“The Way I Am Is How I Need To Be!”
This is just how she has been made
First: The idea that we, as individual human beings, are a kind of way is an idea to which we are slowly adapted. Second: Knowing that we are a kind of way gives rise to a more troubling notion, that we should be another kind of way. This second concept is something that many of us spend the bulk of our adult lives puzzling through. This morning alone, I wrote down at least three kinds of ways in which I should be different; it is a profoundly exhausting realization to have, that you are not the kind of way that you should be.
Kina does not have this problem, because she is four. At some point, presumably, she didn’t realize that she was any kind of way at all, but she seems to have made the leap to the first key realization, because she called me out yesterday on some suggestion I had made that she had a “growth opportunity” (in the management parlance) in some area or another—probably related to how messily she was eating or how loudly she was jumping. Her fierce insistence that I was wrong about her caught me by surprise, but it shouldn’t have; four is not so young that you cannot know yourself. Kina, unlike me, recognizes that she is a kind of way and that it is kind of the way to be.
Though I would like her to make less of a bonkers mess at breakfast, I am actually fine with Kina telling me off here. I do not want Kina’s sense of self to be at odds with her sense of some idealized other self. The way she is is how she needs to be, she says, and I would call out the verb to need here—it’s not just that she is comfortable with herself, it is that being herself is non-negotiable. What a gift to know that about yourself! I think this must come from Laurea, who has a firmer sense of her essential rightness than I do, but it may also be a Daniel Tiger thing, which, if so, speaks highly of Daniel Tiger.
I have spent years now trying to get my head around the idea that I am just how I was made, and that the person I am is not merely fine and lovable and whatever-framing-suggests-I-should-tolerate-myself, but also that I need to be this way, because I have no choice. I can certainly apologize and make amends for the ways in which the person I am has transgressed, and I hope that the person I am is not so hurtful or boastful or evil as to cause meaningful harm; I can check myself, but I cannot change myself. My parents raised me right, I think, and here’s what we got.
So, Kina is who she is, and I am who I am, and we are all—for the most part, excepting the most egregious sociopaths and method actors—who we are. We don’t always fit next to each other on the first attempt, because of how we eat or jump or talk or disagree; there is no homogeneous ideal self that we must strive to become, so that our edges meet perfectly. We must negotiate that space as we grow together—Kina and I, you and I, you and Kina—and know that we are each a kind of way that requires some padding between us, some conversation and acknowledgement. We can need to be who we are and still want to find a way through it. The foundations are sound; Kina’s just how she was made. The doors, maybe, need a little tending, but I trust we’re off to a good start.