You know you’ve angered your toddler when you return from your first-ever overnight trip without her and she greets you by throwing a shoe at your head. You know she feels betrayed by your absence when she follows the shoe-throwing with the statement, “You are not my only one in the world! You can’t play with my toys!” Additionally you can be fairly certain that she is warning you to never leave again when later that day she says, “I will be an animal and if you run away I will eat you up.”

And a week later, when you are in the car together and it starts raining and you turn on the windshield wipers and your child watches them swish back and forth and makes the observation, “That looks like a mommy going away from her baby. But her baby will not let her go. She is going to chase her, and chase her, and chase her…” you know your kid is still working through her feelings and is going to be mad, and sad, and insecure for a little while longer…

And as you try to navigate your way through her aggression, you may find yourself wishing for a lighter touch. “I wish she’d hold back,” you might think. After all, it is demoralizing to be told, “I’m mad at you mommy,” and, “I’m sad at you mommy,” over and over again.

And as soon as you have that thought you might find yourself remembering a time when people did hold back and did refuse to tell you what they were really thinking. You might recall one time in middle school when out of nowhere people whispered and glared and said, “this seat is taken,” when you asked to sit at their lunch tables. And you may be able to conjure that feeling you had way back when, that feeling like you were suddenly living in an alternate universe where humans don’t actually address each other directly, but instead use some sort of secret language that consists of a series of eye rolls, and everyone can speak the language but YOU.

“Did I do something?” you’d wander around saying. “I feel like people are mad at me but I’m not sure…no one will tell me what’s going on…”

And perhaps you will recall that one time you and your significant other argued for three weeks over which type of domestic animal would make a better pet. And you said it was dogs “because they love you no matter what,” and he said it was cats, “because they make you work hard for their affection and therefore are more genuine and trustworthy.” And you cried and bickered and almost broke up until just at the last minute you realized that you were not actually mad about cats and dogs at all. You were ACTUALLY mad because one of you forgot your three-month anniversary.

Or maybe you will remember the time your boss started giving you extra assignments because you were the only one in the office who did not comment on how sharp she looked in her new mini suit. Or maybe that time a colleague stopped asking, “Can I get you anything at Starbucks? I’m picking up Latte’s for everyone,” and you spent the rest of your coffee breaks obsessively trying to figure out what crime you had committed that would warrant your exile from “The Starbucks List”.

And as you are remembering these times you might suddenly find yourself desperate for your toddler and grateful for her confrontational ways. At least she tells you exactly where you stand. At least with her you will know when the storm clouds have passed. There will be no guessing, no silent treatment or “he said that she said that they said…” Just a straight up “You suck!” until finally… eventually…”I love you mommy,” becomes the sentiment once again.

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