BalletBoy has a problem with change. It’s not in a daily way. He’s usually very good at rolling with the punches, having to change up our routine, or getting from one task to the next. It’s the bigger changes that get him stuck.
He cannot cognitively understand that he has ever changed. He knows that he’s taller, that he can write neater, that he is getting better at things. But it’s all very abstract to him. If he’s bad at something now, then he’s sure he has always been bad at it and always will be bad at it. If he doesn’t like something, then he will never like it. Because how could he ever be different than he is in that moment?
On the one hand, this is a sweet sort of thing. He’s little and his conception of his world as so static feels very young to me. And I have read that this is the way most younger children see the world. It’s just something he’s holding on to for a bit longer.
On the other hand, it has recently caused an interesting array of problems and sadnesses. Most often, it can really shut him down when he doesn’t understand something, especially something that requires progressive improvement like handwriting, artwork, reading, or writing. He has trouble getting that just because he didn’t get it just right now doesn’t mean that he won’t in the future once he has practiced.
It has been especially hard lately when we’ve talked about ballet. There is a pretty significant price jump and time commitment to continuing at a school with a pre-professional program next year. The cost of classes will more than double for us if we choose to stay there. I’ve been trying to encourage him to think about his desires about dance. It’s so hard for a kid so young, but he’s not perfectly turned out or an amazing natural, so it really needs to be his choice to continue and to choose to work hard. But to him, ballet is just a part of his identity, something that has never changed and never will change. And he will never be any better than he is now. At least, that’s how he sees it.
It has also caused him a surprising amount of anxiety about growing up. For one thing, during a talk awhile back about the birds and the bees – something we’re very open with the kids about whenever it comes up – I mentioned that while it’s appropriate that it all seems “yucky” now, eventually they’ll feel differently. They’ll want to kiss someone and fall in love. BalletBoy could not understand how that could be the case. So we talked about how your body changes in puberty with hormones. That was probably a mistake. He’s not happy that any chemical change in his body could change the way he feels about the world. Even for things less dire than sex ed, in a conversation about how your taste buds change as you get older, he gave me a very suspicious, distrustful look. It was clearly an unsettling thought that he might change his mind about something as basic as avocado.
A couple of weeks ago, he had a long, drawn out cry about the idea of growing up. I can’t even remember what sparked it any more, but he just bawled about how he might one day not even want to play pretend with his brother. I think, maybe, just maybe, it was signifying a small perspective shift. I think maybe he’s becoming aware of change.