“Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it just to reach you, Julia”–Lyric by John Lennon, in his song to his mother, Julia.
I saw this at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore (HIGHLY recommend by the way). I was walking up the spiral staircase holding my six-year-old daughter’s hand. I saw this and stopped. And cried. And did not take this picture, because photography is prohibited in the museum…
You’ve read how my sweet child tests me, loves me, taunts me, tries to be me. You know the struggles we have as I want her to be better than me, more than me, and less of me. And she just wants to be me, and loved for her.
She has quite the temper, like me. She has a low frustration tolerance, like me. And she wants people to pay attention to her when she speaks, like all of us. She wants to matter. And when she feels she does not, hell hath no fury like a scorned six-year-old. No, really–the neighbors across the cul-de-sac can hear her and keep a respectable and polite distance from her.
I’ve been teaching her to use her words to get her needs met appropriately. I’m big on teaching people (adults and kids!) that words have meaning. Use them judiciously. But use them to make your needs known, and hopefully met. Be careful what words you use, they have meaning. And power. They can hurt, they can heal.
So when she gets reallyreallyreally angry, and she’s tired and frustrated, and had a bad day, and can’t hold her shit together any longer, she inevitably screams: “I HATE YOU! Don’t ever talk to me ever again!” and spews forth vitriol, coated in hatred, dipped in anger, sprinkled with contempt. Pretty sure she spits too. Possibly fire. Maybe snot. Either way, it’s ugly.
Granted, she’s gotten a lot better with holding her shit together and using her words as best she can. There’s progress. But when she feels like she isn’t valued at that moment, when she feels like what she’s trying to tell me doesn’t matter, when she feels like she’s not being heard…she does what she does best to get my attention, to connect with me, to reach me. She doesn’t mean it, we both know that. But she’s struggling to reach me.
And don’t we all? For the parents out there–don’t all our kids do this? Act out, scream loudly, act too silly, say and do inappropriate things when they know better–to reach out to us? And don’t we as adults do this too? Still? Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone you just nodded. I do it too.
We all want to matter. We all want to be heard. We all need to choose our words wisely. That’s the best way to reach each other: Mean what you say, say what you mean.