My Mini Prodigy

Switzerland’s an expensive place and to fund my way through the second half of my year here I got myself a boulot. Now this student finds herself in unexpected position of teacher, and in my charge a precocious, if overactive and somewhat pampered, little boy who shows me no respect but who is so utterly adorable that I can never quite bring myself to get cross during our classes.

To enter into the domestic bubble of a seven (and a half) year old’s world is quite extraordinary; a weekly reprieve from the faraway student environment of assignment stress, drunken nights, and general sordid adult affairs. I become a different person: The Tutor, who is always gentle, patient, and never curses. No four-letter words, no talk of parties (not of the kind to which I have become accustomed for the past eight or so years anyway), no concept of (reluctant or lack of) academic/professional responsibility, no music but Justin Bieber.

A world, in short, completely alien to me now, and probably to most students who don’t have younger siblings. The world of…children. It is as far from our universe as you can get; further even than those older than us. His parents, after all, are a generation more removed from their children than I am, yet they share a home environment, whereas I (and I imagine most of my peers) break a cold sweat at the thought of children and domesticity. Priorities are about as polarised as you can get.

It’s disconcerting but also refreshing. Though I am by no means old, this miniature person makes me realise how much I have aged (especially having just had a birthday). So many things that make up my daily life are currently unimaginable to his untainted, carefree mind. I do not patronise the child, as that was something I was keenly aware of adults doing to me when I was small, and hated it, but I cannot speak to him like an equal either. Though he’s a cheeky little thing, he still looked sheepish and guilty today when I heard him say “shut up”. What an innocent world to live in!

Of course childhood and innocence do not (and should not) last forever, but for the moment I just cannot imagine this little mite growing tall and possessing a deep voice and girlfriends. He stands at about my waist height and cannot even reach the sink to do his own dishes; I can carry him in one arm. He’s a link to a time that seems an eternity away, and a reminder that whatever nefarious “grown-up” matters I am now conscious of, whatever base goings-on I am privy to, there does exist adjacently a not-quite-conscious consciousness, as yet untouched.

So the learning goes both ways; indeed, I now know more about Beyblade than could ever be useful to me in the forseeable future. I’d say I’m tutoring a pretty savvy kid, but nevertheless you become aware, as an adult, of the sheer responsibility of having a child in your care, of the kind of influence and inculcation you can so easily, even unconsciously, transmit. Even if he does speak three languages, and corrects your French pronunciation.

I used to think that I couldn’t stand children and had no patience for them, and it’s true that once a week is already more than enough, but aside from providing me with much-needed moolah, my job is also in a way refreshing. NOT that I am about to sign up to become a nursery school teacher anytime soon, but it’s nice once in a while to have a peek into a much purer, simpler world. And an excuse to play brainless internet games like car-racing together during our breaks.


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