People are permanently of this world, still milling about, birthing ,thinking, laughing, crying, working, loving, fighting, dying, even when we don't see them. There is a staggering multitude of souls and energy existing without restraint. To think that there are an infinite number of lives simultaneously dying and being born. To think that the world is made for all these people and not exclusively me. The concept of object permanence is baffling. It is boundless and scary. Everything exists whether I'm here or not, whether I'm alive or not.
Daire won't have an expanded sense of his world and object permanence until he is about 8 months old. Right now, everything exists in the moment he senses it. My voice means I've suddenly been born to him. Dana's rough hugs rouse him from a nap and unexpectedly she exists. For now, it is dazzling that dad's face disappears behind some hands and reappears with a "Boo!" We are all determined by him. He is truly the center of his own universe and genuinely of the moment.
A three-year-old Dana's universe, on the other hand, is different. Object permanence is not a problem. She understands that her sunglasses still exist in the bag she put them in. She knows her friends are having their own family life in their own houses. She appreciates that dad is at work or I'm at the gym. She does not need to sense them to know they are real. For her, the problem is the reversal of the concept. She does not understand her own existence without being seen.
It is easy to detect. "Watch this!" she screams as she does a bat hang on her trampoline. "Look at me!" while she belly drops from the slide. The essence of the moment lacks depth without a spectator. Without appreciation, she has no place to pocket the moment, to categorize and comprehend it or to make it a part of herself. She is real when she is seen. She is the most real when she is seen by her parents. She is coming to grips with self permanence.
So I found myself tensely saying to her "Be careful with that stick!" My thoughts were only on the possibility that she could swing it and hit Daire who lay on the ground beside her. Then I noticed how quickly the joy on her face vanished. I had seen only the stick, not my daughter holding it and certainly not the pride she felt in finding and wielding it. She had disappeared.
Fear is an unfaithful emotion. My fear had erased her and made me blind. Unless unleashed for emergency purposes, it should be tempered with compassion, love, vision. I had let my fear reign pure and Dana suffered.
I realized further, that I had hurt her similarly many times but more frequently since Daire's birth. As a result, she is more stubborn and willing to break rules. Sadly, I recognized that my fear defeated my good intentions and created a vicious cycle. Plainly, she is coaxing us to pursue her since any seeing helps her understand her permanence. It is heartbreakingly true that I need to seize my slippery fear so she can learn about herself apprehension free. No easy task.
As I observe her discover herself through our eyes, it becomes clear that children aren't alone in their struggle with self permanence. In a world of object permanence, where a boundless explosion of people thrive regardless of the individual, what other meaning making way is there than to find someone to look at us purely and without fear?