Dot writes: Yesterday the boys were watching The Lion King on the computer. It had got to the painful climax – the evil Scar was making the young hero Simba confess that (as he thought – though really it was Scar’s fault) he had caused his father’s death. From the chair where the boys were sitting I heard a loud sob. Hugh was completely absorbed in the scene, with tears rolling down his cheeks.

And, you know what, I was pleased. It showed that Hugh was doing more than enjoying an exciting story; he was identifying deeply with the central character and understanding how sad and awful the situation was for him. I thought it was a sign of increasing maturity (and also, as a footnote, an interesting illustration of the extent to which fictional events produce real emotions, which is a nice little philosophical and psychological problem).

On the other hand, this morning I took Frank for a haircut, and when we went to pick Hugh up from school he refused to believe / pretended not to realise the child with me was his brother. Frank was horribly upset and crying. “But I AM Frank! I just had a haircut!” “Hugh, say sorry to your brother; you’re upsetting him.” “But it doesn’t look like Frank.” And so on, round and round. Perhaps it’s easier to empathize with fictional people than real ones.

8 thoughts on “Empathy

  1. They make your heart melt sometimes… and have you tearing your hair out at others… And all the time wondering how on earth you could possibly love them more than you do at that precise moment.
    I have to admit that I like (and recognise) the ‘Hugh who pretended not to recognise Frank’ story. My lot are wise-cracking horrors – the wee ones having learned at the feet of masters (their older siblings) – and mercilessly tease and wind each other up. This can begin with reasonable good humour but escalate rapidly to fever pitch with one or other of them chasing the other up and downstairs and into bathroom cul de sac – usually requiring adult intervention in the form of an exasperated shout of ‘will you quit that now!!!’. I used to think it would all end when they ‘grew up’. But I’ve discovered that the older ones are just worse…
    What’s the betting some adult pretended not to recognise Hugh when he got his haircut…?
    He sounds like a bright wee chap. 🙂

    1. kenanddot

      I’ll be completely bald but with a caramel centre by the time Hugh and Frank have finished with me:-)

      I can only imagine the winding-up potential with five. On the other hand, perhaps it diffuses tension a bit. My two love and hate each other in about equal measure.

      1. Haha. I like that ‘caramel centre’.
        You’re absolutely right re ‘diffusion’. I found trying to manage 2 kids the biggest pull on my emotional and physical resources. Few believe me. But it is true, I found it increasingly easy the more I had. They tend to amuse themselves more – and the older ones help a bit with whoever happens to be the baby at the time.
        When the age spread is as large as between my lot you also sometimes have the feeling that you’re bringing up two or three ‘different’ families. For instance, they group together along age-lines; at other times along lines of who shares their interest at that particular moment or who best meets their emotional/personality needs – and other times it’s along gender. Right now it feels as though I have three families: the young adults have their own distinct set of needs; then there are the teenagers and then there’s wee Ana who makes a huge amount of ‘being the baby’.
        It’s fun though. And I do love it all.

  2. Mairi Jay

    It’s amazing how early they learn to ramp each other up; and also how to play off the adults against each other. I seemed to be the regular victim of my sister’s adult manipulation; somehow she always looked the innocence recipient of unprovoked aggression; me, being the older, was expected to know better.

    As I think about it, I wonder if it’s one reason I tend to slink away from confrontation; I’m not good at fighting (e.g. in office politics) whereas she is a master. Hmmm! It bears thinking about.

    1. kenanddot

      Frank definitely plays for adult sympathy. He can turn on the most heart-breaking sobs at a moment’s notice. Also, he is good at winding up his brother. But on the other hand Hugh is short-tempered and not always that nice to Frank (witness the story above). They still manage to play together quite a lot – I suppose they have little choice…

  3. Katimum

    But I was noticing how they follow each other around playgrounds, even when there are plenty of other children to play with. I think they do like playing together, even if some of it is puppy (or kitten) fighting.

  4. Awww…I showed Owl Chitty Chitty Bang Bang recently, but I almost turned it off when Baron Bomburst showed up. Owl was literally wringing his hands (I didn’t know that was an instinctive behaviour!) and stiff as a board whinging “No, coming to get Chitty! Chitty GOT TO GET AWAY!”

    Even once Chitty escaped successfully he had a little cry. Out of relief, I think.

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