I can remember being bathed in the sink when I must have been less than 9 months old. My mom said that I hated the tub, so sink it was. I loved the sink. It was slippery feeling, but small enough I didn't feel dwarfed by it. I liked the feel of the nozzle spraying over me, and the sight of suds sliding down me. I can still remember the taste of the shampoo when it got in my mouth. Sink was nice. Sunlight, and height/altitude (I liked being "UP"), and the curtains moving in the breeze (spring baby, summer bath). Baths? No way. I didn't like the sensation that there was a substance that was not air and not (to my mind) water, in which I was sitting, which was ringing my body with what felt like a constantly moving line like a ribbon glued but not glued to my skin, tickling me (I could feel the surface tension of the water moving the small hairs on my skin, as if it was a separate thing - later, I decided I liked that feeling, but not as a baby, I guess).
I can also remember being a toddler. I remember the day I realized that I did not rule the universe, that the sun did not move at my demand. I was sitting in the kitchen, in my favorite sunny spot, where the fake-brick linoleum had warmed to a nice comfortable temperature. I was apparently totally absorbed in my play, because I sat there long enough that the sunny patch worked its way up the wall, so only a few inches remained on the floor. I casually reached up, and slid my hand across it, moving it back down where it belonged. Only, it refused. I did it again. The sunny patch stayed put. I stood up and used two hands, pressing harder, trying to force it to slide back down the wall and onto the floor where it was SUPPOSED to be, where I CHOSE it to be. Again, the sun ignored me. I knew it was sunlight, and it was the sun that was the problem, but I couldn't reach the sun, so I pushed on the light. With dreadful realization, I understood. The sun wasn't mine to command.
The universe shattered, with that understanding.
I was suddenly powerless. I saw myself from a moment before, true ruler of the universe, able to coordinate all that I chose, desired, hoped with a single wish. Mother to lift me up or set me down, siblings to come play or leave me be, sunlight always sunlight or the short powerful rain (okay, so I lived in southern California, I had no clue about unpleasant weather!), that me of a moment before had them all at my beck. I remember standing there, arms limp, probably my mouth hanging open in dread surprise. Now, the world was big, and I was small. Now, everything was cold and I could not force it to be warm. Now, I could not feel my needs flow out of me as a wave of my hand or a call of my voice or a lifting of my arms (up!) and know that the answer would come flowing from the universe towards me, meeting me, completing the lack.
I was suddenly very alone. I was terrified. And being scared infuriated me, because that was something else I could not answer.
I attacked the sunny spot on the wall. Screamed my rage and disappointment, crashed against it, beat it, demanded and ranted and insisted. It only stayed where it was, or if anything, moved higher up the wall. I collapsed at the foot of the wall, leaned against it, mourning, weeping in heartbreak for the friendship lost between me and the sunny spot on the floor. I knew now that it would never stay there just for love of me.
It was hard being little. It was harder than being grown up, some times. The totality of the everyday changes in understanding were powerful, life-altering, like natural disasters taking away all that is familiar and safe and good, leaving only uncertainty and loss in their wake. And then with only a child's understanding, I would have to re-forge the universe into a shape I could understand, put the parts back together, place myself within its order based on the new understanding, and then correct and adjust until things made sense - I wasn't that unimportant, was I? No, see, mom still picks me up when I raise my arms. But I cannot control the flowers and the wind and the sun. Ah, now I see that it is the asking that is powerful. So I will ask, not as an outflowing of the need, but as an intention to communicate the need. And now why when I ask does she sometimes not DO? Back to feeling powerless again. And to figuring out again where I fit, how it works, why things work sometimes and not others. Trying again. Making sense of it, again.
Remembering these things helps a lot. It makes it easier for me to understand how little my children really understand, and how much the truly believe they understand. It's their certainty in their truth that comes up against my adult reality with hard edges, and their certainty is harder to move than reality, some days. Pushing against it just creates confusion, and in confusion we tend to hold fast to our certainties, even as adults. It takes very gentle motion, gentle ideas, gentle tweaking of their reality to add something new without causing it to all fall down around them.
I know that my kids still have plenty of times when they're certain of their version of reality and life causes that certainty to shatter. As much as it hurt for me, it wasn't traumatic because I didn't assign it meaning. It just was, and I just was angry and scared and hurt. And then I was done being angry and scared and hurt, and was on to figuring out what was next. I aim for the same for them - that their shattering moments aren't wounds to carry forward, but are just changes. And I also hope some of the changes are gentle ones.
I've had those, too. I even remember some of them.