No Means Yes

Happy New Year, everyone! I have been feeling pretty festive this year, despite the fact that Northern California may be the weirdest place in the world to spend Christmas and New Year’s. We went for a walk in sweatshirts on Christmas morning. This New England girl thought that strange, strange, strange. I do really love the vacation aspect of things, though. L off daycare, and my semester ended, has meant a week of fun outings with me not rushing him home to frantically grade papers while he naps. In fact, I have been doing as much napping as he has. And then drinking wine and eating too much chocolate in the evenings. Oof. Lovely.

I have been thinking a lot lately about how, as a parent, I have my strengths and my weaknesses. This is elementary, my dear Watson, but also probably a rationalization, like hey, no one does everything right, right? (Nervous titter) But really, I have this sense that it’s good to know what you’re good at and what you suck at. Witness: I am good at providing. I make abundant, healthy, tasty food for my kid, and I let him help me do it. Yesterday, together, we baked banana-almond muffins (he did the stirring and the illegal licking of batter) while I simultaneously roasted a brined organic chicken that we later ate with quinoa salad and collard greens; nevermind that he was in a mood and barely ate any of it. What else…I’m good at taking him to do fun things with other kids (this week: the dinosaurs, the art space, the playground, the library). I’m good at reading to him and singing to him. I am very good at soothing hurts and being fully present when he needs love and attention because someone has wronged him or he’s scared or he’s not feeling well. Yup, good at all those things.

And I suck at getting down on the floor and playing trucks with him. I expect him to play by himself a lot of the time, probably too much. And I can be really, really impatient. Because he is two, L wants to do everything that I say no to. To him, “L, please don’t do that” means “L, please feel free to keep doing that annoying thing over and over again until I yell at you.” And, I will just admit, I do sometimes yell. I try consequences, diversion, all the stuff you’re supposed to try, but I sometimes lose my temper and yell. So, for example, last night at dinner B and I repeatedly asked L to sit properly in his high chair (i.e., don’t crouch in a position likely to make you fall on your head). We asked upwards of five times before I roared, “L, sit properly in your chair, now!” The whole table went silent, and those knees were under the table again faster than you could say quinoa. For a second, I felt infinitely powerful.

This morning, L got really excited about flushing the toilet. So he flushed, and then he sat and fiddled with the flusher and flooded the toilet bowl with water again and again. So after a couple minutes of this I said, as patiently as I could, “Okay, L, that’s enough. Please stop doing that. L, please stop doing that. L, please stop doing that” until I roared, “L, what did I say? Please STOP DOING THAT!” And this little voice, bless him, said, “Don’t yell at me!” and started to cry. And what did I feel then? You know, I felt like a jerk, but I also felt incredibly grateful to have the kind of relationship with my kid where he can tell me when I’m being a jerk, and I can hear it. So I sat down with him and hugged him and said “I’m sorry for yelling. I shouldn’t have yelled, but I was frustrated because I need you to listen better.”

Did the lesson stick? Undoubtedly not. He will persist in doing everything I ask him not to, and I will yell again. But for some reason the whole interaction made me feel like even though I’m a big nasty ogre of a mom, maybe I’m doing something right, too.