Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hello. My name is Inigo Montayo

You killed my father. Prepare to die. 

It's an awesome (and often quoted) line from the Princess Bride. And it makes me think of a story I heard last week from a friend of mine.

She has a little boy, all of three years old, called Matthew. Matthew has recently learnt how to spell his name. 'M-A-T-T-H-E-W - that spells Matthew. That's me.' He's quite proud of himself (and rightly so). In fact, he will tell anyone who listens what his name is and how to spell it. But don't try to tell him he's 'cute'. Or 'handsome. Or a 'little boy'. He will quite emphatically argue this with you. 'I'm not cute. I'm Matthew.' 'But you are your Mommy's little boy.' 'No! I'm Matthew!'

No matter what his mother does, he will not accept the fact that he is indeed Matthew, and also a little boy. As far as he is concerned, you can't be both - you have to be one or other. And she's not alone in going through this phase. A lot of parents have a hard time trying to convince their little ones that yes, they are 'Sophie', but they are also their 'little girl', or 'Grandma's little princess'. For a little one, the concept of self is purely reliant on their idea of who they are.Yes, they may indeed by someone's little one, but as fair as they are concerned, their name is who they are.

Which explains them referring to themselves in the third person a lot. 'It's Jason's turn.' 'Sally wants to go play.' 'That's Toby's toy', and so on. Being able to define themselves by their name helps them to develop who they are among their peers.

But it goes the other way too. You can't be 'Mommy' (or 'Daddy') and be 'Joan' (or 'David'). You are one or the another. I'm not quite sure at what age they understand that a person can be many things to many people - heck, I know some adults who still don't get it - but it's certainly an interesting thing to watch.

So, till next time, just remember, Sybil may have had multiple personalities, but when you are a parent, you have multiple names and jobs (is it any wonder we are tired all the time?).


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