Every now and then, I get a glimpse inside Ray’s head… and I’m not quite sure whether to be humbled at the depth of his thinking, or frightened at the possibilities…
After dinner a few nights ago, we went out for frozen yogurt- a treat for a long day at camp and teaching. Ray was leaning against his dad because why sit in a seat when you can get some touching?, and eating his yogurt when out of the blue he started sharing.
Ray: Mommy, sometimes, when you ask me a question, a lie comes into my head and it just sits there, and it’s so loud.
Me: Well, that’s natural. Sometimes, when we don’t want to do something or don’t like the answer, we think of what we’d rather do or rather have.
Ray: But sometimes, I have the lie so much in my head that it’s what comes out.
Me: That’s part of growing up-being able to have two thoughts in your head and having to resist the one that you know is the wrong one. Please, please don’t let my kid be telling me he’s a pathological liar.
Ray: Hmmm. Eats the drip of chocolate.
Me: Do you mean that you have two thoughts and you’re not sure which one is the lie, or do you just WANT the lie to be real sometimes and that’s what comes out? Or you’re not sure which one is the truth? So… is this a moral dilemma, or does he not know reality from fantasy?
Ray: I want it so much and it’s all I can think about, so it’s what comes out and then you yell at me. Hmmm- “Mother’s voice” as voice of God? Is he talking about this morning when I asked him if he had on underwear and well… he didn’t, or is this something bigger?
Me: Well, I know that you’re big enough now to make the right choice and to recognize that you should tell the truth. It’s actually a very important part of growing up- being able to resist some of your own thoughts and value the truth. When you tell the truth, those lie thoughts go right away.
Ray: But how can I have thoughts that are bad? Why am I thinking things that are wrong? Ahhhh, lovey- a question philosophers have been dealing with for thousands of years. At least he knows right from wrong..
Me: Some people say it’s the devil inside of you. Some people say that it’s just the part of you that’s still a baby and the grownup part tries to control it. It’s a very big thing. As long as YOU know which is the truth and those are the words that come out.
Ray: Mommy, you know the “b” word that’s in Avatar? Sometimes it just sits in my head and it wants to come out so bad. It’s just there… and I’m afraid that sometime it’s going to come out when I’m not paying attention and I’ll get in trouble. Oh man, is this coprolalia- the Tourette’s where they curse? Is he describing what it feels like?
Me: You’re right- that’s a word that needs to stay inside. Oh Lordy, I can only imagine the phone calls I’ll get from third grade teachers if THIS happens! Let’s focus on control… It’s not one that needs to come out and I’m glad that you’re in charge of that. It can be scary to have lots of different thoughts, but it’s all part of growing up and getting in charge of your thinking. Deep breathing helps. Drinking some water helps. All of us have lots of different kinds of thoughts in our heads, but they’re just thoughts. It’s a very normal part of growing up.
And with that, Elizabeth interrupted, unable to handle the full-on Mommy attention that Ray was getting, and our conversation was over. James, who had been silent witness to this and didn’t want to interrupt the moment, looked at me and said, “Wow”.
Wow, indeed. I’ve been pondering ever since. Is this part of his growing up? Somewhere around 7 or 8, children turn a corner developmentally and go into Piaget’s Concrete Operational stage where they become aware of their own thinking. Is this that? Is he describing the struggles we all go through as we try to steer the ebb and flow of our thinking? When we recognize that you have thoughts in conflict with each other?
Or is he describing his own struggles with Tourette’s- unable to fully control his own words that come out of his mouth?
Or is it something deeper? Something darker? Is he describing that fine line of sanity we all walk as our brain thinks things and we realize that we’re not fully in control? That conversation in our head that is directed at the “self”, as Virginia Woolf said, and the “chatter” that doesn’t always feel part of who we are?
I have no idea. But I was awed at his ability to tell me and his desire to share with me.
And I think he’s a pretty amazing kid. It’s not often someone gets to see inside someone else’s head.