Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Age of Reason

Our daughter reached the age of reason about half a year ago. And I’ve studied enough psychology to know why it’s called the age of reason. And, if I’m honest, I can see the difference.

She’s fully fluent in humor, especially sarcasm. She understands cause and effect and she knows the difference between truth and lies, unlike her brother, who still convinced that if he SAYS something he can MAKE it true. But I digress. S. can also draw logical conclusions—intellectually.

Practically, on the other hand….

We’ve entered that Twilight Zone of illogic that no girl this age can escape. Bill Cosby called his daughter “the Enforcer” at this age; a friend of mine calls them “the Police of the World.” Why? Because they know EVERYTHING. And they’re not just unafraid to tell you, they’re dying to tell you.

(And let me just say that the rabbits around here are dying at an alarming rate as well—S. splits more hares hairs before breakfast than a professional poacher in the Middle Ages.)

All of which leads to arguing. Lots of it. If you know everything, you have to be on your toes to keep the world in line, you know? Even when S. agrees with you 100%, she argues. Just last night I said, “Grab your pjs. It’s shower time.”

First, she makes the noise. You know the noise? Part tongue click, part “enh”, very breathy and often accompanied by an eye roll? That noise.

Then she says, “I was GET-ting them.” If you know kids, you know what evil can be conveyed with those four little words.

So we go through the call-and-repeat game. Kind of like the cheer from high school (I say “Bennett,” you say “Clippers.” Gratuitous shout-out there, folks.) only a LOT less fun. In our case, I say, “How do you answer?” or one of the 7,396 variations on that I’ve developed, and she makes one teeny, tiny infinitesimally small step towards a more civilized answer. Repeat as needed, ad nauseam, all night.

You’d think the fact that these endless sessions take serious time away from policing the world would motivate her to get it right and END. THE. DANG. THING. Nope. Because of Bill Cosby’s other infamously insightful observation—she has brain damage.

At this age, S. can spill something on the counter, have a hand towel to her left, the dish rag in the sink to her right, a paper towel directly in front of her, and…just stare at the mess. When a disbelieving adult says, “Wipe it up!” she says, “I don’t have anything to wipe it with!” and bursts into tears.

Her obviously impaired eyesight coupled with a complete lack of practical thinking is so debilitating in terms of normal, everyday function that is simply must be pathological. You can’t blame a kid this age—who would voluntarily choose that state? It must be brain damage.

Plus, it’s universal. I clearly remember trying to stamp out the plague when I was a camp counselor with girls this age. We had to walk maybe fifty yards from our cabin to the showers. Inevitably, every single one of my ten girls would have to be escorted back for something they forgot. And that’s AFTER I told them to live without half of their “I forgot my…” items.

So I’d list the items needed. “Get out your [list here]. Put it all on your bed.” I’d inspect their items, telling them to add what was missing. Then I’d stand by the door, stop each girl, and say, “Do you have your [list here]? THEY SAID YES.

Guess what? Ten adorable, stinky little girls would all STILL have to go back for one of those items.

Now, big A. has not spent a whole lot of time with seven to ten year old girls. I don’t think he even did when he was seven—you all do remember cooties, don’t you? Yes, the opposite sex had them back then. So now he wonders if we’re doing something wrong because we have to repeat ourselves so much. Even with all I know, I might be tempted to agree with him, but...

I remember being seven. I remember it vividly. I remember just not hearing my mom, I remember just not getting what she was saying, I remember just not wanting to talk the way she wanted me to talk (politely!). I remember panicking over unexpected situations like a spilled drink. I remember my mom and my teacher shaking their heads over me as my papers, which never made it into the backpack, blew all over the playground after school…every day.

I also remember discovering an amazing world of books; I remember being entranced by friends and playing vivid, living imaginary games with them. I remember falling into astonishing and fascinating daydreams, I remember stumbling upon ideas that rocked my world, and generally absorbing marvels that filled my brain to overflowing and left no room for anything else. I remember perpetually living in a state of flow.* I remember losing myself in a beautiful story in my own mind…just as S. does these days.

I remember being a dreamer, like my daughter is now.

*Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi created the notion of "flow" to describe the experience of becoming so immersed in and challenged by an experience that we lose track of time and our self-consciousness and feel most fully engaged in life.

1 comment:

  1. I am just laughing my head off over this one. Guess what? Teenage boys do THE. EXACT.SAME.THING. Need to be told 15 million times to go take a shower? Yep. Feel the need to correct you (the parental unit) at every possible opportounity? Yep. Masters of the eye-roll and head-bob maneuver that absolutely makes me see life through a purple haze? You got it. And then there is the "noise." The combination whine, groan and sound of drawn-out exasperations. Puts my teeth on edge every time. Kind of like nails on a chalkboard. I'll make sure they do it for you the next time you come to visit! :)