I've been thinking quite a bit about the difference between needs and wants - for Morgan that is. She's quite small, and even if she could talk I doubt she sees any difference in those things that she intensely and immediately desires for good reasons or not. Is there even such a thing as a bad reason in such a small child?
I'm actually convinced that when young we are so in tune with ourselves and our desires that "need" or "want" are pretty arbitrary, and that all of the wants are for things that are wholey healthy for us.
But even when older, the want for an ice-cream can be so intense, so really felt, that saying, "You don't really need it!" is just an excercise in frustration. Why bother? As far as Jenna is concerned, she needs an ice-cream. That doesn't mean I have to give her one, but it means giving myself an excuse by saying it isn't important is not helpful - the only person it isn't important to is me!
A similar thing happens when we try to disect the motives of a small baby. Does she NEED another feed when she had one fifteen minutes ago? Well she probably isn't going to die if she doesn't get one (a discussion about how delaying feeds can lead to insufficient milk supply is for another time I guess) but why is the fact that she only "wants" it a reason to deny it? Must we deny things that are good for our children just because we have decided to break down levels of need and decided that what matters to them doesn't matter to us?
More importantly, this kind of thinking (I call it the "only comfort sucking" mentality) desensitises us to the reality of the nature of small children. It tells us that the categories we give their feelings are not only TRUE (ie correspond to how they are really feeling, their true motives) but also give us the power to decide what is authentic and what is not. Rather than listening in the present moment, weighing up who needs/wants/desires what, and how everyone can get what they need as soon as possible, we try to convince ourselves that some needs aren't really the same and therefore don't need weighing up. It is a way of saying, at a deeper level, that only our perception is the valid one and that our children don't have authentic feelings.
So, I'm reminding myself, as I have said before to parents of newborn babies struggling with frequent feedings; You are not only filling their tummies. You are restoring their sense of rightness, giving them back their connection, and filling their cups with love until it runs over.
There are other reasons not to try to separate motives and just assume positive intent, and other circumstances to do it in.
They NEED to touch the sharp knife (although they may not be allowed, or they may be shown how to hold it right, or they may only be allowed to do so in the kitchen when at the surface). They NEED to sing that ridiculous LALALALALA noise for a while to get some of that energy out and experiment with their voices (though they may have to go outside to do it or do it after I've finished my page)!
They even need sometimes to do those things that really aren't ever OK with us - punching and kicking and throwing themselves on the floor. I think lashing out at something is that ancient fight-or-flight adrenaline rush coming into play. *I* tend to want to hit something when I feel out of control and threatened, but I've found I can focus that into drawing or writing instead. Hitting pillows didn't do it for me. ;)
I think Jenna must take after me in that respect. Yesterday she punched the radiator when I told her she needed to do something she didn't want to. I asked her if she was angry, and if she wanted something safer to hit and she said, "No, I'm cross and I want to break something. I need to hit something HARD." So I suggested that the floor could probably take it better than the radiator, and she lay down on her front and pounded on the floor for a minute, which actually started her off giggling....
If there is one need/want/desire that I would like to think I always always respond to, it's the need to be heard, concretely definately loved. Anything else there might be times where, in order to take care of myself, I might not give - at least immediately in the way expected. But listening and validating someone comes so cheap, and is in many ways the greatest gift that you can give.
Yesterday was a long, frustrating, trying day. So today we start again, with the right goals in front of us. Live in the present moment, think before you speak, don't sweat the small stuff, take the feelings of others seriously and assume positive intent...