In the space of an hour more energy and check-up-ing and uncertainty was expended than in the entire past two weeks! An 18 month old child was loose in the house. And Giselle, a delightfully inquisitive, playful, willful, watchful, and wandering little girl tried to do her own thing. Her overtaxed mother, Gabby (M’Lady Nancy’s granddaughter,) was hard put to keep an eye on her offspring; and Granma Nancy herself was trying to get things ready for tea. Mother Gabby had come to borrow containers to keep her salad things fresh on the way home, and thereby to bring little great granddaughter for a visit. But Giselle had no respect! What did ancient parchment mean to her? What was the use of precious artifacts if not to pick up, bang around, and casually discard for another? What was the key in the curio cabinet for if not to open it? And why should she not set up a yell if Granma would not let her touch it? Computer cords were a liability. Biscuits were not enough. Pansies were plucked unceremoniously (but brought one for each of us to wear behind our ears). Life was for living! Things were mere tools to instant gratification. An open door was an open invitation. And as I secured the precious tomes of the work space, the women secured the rest of the house, and the child was contained.
Thing is, history would show that it takes centuries of sophistication to tame the atavistic nature in the predominance of us. We want we want and we want it yesterday. Yet clutching now onto a given treasure is a selfish feeling, as though to give it away would be an abrogation of one’s individual superiority. But we learn that others do not value the things that we do. We learn that others take for granted the things we worked hard to get. We learn that others borrow our things and never return them. We learn that others get angry and annoyed and cross and mean (and all are quite different reactions) to our wishing to take or to have something that now belongs to them. Covet not! We especially learn that great big word, ‘mine’, and with that we identify with our own things so strongly that we are quite diminished by a loss. And in such a marriage twixt things and me we learn that more is better; that more expensive means of more value; that having is more-better than not having; that personal power is best. And one wants the key to the cabinet!
Pragmatism would have us contain the two year old. Pragmatism would have us secure our adult things that might break or tear or soil away from immature fingers. Pragmatism would have us not take it personally. Certainly, the child means no offense. It’s in taking things personally that we find our own problems. The unlocked door, the papers too close to the edge of the table, the broken china, the dragged table cloth. The lack of gratitude; let alone saying please. Then there’s the inability to converse intelligently, let alone reciprocate, resonate, empathize. Such is the way of infants; we are but beholden to nurture and protect. And eventually they grow up; or do they?
Taking things personally happens on many subtle levels. We feel it most when we are insecure and the slightest indelicacy of another may give us pause to feel that we have been wronged; or worse yet, that we are actually the one in the wrong! Silly me! What a difficulty just to allow what will be just to be, and to arrange one’s life within any observable exigencies, pragmatically.
The harmony and peace of our library-like existence got yelled at today; but let’s not take it personally. Thing is, how does one teach a child that? Or must one arrive there all by oneself?