A Little Knowledge

If, like me, you’re the sort who likes to claim status based on what you know, then motherhood presents a problem. What good is it to know that all last week Rebecca said “aku” when she meant “ice cream,” and that her jelly sandals are more comfortable with socks on, while her brown shoes are more comfortable without socks? Who cares about my trick for cooling down her rice by stirring cheese into it, or that she likes to add pasta to boiling water one noodle at a time, or that she’s more likely to settle into watching me cook when she’s gotten plenty of chances for self-determination earlier in the day? I’ve learned a lot about my daughter, and I hope that sooner or later most of it will be obsolete.

I also suspect that insisting on my knowledge–the way one does with status-bearing knowledge–not only wouldn’t work, but would suck for everyone involved. I read a blog post one time about the dangers of conflating “my child doesn’t want to eat broccoli today” with “my child doesn’t like broccoli.” The author was an intuitive eating advocate, and from her perspective, she hadn’t run into any foods her children didn’t like, only foods that weren’t what they wanted to eat at a particular moment. Maybe a kid wouldn’t eat something for months in a row or hadn’t ever eaten it, but she still didn’t elevate that to “disliking” a food.

This is another one of those places where rhetoric makes a difference, and I know that because of my recent experience with too much zucchini. Now, I have a story in my head that says zucchini doesn’t taste good anymore after eating it for three or four days in a row. We currently have five times that much zucchini waiting to be consumed (thanks, Mo!). So a couple days ago I was stealing myself against the taste of zucchini in my pasta, eating it virtuously but trying not to notice it, when suddenly I realized that it tasted good. It turns out my body is really into zucchini right now, and my story about not liking it that much was holding me back.

It’s that way with a lot of the stories we tell, especially about children, who can change so quickly. It’s useful to have a general sense for what’s likely to happen, but if I insist that Rebecca likes this or doesn’t like that, can do this or can’t do that–then I’ve built her a prison. The Rebecca I know today is partly an artifact of the patterns that guided our interactions yesterday. She enjoys different things with different people, and is growing into others. I wouldn’t want to cut that richness out of her life, nor take over her relationships with the other people who are important to her.

So what do I do? I try to sound smart on the internet, and wonder if the limits of my experience are making me into an ass. Seriously, people, sometimes I worry when no one argues with me.