As I get older, I forget things. This is true for everyone, of course. What I’m thinking about these days is how “parent” and “child” seem like two separate entities. I don’t remember, besides some specific memories, what it was like to be a child. There are things I enjoyed playing with, the friends I had, the holidays at various family houses. What I don’t remember are the feelings I had. What did it feel like, for me, to be a kid? Did I feel helpless? Did I feel misunderstood? How did I work through my anger or sadness?
These days I find myself getting exasperated with E, who is 5 years old, in some really minute moments. She got new superhero bedsheets this weekend, and I had put them through the washer. They were in the dryer when she went upstairs to pick out her pajamas. This was before dinner, before books, and before teeth brushing She came downstairs to ask me to get them for her.
“They’re in the dryer. They’re still sort of damp. They’ll be dry by your bedtime, though.” I said.
“But I want them on my bed now!” She said in an instantly shrill voice, furrowing her brow.
“Well, your other sheets are dry. If you want sheets on your bed now, you can put those on. Or, you can wait for your Batman sheets, which will be dry by the time you go to bed.” Sometimes I think explaining things will help, but it usually doesn’t.
“No! I don’t want those sheets!” Now she was getting upset.
“Do you want me to go into the basement and get the Batman sheets for you so you can put wet sheets on your bed?” I try ridiculous logic. This is me, grasping at straws.
[She stomps back upstairs]
If an adult had reacted in this way, I would have unfriended them on Facebook. When does the logic development start, and more importantly, what does it feel like to not have a well-defined sense of logic at this age? What does it feel like to a young person to hear “You’ll still get [X, Y, or Z] if you can wait [2 minutes, 40 minutes, 3 weeks].” and not have a comprehensive sense of time?
When I wasn’t spending a lot of time with young children, I interpreted a lot of this behavior as disrespectful. I sometimes still have that knee-jerk sarcastic reaction of “Oh hey, you’re welcome for [washing your sheets/doing your dishes/cleaning your things].” when it happens, but now I don’t point it out. I’m understanding more and more that some of these things are developmental. It must be really hard to go through our world without the ability to connect A to B to C and make it to F where the solution may be. I can’t imagine what it feels like to a young person to be constantly relying on adults to provide everything for you, even as you are trying to build and own your power and agency in the world.
I wish I could remember how it felt to be on the other side of this equation. I guess I’ll have to rely on my own understanding of time to know that she will develop better logic and reasoning skills. It’s pretty clear that I don’t remember my emotional past. Is there a child version of ginko biloba? Maybe I could start E on them now, so she won’t go through this with her kid(s), if she ever has any.