the old sow feed on you!”
Although it sounds terrifying, no kid really buys it. They already talked about it together, and came to the conclusion: The old sow only feeds on grass, fodder, and leftovers. No one has seen or heard about a sow eating kids.
Seeing no method works, adults resort to their most effective trump card. Putting the bowl on the table, they go to their bike. “Since you refuse to have medicine, we have to take you to the hospital to get an injection.”
This simple condition works like a magic spell, causing the children’s face to turn white, and then submissively drink all the vile tasting medicine mixture up.
GONG GAOFENG is a column writer.