The perception of a child is highly underrated in society. While children get a lot more credit than they used to when it comes to understanding what is going on between adults, it’s still hard to realize just how much kids know even when you don’t realize what is processing in their little, undeveloped minds. How do I know this? Well, outside of being a child myself a few short years ago, I remember one incident occurring in my life that later solidified my belief that children know more than you could ever imagine even without an adult saying a single word.
It was the fall of 1989 and I was four years old. My dad had to go out of town for work, so as any father would do with his son, he told me I was the man of the house while he was gone. I didn’t necessarily know what it meant to be “the man of the house”, but I took the title to heart more than I realized. While the house was originally down one person with my father leaving, it wouldn’t stay that way for long. My aunt Cicero – my dad’s sister – decided she’d spend some time with her nephew and sister-in-law and came on down.
On the first night of this new adventure as man of the house, we were visited by our older neighbor from across the street. For this story, I’ll just use his initials – H.C. Mr. C. wasn’t (and still isn’t) held in the highest regard when it comes to decency and morals in the neighborhood. In a lot of ways, he’s the black, dusty, older, always unsuccessful version of Quagmire for the show “Family Guy”.
Mr. C. came into the house, running over his words in the same why Popeye the Sailor would if he was from the south. Pretty much, you’d understand about every third word from Mr. C.’s mouth. Being a child, my attention span wasn’t the longest. So instead of staying in the den with my aunt, I roamed the house, playing with my toys. My mom was somewhere else in the house, leaving Cicero and Mr. C. alone. I returned to the kitchen – which adjoins the den – to see Mr. C. and Cicero standing at an awkward distance. Something just wasn’t right and I knew it.
I took a long hard look at Mr. C., then turned my head to peer at Cicero. My eyes darted back and forth for probably ten seconds before I approached to Mr. C.
Gazing up at, I said with a voice stern as a warrior, “Mr. (C.), get your hat and your coat, and leave.”
An astonished look on Mr. C.’s face accented his disbelief, but his body wasn’t moving fast enough for my liking.
Looking toward the front door, I repeated myself, “Mr. (C.), get your hat and your coat, and leave.”
By now, my mom had come into the scene to discover her four-year-old son literally ushering a man fifteen times his age out of the house. I stood my ground as Mr. C. tried to explain how I just suddenly entered the kitchen and told him to leave. Once again, Mr. C. wasn’t listening to my command; so I handed him his items as a sign that the time for talking was over.
Years later, my mom recounted the story and told me Mr. C. had disrespectfully propositioned Cicero shortly before I entered the room. Without knowing what occurred, I knew something was off and I wasn’t going to stand for such disrespect.
To this day, I hold that story dear in my heart not only due to the fact that I defended my aunt’s honor at four years old, but also because I taught myself that a child’s perception is beyond reproach.