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When You're Upside Down

"The right perspective makes the impossible possible."*

It’s not always easy to see things as they are. When our children were young, I always tried to learn what child experts had to say about their stage of development. I especially appreciated the voice of Louise Bates Ames. Her book titles alone can be insightful: Your One-Year-Old: Fun-loving and Fussy. She wrote, “As human behavior develops, often the negative parts of a personality show themselves before the positive. You will find that most little boys and girls tend to say ‘no’ before they say ‘yes,’ throw things before they become interested in picking them up, run away from you before they are able to respond to ‘Come here, dear.’ ”**

Amazingly, we are never done growing as individuals or as parents. Another insight that Ames shared is that before a child moves from a no to a yes or from one stage of development to the next they experience a brief period of disharmony. They will go from disequilibrium to equilibrium. So you may see your two year old as “terrible or tender” or your nine year old as “thoughtful or mysterious”. The key is to understand that this is normal. You are not going crazy. Your six year old or teenager may be both “loving and defiant”.

I heard a mother share a story about her two year old son. He was in the next room laughing. There is something about the laughter of a small child that is contagious. She had to go see what was so funny. When he saw her, he delightfully explained, “I’m upside down!” and then he starting laughing again.

Things are not always clear in life. I think it can often feel like we're upside down. We pass through seasons of disequilibrium and often find ourselves navigating the turbulence of the world around us. I wonder what would happen if we could be more like the little boy. Maybe we could find that sense of wonder in experiencing a new perspective that made the little boy laugh when we find ourselves upside down.

More and more I feel like we need to intentionally work at being curious. Our natural impulse can be to google an answer to whatever comes our way but real answers don’t come that easily. Truth is often found in the tension of opposites. “True wisdom has two sides” (Job 11:6) Your four year old can be “wild and wonderful” When we change the way we look at things it makes a difference.

Laura Ingalls Wilder said, “Persons appear to us according to the light we throw upon them.” You can look at your fussy one year old knowing that they will also be fun-loving. You can look at your teenager with compassion as you recall some of the things you thought and did when you were their age. You can look at yourself with a sense of grace knowing as you go through life some things turn out better than you could have imagined and others not as you hoped. There is still more to come.

Things can definitely be upside down at times and as you get older and it’s not always easy to laugh at it. However, I think the pattern that child psychologists observed is true. We do move from disharmony to harmony when we are growing. The harmony will come. We need to take the long view in order to see it. “The right perspective makes the impossible possible.”


*author unknown

** Louise Bates Ames wrote a series of books highlighting each age up to the teen years. This is from her book, Your One-Year-Old: Fun-Loving and Fussy. She also coined several phrases used above: twos as “terrible or tender”, four as “wild and wonderful”, six as “loving and defiant”, nine as “thoughtful or mysterious”.


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