A few days ago, I read a text that impressed me, in which Thorwald Dethlefsen and Rüdiger Dahlke, in their book ‘The Critical Life Stages’, imagined the diary of a toddler:
Thursday, 8:10: I’ve poured cologne on the carpet. It smells good. Mum’s angry, cologne is prohibited.
8:45: I’ve pulled the lighter into the coffee cup. I’ve been beaten.
9:00: In the kitchen. I’ve been thrown out. The kitchen is prohibited.
9:15: In Dad’s workroom. I’ve been thrown out. Workroom also prohibited.
9:30: I have taken away the key of the closet. Played with it. Mum did not know where it was. Me neither. Mum yelled at me.
10:00: I found a red pencil. Painted on the carpet. Bad.
10:20: I caught the knitting needle and I have stretched it over. I have also stuck one on the couch. Needles are prohibited.
11:00: I had to drink milk. But I wanted water! I have started to mourn. I’ve been beaten.
11:30: Broke in two a cigarette. There was snuff inside. Disgusting.
11:45: I followed a centipede up under the fence. I found mealybugs, intead. Interesting, but prohibited.
12:15: I ate poop. Quirky, but a forbidden flavor.
12:30: I spit the salad. Inedible. But spitting is prohibited.
13:15: Nap time. I have not slept. I got up and I sat on the bedspread. Frozen. Freezing is prohibited.
14:00: I thought it over. I think that everything is forbidden, so what’s the thing in being born?
As Dr. Lair Ribeiro points out, American scientists conducted a study with a number of children to know exactly what they can hear in one day. They found that a child, from birth to being eight years-old, can hear the word ‘no’ an average of 35 times a day.
So hard, isn’t it? Probably, any of these children, by continuosly hearing the words ‘no’ and ‘prohibited’ eventually decided to stop trying, playing, risking, testing, and ultimately, living, as these were forbidden.
Not that I say that setting limits to children is something perverse or evil. But if that becomes a tic, not taking into account that a child is a person who has every right to experiment with their environment, they gradually lose spontaneity, capacity for enjoying intimacy, the desire to listen, to share, to take risks, to try new experiences.
Poison is in the dose: How many ‘no!’ from the past are weighing on and stopping us today, still? It is worth checking whether those ‘no!’ were useful before or they are no longer today.
I wish you a pleasant day.
P.S. Most of this post is excerpted from the book ‘The Inner Compass/ Letters To Myself’.