Four year olds: from tiny to vast

When my son was three, I learned a lot about managing emotion, or at least, I saw a lot about how emotion works when left unhindered by thought or expectation. He felt, he reacted, he let it run through his body until it passed, sometimes (often) in huge explosions of feeling.

He’s now four, and owing to some upheaval in all our lives (and especially my own), I only recently noticed how his world has changed, and thus, so have the opportunities for me to learn.

His world is so big now, as he grasps concepts huge like “the universe” and tiny like “germs.” Vast is an understatement for the expansion of his perspective in the last year.

At the same time, so much of his world happens in his own head. Whereas before, he saw, felt, and reacted externally and physically, now he can think, and with thinking come the kinds of existential questions my 36 year old self can’t answer.

Who’s in charge? How much control do I have? How much of the big and tiny world can I manage at any given time?

And suddenly I see a path to figuring out my own stuff, because I’m struggling with the same questions, and I learn most quickly through juxtaposition and foils.

In his world, I answer those questions. I am in charge. He has as much control as his four year old maturity can accommodate well with room to learn. And he can manage some big and some tiny thoughts, but not all all at once, so I curate for him.

I am smitten by the concept of curation these days. In a life full of possibility, and a myriad of choices to be made every day, that someone who understands my needs would limit those so I might enjoy the process of choice… this. I want this. And I just realized: I have this through a friend I’ve been chafing against; I have this through the universe’s benevolent interference in my assumptions; I do this for myself sometimes through self-sabotage, when I should be doing it purposefully.

And I need to focus more on curating my kiddo’s life, again, and better.

In my world? This is the challenge I’ve been failing, to surrender, let go of the oars, allow for grace and synchronicity and caring. I can’t continue to prove my worth in every moment of every day in every relationship. I am that crazy woman who needs too much, even for herself, and I am being batted about by knee-high waves when all I have to do is stand up and I won’t drown.

Okay, yes, some of the waves are pretty damned huge, but ironically, those I can handle. It’s the little ones that keep knocking me over and making me wonder if I am capable of not drowning. Surfing the big ones? Cake.

A friend was given public-speaking advice that caught us both by surprise: “Feel your feet on the ground.” Add that to my propensity for analogies, in which I have been a vine looking for someone else’s tree and a crab scuttling away from waves, but never yet a woman standing in the water, planting her feet like the roots of a tree, and I think I am on a path to answers.


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