Barbara Kestenbaum, who has worked in Special Education for over 30 years, writes:
I remember, when my son was born, looking at his tiny fingers with awe and asking, “Who is this little boy?” And as many parents also do, I worried, “Will I be a good mother?” When I read “The Child,” a chapter from Eli Siegel’s Self and World, I began to see that a very young person is in the midst of large questions about nothing less than the world itself. And I saw with excitement, they were my questions too! Here are sentences from that chapter—which has in it such enormous and kind respect for children:
As soon as a child is born he has all the appurtenances and qualities of personality that a professor has, or a broker has, or a grandmother has, or a general has. That personality may be dim, unmanifest, encompassed by the clouds attending inactive perception; yet it is there. A person is a reality which, being an entity or world, sees and must see, is related to inexorably, that other tremendously multifarious entity, the world. It is to be expected that when a new entity, a baby, arrives in that larger entity, the world,—the baby do all it can to establish its own existence by being able to make, all the time, happier and freer and more accurate relationships with the universe into which it has entered.
A baby has been born. That baby may be called Joseph. Joseph will not know just where he is; but he will want to find out. He has needs. Those needs, if met at all, will be met by an arrangement of the larger world and himself. When Joseph’s needs are met, a feeling, however unexpressed, will occur amounting to: “We make a team.” Joe will want to eat; there is food in the world. Joe will want to see; there are things to be seen, and there is light in the world. Joe will want to crawl, and walk, and run; and there is space in the world to be crawled in, to be walked in, to be run in. Joe will want to touch; there are things to be touched. Joe will want to love, and there are things to be loved, whether he successfully does so or not. >>Read the entire chapter