The school yard, at recess, some days takes on the appearance of a court of law. I hear the echoes of it, as a neighbour. From the street, indictments and summary verdicts are seized on the fly, shouted rather than spoken. Not really the muffled courtroom type! The “It’s not fair!” » respond to « First of all, you have no right! “, without us fully grasping what opposes the litigants.
During the holidays, the same trial takes place at home, confronting brothers, sisters or cousins. If Grandpa is around, there’s a chance he’ll be called as a witness. Or that we make him more surely put on the habit of a justice of the peace. ” Hey, grandpa, we have the right. Tell it to him ! »
A big caprice coupled with a huge sorrow
A few years old, another memory comes back to me. The scene takes place in the park. Left in our care on a Wednesday afternoon, one of our grandsons experienced the thrill of a zipline. He never tires of it. A descent, then two. He is jubilant, wearing the smile of the big days, but it won’t last… On the second trip, when he has reached the end of the race, instead of leaving the seat on which he has made his double descent, he clings to the pole. Stubborn, glaring, he refuses to leave his place to the children who are waiting their turn.
In front of the other kids and some parents or grandparents who miss nothing of the show, we try to negotiate. To make the little boy aware that he is overstepping his rights. Then quickly you have to scold – it’s up to him to yield, not to us. And here he is, bursting into tears. A big caprice coupled with enormous grief and the feeling, in the end, of being the victim: ” It’s not fair he gasps as I carry him away from the infamous zipline.
A justice they shape as they please
” Injustice “, the big word is released! Children learn very early to know it and use it. Between them, they willingly establish the frame of reference which will fix what is allowed or not, this rule of the game which they know exists and which must be respected. Very quickly too, in the event of a dispute, they know how to turn to a higher authority, that of a big sister or a grandfather who will ensure the proper functioning of the system.
It is one thing, however, to know the words ” justice ” and ” injustice it’s quite another, when you’re a child, to make good use of it. The episode in the public garden and the scenes heard in the schoolyard show children who call for fairness because they feel wronged. But the justice they cry out for, they mold it to their liking… and to their advantage – sometimes unconsciously, sometimes overwhelmed with emotion like my grandson on his zipline. Getting them to admit that they are in fact abusive and arbitrary is not so simple. To integrate the rules of living well together, even when you are only four years old, it takes time and patience. An afternoon in the square, I’m afraid, won’t be enough.