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Are you a baby goat? Or why children are not kids

This story for the young and not-so-young was inspired by the writer’s grandmother, Jessie Coe Lichauco, who is waging a campaign to give children back their own identity (See sidebar). It is due to be published soon as a children’s picture book.—Ed.

Once upon a time, there was a family of goats living in the highlands between many mountains. They spent their days grazing and playing in the fields.

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The mother was called Nanny and the father was Billy. They had so many babies, a dozen and one in the way that they could not call them each by name. It would take too long! So they called them a herd instead.

“Kids!” Nanny and Billy would often shout. “Kids!  Come!” And their goats would come running.

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The area where they grazed was so big that they tried to stay close to each other but sometimes there was sweeter food a bit farther away.

One day, Nanny and Billy’s youngest kid, Goatee, wandered just a little too far and Goatee’s siblings did not notice because they were playing a game.

Goatee ate the delicious grass until he was full. Suddenly, he realized that he was all by himself. He did not know which path to take home. Goatee was scared. He had never been alone before.

“Mehhhhh!” Goatee cried out. “Paaaa,” he called out for his father. “Maaaa,” he cried for his mother, even though he had no idea where they were. He realized he was lost and was very sad.

Goatee cried himself to sleep. The next morning he walked and grazed and hoped to find his family or somewhere that looked familiar. Along the way, he met many other animals but none of them had seen Nanny and Billy.

He soon stumbled upon a farm. He met a mother pig and her group of little baby pigs whom she called “piglets.” He met a group of grazing baby cows, whose father called them “calves.” Down by the pond he heard a duck quacking, speaking to her “ducklings.”

But none of the animals looked like he did and although he listened and listened, he did not hear any mother call out for her “kids.”

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Eventually he found a house on the farm, and then he heard it—“Kids! Kids!” He ran to the sound. But instead of seeing his mother or family, he saw eight animals who walked on two instead of four limbs.

“Is this my family?” he wondered.

“Hello, kids,” their mother said to them. (He assumed it was their mother as she spoke to them in a tone that reminded him of his own Nanny.)

Goatee became very confused—“Meeeeh… they dooooon’t looook like meeee… but they call the others kiiiiiids!”

This made him feel very curious and a little less alone.

“Perhaps they are another kind of goat!! A very different kind of goat,” he thought.

Goatee was very tired from his journey and he did not know where else to go. He found a nice corner in the barn and settled into it, feeling a little less lost.

The next morning, he took a closer look at these strange creatures. He wondered what kind of goats these kids were!

He thought to himself, “They have two hooves instead of four and their hooves look very strange! They don’t have any fur except a little bit on their heads.”

And yet they liked to run around, jump and play in the fields just like he and his siblings did.

He ran along next to them, and he yelled out a friendly “Meeehhh,” but they did not answer.

But one of the kids, named Jess, saw Goatee looking at her. She reached out and scratched his head. It felt good and made him feel less lonely. She also invited Goatee to sit with her under a tree while she read a book. He was so happy there he fell asleep.

In the late afternoon when their mother yelled out, “Kids, it’s dinner time! Come inside!” he ran alongside them to their house.

But the door slammed closed before he could slide his hoof in.

Goatee gently knocked on the door with his hoof. The mother opened the door and nicely said, “I am so sorry little goat but you are not one of my kids.”

Nevertheless he decided to sleep outside their door and wait for his new family to come out to play the next day.

From near the door he heard their mother talking to her friend about her “kids going to school,” and he wondered if he too would one day go to a place called school.

And when he heard the father discussing “new shoes for the kids,” he looked at his hooves wondering if he would get some, too.

One afternoon when the bigger kids came home from the place they called school, Goatee heard Jess talking to her brothers and sisters about a special thing happening in her school the next day. She was really excited.

“The school invited a special guest to meet the students. A 100-year-old lady who lives in a nearby village is coming to talk to us. I am so curious to see what a ‘really old person’ looks like.  I have never met anyone so old!”

Goatee also wanted to see what a “really old person” was like so the next day he decided to follow Jess to school. He stood quietly outside an open door and listened.

The old lady had been invited to speak to the children and answer any questions they might have.

When one young boy asked,  “How many kids do you have?, the old lady laughed so loud that she almost fell off her chair!

“Kids?” she said with a question mark in her voice. “I don’t have any kids. I know I have some whiskers on my chin—but do I look like a mother goat to you?”

Suddenly the children’s murmuring voices became quiet with curiosity.

The old lady explained, “A kid is a baby goat. In my day we had children, not goats! I have six children, three daughters and three sons but I would certainly NEVER call them my kids! They stand on two feet, and none of them are hairy or have small horns!

“Besides,” she continued, “I don’t think baby goats and children have very much in common. I would never call my children ‘kids’ because it is not respectful to them or to the goats. Don’t you think goats would like to have their own special word just for THEIR babies?”

When Jess came home from school she was so excited to tell her parents, brothers and sisters what she learned.

As she ended her story, Jess said, “So Mom and Dad, I would really like you to call us children and not kids!”

Jess’ mother and father were so surprised—they had no idea that kids were baby goats!

Her mother looked at the little faces in front of her and said, “I am so sorry my children. I definitely don’t think you are anything like baby goats.”

Her father agreed, saying, “And I don’t think your mother looks anything like a nanny goat!”

Later that day, Jess went to her usual tree and talked to Goatee.

“I always thought I was a kid because that’s what my parents called me. But I learned that kids are baby goats so you are the real kid and I am a child.”

Goatee had mixed feelings. He was happy to finally understand who he was.

But he was also sad because Jess was a child and he was a kid, so it meant they were not actually part of the same family.  So where did he belong?

That night, their mother called out, “Children it’s time for dinner!” and out of habit, Goatee ran with them to the door.

He was so surprised to see that the mother was standing there with a plate of oats for him.

She said, “I made you some dinner. I have to say I am sorry. It turns out that you are my kid after all. You are loved by all of us—you are our very own pet kid!”

Goatee was so happy that he jumped for joy! He was now part of a family with one mother, one father, eight children and one kid!

As time went by, Goatee felt loved by his human family but would still dream of Nanny and Billy when falling asleep at night. He felt better whenever he could remember the sound of Nanny’s voice calling out to her kids.

One day as he was waking up from a nap under his favorite tree, he thought he was still dreaming. He heard a faint voice shouting, “Where is my kid? Goatee, where are you?”

Soon, the voice sounded closer. Goatee looked and looked and suddenly he could see familiar shapes. It looked like other goats in the distance!

He ran toward them and soon enough recognized Billy and Nanny and their 11 other kids running in his direction, faster and faster as they saw him. Goatee leapt in circles in the air as he cried out as loud as he could—“Mehhhh! Maaaa! It’s me, Goatee!”

Goatee was so happy that tears of joy were running down his face as he nuzzled up against his parents, relieved to feel the warmth of their fur.

Goatee then explained to them that although he missed them so much, he had found a new family and they had taken very good care of him. In fact, he couldn’t wait to introduce the rest of the kids to the children—he was sure they would love his animal family as much as he did.

Soon, the familiar dinner bell rang and Goatee and his goat family ran to the family’s door.

When the mother of the family looked outside, she was surprised but not shocked to see so many animals outside her door.

She knew Goatee’s mother and father would be looking for him but she also knew her children loved the little goat and would be very sad if he were
ever to leave.

While wandering around the farm a few days earlier, she had thought of a solution for everyone. The farm already had cows, horses, pigs, chickens and ducks on it but there was still a lot of land to graze on.

As she opened the door, she smiled and said, “You must be Goatee’s family—I am happy to meet you. I want you to know that any family of our favorite kid is a family of ours. We have many animals but no goats yet. Welcome to your new home.”

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