The milestones came quickly; babbling turned to singing, scooting turned to crawling, and first steps were taken a day shy of 10 months. “I can Mommy,” her every step said. “I can Mommy” as she grasped for new things. “I can Mommy” as she discovered, investigated, and laughed at her experiences. I can, I can, I can.
But now, 5 days shy of her 4th birthday, she has become a child of “I can’t!” She screams it at the top of her lungs as I ask her to get dressed. She yells it whenever a task is presented, big or small, I can’t Mommy, you have to help me she cries. And we fight fore I am stubborn and I know that her can’ts where can’s just a few months ago and yet she wins because at some point she has to get dressed, eat, or go to the bathroom. My child is a child of I can’t.
I think of my students that cry when something is deemed too difficult. I think of my students that don’t even dare, afraid that they may make a mistake, fail, or look a fool. I think of my students who ask for help before they have tried themselves. I think of them when I look at her. And I know there is more to it than attitude, that their “I can’ts” are words chosen to mask other thoughts; I don’t know how, I am scared, I need attention please show me I matter, please show me you care.
So I return to my child of can’t and spend time just with her, away from her baby brother and sister, keeping eye contact stepping into her fantasy world, showing her she matters. The I can’ts diminish as she weaves a tale and I glimpse the child I knew. The child of can is still there, I just have to find her.