In college I’d been real interested in the whole question of how kids learn things. My daughter was 3 or 4, and had been diagnosed as almost totally deaf. I wanted to get an idea of how her reasoning skills were coming along. She was sitting on my lap (yes, I sense a bilingual pun coming on), and bear in mind that this was conducted in American Sign Language as well as speech. I set before her the proposition that she was a bunny rabbit.
She denied it. I set out to prove my case. “A bunny rabbit has eyes, right?”
Agreement from her.
“And you have eyes. Same.”
“A bunny rabbit has a nose.”
The poor, innocent kid said, “Yes.”
“And you have a nose.”
Well, you can see where this is going. After several points of agreement (and none of disagreement) I laid the irrefutable conclusion on her. “See? You are a bunny rabbit.”
You know how you can look at a kid sometimes, and see the thought process going on? There was a moment of that, and then it blew her mind. She started to cry.
I felt bad of course, but the memory of that incident turned into an archetypal object. This is the stuff of myth, it’s like a highly personalized meme that embodies an elemental principle.
I totally grok what went on there, because it happens to me all the time. Someone will say a thing, that I just know is off-kilter somehow. It has the telltale whiff of bogosity. A logical error lurks in there somewhere, a non-sequitur of some kind, but I just can’t put my finger on it. It’s very frustrating, and while it doesn’t always make me cry, it does tie up my brain in knots and sometimes it leads to behavior that bursting into tears would be an improvement over.
I was messing around with her head, but in the nicest possible way and for the most praiseworthy motives, taking seriously my responsibility as a parent, to assure that my child gained some basic skills, such as thinking.
In the current climate of weirdness, I could probably be prosecuted for experimenting on a child in this way. Psychological abuse. But government agencies have endless license to do all kinds of bizarre experiments on our kids, and subject them to ghoulish “recovered memory” psychologists, and Goddess knows what-all. And test, test, test them, up the wazoo. (And oh yeah, strip-search them – but that’s another subject. We’re talking about mental cruelty here.) Some people believe that parents’ rights and kids’ rights are extremely violated by, for instance, compulsory vaccination. Yet we let the authorities mess with our kids heads, at will.