The preschooler’s world can be confusing to adults. We see differences and understand that the world is full of them. But a preschooler sees differences and seeks sameness. If a child is given a blue cup, he wants the identical green one that another child has. Some parents would say that the child should be appeased by being given a green cup, too, if it is so important. This resolution may be possible when cups are involved, but it is often impossible in other, more complex situations.
Preschoolers are egocentric. They believe that everyone experiences the world as they do. They are just beginning to learn, for example, that when mom is away at work, she isn’t taking a nap at one o’clock as they are.
This egocentrism also leads kids to want what others have. At this age, it isn’t greed or envy at work, but rather a sense of outraged unfairness for lacking what someone else has. The central issue at this age is dislike of being different. The difference may be not having a dog, a cat, or a baby brother, if the child’s best friend has one. Or it could be not having a father in the household, or having two mothers, instead of a mom and dad.
These differences often lead kids to ask questions that disturb parents, such as, “Maria said she grew in her mommy’s tummy. Did I grow in your tummy, too?” or “I want a dad, like Ian has. When is our dad coming to live with us?”
Some children will belabor the issue, some drop it after a short time, and others use their imagination to fill in the gaps. One preschooler kept telling visitors, “My daddy is coming later.” When adults asked the little girl what she meant by this, she created a vivid story. Soon, the girl’s mother was being asked about her fiance’s arrival!
Many parents interpret their preschooler’s questions according to adult logic, rather than from a child’s point of view. A preschooler who wishes he had grown in his mothers tummy isn’t necessarily grieving the loss of a prenatal bond. He may simply want to be like his friends who grew this way. The child of a single mother who wants a father is probably not embarrassed about his mother’s single status. He merely wants his world to make sense, and that means it should be the same as what is around him.