Shika Kenshin – Stage Two

Click here for STAGE ONE.


Some time after the dental advice (maybe ten or fifteen minutes), we were called to see the second advice consultant.

Sitting down at a small cocktail-size table with my daughter in a high chair next to me, I remembered seeing the same woman about half a year prior. At that time, she had given my daughter a set of tiny wooden blocks to see if she could grasp them easily and hand them to her when asked.

This time, my daughter was given a piece of laminated paper with six images on it: a pair of sneakers, a car, a dog’s head (not the whole dog), a fish, a train car, and a glass of indeterminant liquid. The woman showed my daughter the laminated paper and placed the paper on the table, saying without pointing (in Japanese), “Where’s the dog?” (wan wan ha doko?)My daughter promptly picked up the paper and scratched it a few times with her fingernails, turned it over and over, tried to peel apart the lamination, and slapped it against the window a couple of times for good measure.

Ah, I thought. Proof that Leontiev’s “Activity Theory” worked with all age levels. (Basically, it doesn’t matter what you, the teacher, want your students to do. They have their own ideas about what’s interesting.)

The woman was unperturbed. “Where’s the dog? Can you show me?” she repeated.

I added (in English), “[my daughter’s name], where’s the puppy-dog?”

My daughter ignored the both of us and continued her examination.

The women took a few notes and turned to me. “Which language do you mostly speak at home? Japanese or English?”

“I usually speak English to my daughter, and my wife speaks a lot in Japanese, but there’s a lot of mixing as well,” I said.

The woman nodded.

Suddenly, my daughter pointed at the dog and shouted, “Wan wan da!” About four times in a row.

The woman immediately took more notes, and said, “Good, good, wan wan, right?”

But my daughter wasn’t done. She theatrically pointed at all the pictures one at a time, proclaiming, “Shoe, shoe.”

“Ca. Ca.” (car)

“Sh.” (Fish)

“Densha.” (Train)

“Gu-gu.” (Juice? I interpreted “gu-gu” as onomatopoeia for a drinking noise.)

The woman rapidly took more notes.

Satisfied with her performance, my daughter unceremoniously dropped the laminated paper to the table and started to climb out of her chair. The woman hurriedly gave my daughter four small blocks in succession. “Can you stack them?” she asked.

My daughter grabbed me, stuck her thumb in her mouth, and looked blankly at the woman, then at the blocks.

The woman put one block on top of another and repeated, “Can you do it?” My daughter let go of me and stacked the others without hesitation. “Good! Good!” the woman exclaimed, causing my daughter to laugh and clap her hands.

In the next split-second, my daughter reached back with her right hand, delivering a forehand slap so hard on the stack of blocks that one of them flew halfway across the room, causing most of the rest of the room to look up in surprise. My daughter laughed and clapped her hands together.

The woman caught her breath. “Does she always do that?” she asked in honest shock.

I shrugged. “Yep.” Then picked up the blocks.

With that, the examination was apparently over.


About MThomas

Long ago, I gave up my high school dreams of becoming the next Carl Sagan and instead wound up working (in order) at McDonald's, a '60s-themed restaurant, a video rental store, a used bookstore, a computer seller, Kinko's, a Jewish newspaper company, and an HR firm. I eventually became a teacher of intercultural communication in Kyoto, where I vainly attempt to apply quantum mechanics to language teaching, practice martial arts and Zen Buddhism, and always keep one eye on the sky. And yes, I know my profile photo's backward. I just think it looks better this way.
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