What is the Motivation?

Alfie is four.   He is standing in front of his mother’s full length mirror and sobbing because his mother is not going to let him come with her in the car.  He has to have a babysitter, even though he’s not a baby.  He sees how his face has gotten all scrunched up and red with his sobs.  He watches himself rub one eye at a time with a little fist.  His t-shirt makes a good handkerchief to wipe tears off his cheeks, but the tears still sting.  Look how his lips are quivering.  He tries wailing and then choking.  He likes to watch himself cry.

Why is that?

13 responses to “What is the Motivation?

  1. Was Alfie crying because his mother was leaving? Was he really looking at himself in the mirror? Or perhaps was he looking at his other self? The other one of him that perished moments before entering this new world. Alfie reached out to him but could not grasp and save his twin brother, so he entered this cold new world alone. Now, he would stare into the mirror for hours, crying and searching for his brother. His brother lived only within him, and Alfie’s only means of reaching him, was through the mirror. His brother was a part of him that was lost, and Alfie felt complete only when looking into the mirror.

    • You’ve made a situation that seems to be quite simple into something far more complex. Very interesting.

    • Gee. I hadn’t thought of the possibility that at age four, we’re not very grounded in accepted reality. A mirror could then be quite a magical avenue and promise of/to another world. So let’s say Alfie had been told he had a twin, but that word and persona would likely be mysterious to him. He knows there is an absent being who likely resonated in some visceral way with young Alfie. Maybe Alfie is trying to find out how to reach the lost brother, who might be a savior or perhaps just the needed pal.

      I know you’re a musician. Does it occur to you that we’re jazzing around here?

      Have you read Nachmanovitch yet? “Free Play” by Stephen Nachmanovitch. Worth more than most writing courses. And he’s a musician.

  2. Everyone else ignores him when he cries? Only his reflection stays with him; it’s comforting in a way?

  3. “How ugly you look! Look at yourself in that mirror there. Go on. Do it. Look at how red your face is and what an ugly mouth you have.”

    Alfie does as his mother commands. His body jerks with hiccups, the result of his tantrum. He stares hard, struggling to understand that the miserable wreck of a human being reflected in that mirror is himself. You. Alfie. Me. Those ideas are finally coming together to indicate one person. And it’s the person hiccupping and shuddering. It’s the short one with the fire engine red face and a stream of snot running out of his nose. Alfie stares harder.

    “What a mess you’ve made of yourself,” his mother says as she wipes his nose with a tissue. “Where’s my handsome boy? The one with the million dollar smile.”

    Alfie’s not about to show her that million dollar smile. No way. She’s ditching him again to have lunch with Auntie Linda. There’s no reason he couldn’t go with them. They’re going to that restaurant up town, the one with the ice cream sundae desserts. Alfie wants to have ice cream too. He throws himself onto the bed and begins wailing, kicking his feet and making sure his dirty shoes touch her new bedspread. He decides to give it one last try. He pushes it for all he’s worth this time, stealing glimpses of himself in the mirror but mostly trying to see whether she’s watching. She’s not. She’s gone.

    Alfie is hot and sweaty. He feels tired and his eyes are heavy. The bedspread feels cool and smells like his mother’s perfume. He lets his heavy eyelids close. The hiccups resume for a moment or two and within seconds he’s sound asleep. He doesn’t even feel her kiss him goodbye.

    • CBL,
      This was the kind of interpretation I was wondering about. Why do kids watch themselves cry in the mirror. And, as adults, do we ever have that same urge? He’s not analyzing; he’s just doing what comes naturally to him, based on what life has taught him so far. I think he’s a manipulator, but my guess is that the mom has taught him this often works.

  4. galelikethewind

    What’s it all about, Alfie? Geeze, I need to find a better way to cry, he thinks with his little brain. This one didn’t work at all. He tries a long slow, build up of a short sob, turning into a heaving mess of sobs. Nah, that doesn’t look like it would get much candy.
    He takes a safety pin from the dresser, and pokes the sharp end into the back of his tiny hand.
    Poke, poke, poke, push, push, OW! Well, screaming ow! won’t work. I need a new cry, he thinks, as he watches the blood trickle down his arm. His mom pops her head into the room.
    “I heard you cry out! Is everything OK, honey? Oh my, you are bleeding! Come here sweetie, let mama look at it. How about we get you some candy to make it all better.?”
    Alfie smiled and thought to himself, here is a whole new deal. This beats crying all to heck!

  5. Alfie’s motivation?

    He is practicing for his ” Get out of the sanctuary instantly during Sunday morning worship.”

  6. I’m guessing this was your ploy!

  7. Alfie is four. Does he have a full grasp of “object constancy” yet? Is he positive she will be back?
    Alfie’s “significant other,” is leaving is his physical world if only for a short time. His emotional development on this is definitely limited.
    Does he like to watch himself cry? Or is he just doing a “reality check,” that he is still here and okay?

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