The kids went home yesterday afternoon. In the morning, The Boy was sick–he had been vomiting the previous night and not told me. So he didn’t want to go to football, and The Girl says there are no girls to play with. It’s only boys. I think they are both actually frustrated not to experience immediate success. They don’t have the emotion-regulation skills or the self-compassion to persist.
It made for an interesting morning, because they were both home and we had nothing in particular to do. Without the schedule, things are free-form, but I don’t have great ideas about what teenagers ought to do with their spare time. Tuesday, I had to go to school to do some work, and they went downstrairs to the neighbour’s house and watched violent movies on television for hours. That was clearly not a good idea. So I had the Girl work in the garden for about an hour and a half and the Boy stayed inside and read books and drew pictures.
It was very interesting, because The Boy is sometimes naturally very interesting to talk to and to be with. At other times, he makes unfunny jokes and plays up to get attention and I end up feeling sort of mechanical. (That’s nice dear….) But at other times, the back and forth flows very naturally.
This is interesting, because The Girl cannot do this. She cannot do something of her own and bring it back to show me or be looking at something and point out something that interests me. When she tries to do this, she imitates The Boy and does whatever he did last that interested me. She does not have her own ideas. When she is looking at something and points it out to me, I usually have a hard time understanding why it has any interest for her. Yesterday, she was pointing out that some boys seemed to be on their way to go swimming. (Swimming during the monsoon is quite dangerous.) I agreed that the river was their destination. They are not students at our school, although they used to be. I had a hard time understanding why she cared if they went swimming or not or why I should care. I recall one day when some boys were walking down the road–I think it may have been the same boys–and she said, “Look, there is X walking with his friends.” Indeed, there he was, walking with his friends.
Why does she care that he is walking with his friends?
So she strikes out with me much of the time, and it was sad to see this. It was sad for me to see how naturally the boy could interest me in his activities and how hard it is for her to do the same thing. I felt sad that she was losing out on this kind of interaction.
The thing about being anxious is that it leaves her unable to develop her own interests very fully. She is very good at helping me when I need help, but she does not know how to have her own interests and then share them with me. It may be that she’s simply wrong about imagining my mind and in time she will improve. But I think it may also be the anxiety–she can’t leave me and my interests long enough to explore the world.
Of course, in Country X, where people don’t go to the shop alone, exploring the world is less done, but I still think everyone needs some of this. Everyone needs to have things that they like to do and that they get some satisfaction and joy out of doing.
I was watching a video about anxious-ambivalent attachment–it’s a strange situation clip. In it, the mother starts off playing with her baby. He’s found a phone and he offers her the receiver to pretend to talk. She says, “Is this the best toy you could find?” and offers him a different toy. Now, it’s hard for me to understand why a mother playing with her baby would reject the toy she offers him. They are, after all, baby toys.
But I can imagine something like this playing into the Girl’s make-up. You can’t develop your own interests with a parent who seems bent on destroying them.
The thing is that, although I have trouble imagining the mother’s motives, I don’t think she is bent on destroying him as a separate person from her. I don’t think she probably realizes this is the likely outcome.
Anxiety usually makes you present-focused and concerned with short-term results. It also makes you self-focused, because your own survival seems to be at stake. Given that I believe this about anxiety and I am guessing an anxious baby results from an anxious mother, then the mother’s reasons for rejecting her child seem to me to be more likely to have something to do with her feelings in this moment.
What would they be?
Because my own mother interfered with me quite often. I don’t think this began at 7 or 10 or 11, or only in the years when I was old enough to make note of it and remember it later. It began with my saying, “Mommy, bird,” and my mom not understanding why I might want to look at a bird, just as I don’t understand why I might want to look at some boys walking down a road.