Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I'm Always Changing

Every night before or after he takes a bath, my son looks at his face in the mirror and he always says the same thing.

":I don’t look like myself.”

He is never happy about this fact. Rather, he says it in this very adult, disappointed, resigned way,

I used to reply, “What are you talking about? You look JUST like yourself. What do you mean?”

That, as you can imagine, was not a very constructive response. Its like telling a kid that’s scared to death of an ant, “Don’t be scared. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

That’s an adult's instinctive response but its as effective a way to reduce their fear as is reading the dictionary backwards. When, in the history, have a child ever looked up at you and said, “By George, you’re right! What was I thinking, being terrified of a harmless ant? Thanks for restoring me to my toddler senses, Mom.”

Back to the mirror at bathtime. The other night, Primo looked especially unlike himself, at least in his opinion. His hair was really spiky from being ruffled by the towel and it dismayed him.

“Now I REALLY don’t look like myself!” he exclaimed, “I keep changing! Every day!”

I had to stifle my laughter because of course there was nothing at all funny about it to him. And really, this is a kid with an imagination so intense, so vivid, that he thinks metamorphosis is totally within the realm of possibly. We had to stop reading this kids’ version of the Metamorphosis because it was freaking him out that he might change into a tree or a spider or something. And we won’t be reading Kafka anytime soon, I’ll tell you that much.

So I guess in his mind, when he sees his hair sticking up in a strange way, he must think, “Great! My hair’s been changed. What’s next? A tail? The torso of a goat and the head of a lion? WHERE DOES THE CHANGE END?”

“But it’s good that you’re changing! That means you’re growing big and strong, just as it should be!”

He looked totally unconvinced.

“Actually, “ I said, “I know just how you feel. When I look at pictures of myself before I had kids, I don’t even recognize myself. I look completely different. And I don't really like it either.”

When all else fails, understanding’s always a good fallback.