Thoughts & Reflections
Oh, those words break your heart. “Go away.” Uttered by anyone, they are gut-wrenching, but spoken by a child, they can strike a wound.
And yet, they are not unfamiliar to hear. Often they emerge at a certain age — two or so, when a child is just figuring out that their words have meaning, and that they can impact their reality.
Sometimes these words emerge when a child is playing wants to engage in imaginative play. We grow self-conscious at a very young age, and notice when someone is watching us. We don’t want to be seen having both sides of a conversation, playing family with toys, talking to ourselves about something we might be processing, tussling with, growing to understand.
“A child is constantly experimenting.”
Other times, a child is cranky. I’m so mad at you, I just want you to go away! You said I can’t have ice cream, go away! You asked me to come off the slide because it’s time to go home, go away! We’re feeling mad, and we want to make sure others know. We’re almost putting ourselves in time out, needing space from others while we cool down.
On other occasions, a separate, more thoughtful reason emerges, one uniquely tied with Learning Reality. We can see the wheels turning, we can see the connections being made, we can see the toe on the line preparing to test the limit.
“Go away.” It’s so final. Sometimes it’s definitive, sometimes it’s wished back inside before the last syllable leaves the mouth, sometimes it’s quizzical. I wonder what’s going to happen? It’s truly, TESTING limits. A social experiment in-action.
A child is constantly experimenting. What happens if I drop this spoon from my chair? How does it feel to use my voice? What does this taste like? From infancy, they’re playing with their world, with the skills and limits of their growing, tiny bodies, and with the people around them.
Every physical experiment, is also testing those all-important resources, the people around them. Do you love me constantly? What are you willing to put up with? How much is too much?
If I drop this spoon from my chair, will you give it back to me every time, or only some of the time, or eventually will you take it? When I’m singing and cooing and yelling, do you respond? If I gurgle, will you talk back? When those sounds string together in a certain way, can I make your whole face light up? When you give me something to eat, is it usually always good? Can I trust you? Trust you to never give me something yucky, to jump up and say “no!” when I put something inedible in my mouth?
And, when I say mean things, things like “Go away,” or perhaps even, “I hate you,” is there anything I could say or do that could ever push you away? If I say the meanest thing I can think of, tell you, “I don’t like you,” will you just be done with me? Is there anything I could ever do or say that could remove me from your all-encompassing love?
In some ways, it is their constant experiment to test the limits of a parent’s love, and it is our constant responsibility to always push back. To never, ever, “Go away.”
Written by:Charlotte Wood