Monday, October 30, 2006

Thinking Out Loud 

Me. Mine. Self. Help.

A holy host of new words from the wee one this week speak to the growing awareness of selfhood and separation. We adapt to her needs, offer her opportunity where just last month we did it for her, wait for her first try to fail, hold ourselves back until we are asked for help.

Then, tonight, as we dance in the lights-off living room, wrists aglow with summer's leftover lightsticks, a new word comes: own, as in "I'm going off on my own for a while."

Mama comes back from the bathroom alone to tell me about it. And off goes the wee one, stalking herself in the dark.

On some basic level, language is freedom. Speaking up and speaking out make the difference between slave and freedman, between own life and owned life. Witness the language of the baby, who cannot speak for herself; witness, too, the self-censored silences of untenured wage slaves, the yes men nodding in the silent boardroom as the doomed ship goes ever onward towards the reefs. In ancient societies, cutting out the tongue was an act of disempowerment in many ways more severe than excommunication.

As an expression of inner voice, words are more than mere evidence of mind. It is a truism in teaching that the ability to verbalize is paramount for those who would develop clarity of thought. The inner grok, the empathic awareness, the epiphanic brainburst have value, to be sure. But if you can't put it into words, we say, you can't truly be said to comprehend.

Thus, we celebrate Cassia's new words, and the development we infer from it. How wonderful to have a child that wants to try. How blessed we are to have a kid that sees herself as self. How beloved we feel, to know that she trusts us to be here, if she needs us, and when she returns.

But you can't have selfhood without personal loss when you're a parent. How ironic, I think, that the goal of a parent is to teach that which we have put aside in order that we might have children in the first place. How wonderful and strange to realize that giving up my independence was but the first, vital step towards her own first steps away from us, and towards herself.

Someday, God willing, she will walk towards us again on adult legs, head held high, clear of thought and tongue, moving of her own volition. In the meanwhile, God give me the strength to step aside, and gladly, that she might come into her own.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:05 PM |

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