A Story of a Child That Can’t

She was born a child of “can.”  Yes, we can get pregnant no matter what they say.  Yes, we can carry her fullterm. Yes, we can bring her into this world.  And on New Years Eve 2008, Theadora came into this world, lungs full of determination to show everyone that she had arrived.

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.

7 thoughts on “A Story of a Child That Can’t”

  1. This is beautiful, Pernille. I'm reminded of the times I ask Evelyn to go get dressed and I hear the same words. (Or she comes back completely mismatched.) Thanks for the reminder that "I can't" may be a different cry. I hope you are well.

  2. Hi Pernille,
    I’m a Content Producer for Kidspot, Australia’s largest parenting website. I’ve just been reading this piece and I love it. So simple, poignant and insightful. I would love to be able to republish this piece on our site, with full credit, of course, and links back to your blog, book and social sites. I really feel our readers would connect to this piece.
    What do you think? Is this something you’d be interested in?
    Look forward to hearing from you,

  3. This resonates so deeply with me. I also have a 4-year-old full of can’ts. Tapping into her creativity helps minimize them. Thank you for sharing.

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