Getting Their Ticket Punched
By: Marc Deprey
I’m not sure this is some great revelation, but this idea came to me this morning and it put a lot into perspective for me. We all know as adults (or at least I hope we all do) that we can’t expect the world to fit to us, that we know down deep that we need to fit the world and meet its basic requirements. That’s a fundamental truth we accept almost unconsciously and it allows us to navigate things pretty successfully overall.
But we forget that this was not always true for us. When we were born, we got a free pass as far as any expectations. Back then, we had no ability to fit into the world. We were completely unable to meet any of its requirements. As a baby, we depended solely on caregivers to meet our needs unconditionally and our caregiver had no expectations for us either. Our needs were anticipated, our moods quelled, our excretions removed—we could do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted to and not face any consequences.
As we grew up things changed. More and more we were expected to understand limits, be respectful of others feelings, to be civil and flexible. Now doesn’t it seem interesting that our kids with attachment trauma cannot do these very things? Is it possible that since they didn’t get their unconditional free pass at the very beginning of their lives, they are still waiting for it to happen? That they are insisting that their ticket get punched now?
If there is any central issue that characterizes my kids’ dysfunction it is their complete lack of flexibility and cooperation—their inability to meet the world. They assume the world must fulfill their needs, that things must line up neatly, and on their schedule, that parents are here to do as instructed, to please them and never correct them or upset them. It’s as if they are demanding to be able to be like babies, but with kid bodies, appetites, vocabulary, etc. They’re insisting that they get what everyone else got, even though it’s simply too late to get it.
Why? Because they’re living with a ticket missing the first hole.
With their ticket un-punched, they look for the train conductor who will never come–stuck on a train that doesn’t move, baffled by their plight. We tell them they must grieve this loss and move on, but because they are unable, they wait and wait. We wait with them–stuck on the tracks–in developmental limbo.