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The Connection Between Words and Meaning

3 years ago

1084 words

Photo: Two months of work, a lot of learning, sore hands and a lot of pride… that’s what this sleep sack is to me. I am so happy to have finished over the weekend and have sent it off to my friend. Two more to do! Cuttin’ fabric after I’m done with this post!


Major came home from Sunday School yesterday in a whiny mood. So much back-talk and whining lately… It all came to a head when The Husband asked Major to sit on the toilet. It got intense and, there was a little bit of yelling before, finally, The Husband (an ever-patient man) came downstairs and asked for a break. So, it was my turn. And I’m not patient. I gave him a timer and told him to get with it…

And then Major said this:

“I don’t want to be part of this family anymore. I want to just go away forever. Not in this house. Not anymore.”

And it’s a ridiculous statement. And how many of us have made it? “I just want to run away. I am going to run away forever!” Not, usually, at four, I think. That seems a bit early…

Like a typical mother, I started with the practical questions: “Where would you go?”

“Somewhere else.”

“Who will feed you”?”

“I don’t know.”

Uh huh.

Yet there is a little pang in the heart, right? My little boy doesn’t want to live here. He doesn’t want to be with me anymore. He’s 4! What have I done to make a 4 year-old contemplate leaving the nest!?

Negotiation continues and, finally, I give it to him old-school: the lecture my mother gave me a million times about being so lucky. Do you keep the house warm, the light’s on, the fridge full… yadda yadda.

“Just by the virtue of being born, you get all of this nice stuff,”  I  said to him.

“Your father and I love you so much, we had plans in motion to make sure you had all of these things before you were even thought of, let alone conceived or physically manifested.” I said. Because I’m an idiot. Major looked at me like I had 40 heads.

Hey look, I’m not perfect.

Anyway, lecture keeps rolling and finally we get down to the nitty gritty.

“You know, baby, you’re 4. And that’s a big deal. Because suddenly you’ve got these big ideas and an exceptional vocabulary to voice those ideas. And your words, they are about so much more than what you want or need now. You can tell us everything that is going on in your big, big brain. And you must learn that your words, your big ideas, they are powerful. Sometimes, they will bring lots of joy and pride and happiness and, sometimes, they will bring a lot of pain and hurt. [Major], sometimes your words can hurt more than a hit. Did you know that?”


“well, they can. And what you said to me, about not wanting to be in my house and my family anymore, that made me feel very, very sad. Because I love you. Do you love me?”

Without hesitation. “No.”

Pause. It’s hard, when you’re holding your first born, and you know that he’s angry and he’s just saying stuff to be mean, to detach yourself from the emotions you get in moments like these. My four year-old is angry and smart enough to use his words as weapons and doesn’t have the wisdom to know that he shouldn’t. I know that because I’m 30 and I do it, and I know that because I’m an educator, and I know that because, hell, he does this all the time…

But when your first born, the pride of your life, your first miracle, says with the fullest of his sincerity that he doesn’t love you… Your heart breaks. Just a little bit. Not full blown, because your brain cushions things, but there is just a little something there. Because who knows what love really, truly is until that first baby is put on your chest?


“Wow, really? You don’t love me?”


“Are you just saying that because you’re angry?”


“So you really, truly, don’t love me?”

Hesitation now. “No.”

“So you do love me?”

Sheepish. “Yes.”

I love that I can see the learning happening on his face.

“Good. I wish you wouldn’t tell me that you don’t love me when you’re angry. Because I love you all the time. I love you when I’m angry, I love you when I’m sad and I love you when I’m happy. And you know what? I love you when you’re sad, happy, and angry, too.”

He’s getting wiggly. He’s hungry for lunch.

I reiterate my messages: words hurt, ideas are powerful, we love all the time even when we have non-happy feelings. I told him to apologize to his father for his backtalk and sent him on his way.

There is, you know, a parallel between early childhood (late toddlerhood? Preschoolhood?) and teenagehood… (I like how I’m just makin’ up words here. Stay with me!) Teens, as they come into their power, exercise it recklessly and bump up against their parents and their boundaries at every moment. Their first words are (usually) lies (if memory serves me) and it requires reflection to get at the root of their true thoughts and feelings. Unlike my preschooler, teenagers understand that words hurt and simply use them anyway, which is why we adults get so angry at them. Major has none of that wisdom. There are tough lessons ahead, for the both of us.

As I sit here pondering on what happened, I feel two things: pride, for myself, about my patience.  I think I handled that well. I also feel amazement and a bit of amusement. That boy, he’s powerful stuff. Pure, raw emotion that he wears on his sleeves and on his face. Lord do I have a challenge ahead of me. You think I didn’t tell my parents how much I hated them growing up? Even at an early age? It really is payback, as my mother tells me every weekend…

Of course, he went through the rest of his day and woke up this morning as if nothing happened. He doesn’t know how to hold a grudge (yet). He explodes, he feels better, he moves on. If only we could all be so lucky. There are lessons in that, too.

Monday, cold Monday… come on, Spring!


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