Everyone has lofty ideal’s when they start out on the joyful journey of parenthood. We all spend the 9 months of pregnancy excited and looking forward to this little bundle of joy which we will love and cherish. We will not and I repeat not say the things our parents said or do some of the things our parents did we did not like. We will negotiate and work out our differences with our children- they will be brilliant right?? . We will hug them and tell them we love them when they misbehave- they will be brilliant right? We will talk and have intelligent conversations with them- they will be brilliant right?
Then the inevitable happens and the child is born. Within the first year you start to have a sneaking suspicion the child may not be brilliant. You spend the whole year working with the child and the first word they truly understand and can say is “NO” and they have no intention of negotiating with you at all. You struggle with trying to explain: that’s dangerous, that’s hot, that’s bad, that’s scary, that will break etc etc etc. The child still looks at you steadfastly and says “NO”. After the negotiations fail you resort back to the tried and true method of – OK I’m bigger than you so I will just move you. This method works every time and you start to think- hmmm- maybe those who have done this before me, might of been on to something 🙂
As they grow they learn new words and start to use your words against you. I was a parent who never spoke baby talk to my children. My eldest was about 2 when we were standing in the grocery store check out line. He had been sitting in the cart through the whole shopping experience and was just about at the end of any 2 year old’s patience limit. He pointed at the ground and said “down”. I said “No” so he pointed again and said “Down” in a more forceful manner. I again said “No” at which point my two and 1/2 year old looked at me and said “Down- mommy that’s not negotiable” Now the negotiable was a little garbled, but hey- I got the point. He stayed in the cart, but I realized he was smart. He wasn’t smart in the way I had expected- more in the way I dreaded.
This new found child intelligence turns quickly into the “WHY” stage. Now for those parents who have not survived the “Why” stage yet- get ready because you will shortly find yourself saying things you never ever expected. The “Why” stage sneaks up on you. As a parent you have spent the last 3 to 4 years teaching this little being who you made all about the world. This little fat faced toddler now thinks you are the most brilliant human on the planet and know everything. My favorite conversation every went something like this:
Chid: Mom- Why does that man have a chainsaw in his truck?
Me: Because he was cutting down a tree (perfectly good explanation- I thought)
Child: Why was he cutting down a tree?
Me: Because it was probably dead (I think I’m doing well)
Child: Why was it dead?
Me: Because some bugs eat trees and they die (OK- now we’re teaching)
Child: Why do they eat trees?
Me: Because just like us they need energy and have to eat
Child: Why? Why? Why?
After the next few why’s and my explanations of each I found myself trying to explain a bugs circulatory system to a 4 year old. Right then and there I learned that sometimes a perfectly acceptable answer is “Just cause”
After the why stage their intelligence suddenly turns into the most evil kind of all. At about 8 to 10 they now have the skills to out negotiate you!! They ask to do something and you say “NO”. They then look at you, with that 4 year old cherub face (which they’ve mastered now) and say “Why?” Being the intelligent parent, who wants to always be reasonable, you spend about 4 to 5 minutes giving them many valid reasons for your decisions. Then something terrifying happens!!! That child- who until now thought you were the smartest person in the world- turns into Matlock, Ally McBeal, and Jack McCoy all rolled into one. He could now, at 9 years old, get a job in any court room in the land. He’s arguments are brilliant, valid, and worst of all – better than yours. You try to negotiate, but somewhere around 30 minutes in you realize by the smirk on the little shits face- you are beaten.
This is when you learn the most important and tried and true lesson of parenthood that has been passed from generation to generation. This lesson is painful to learn because it goes against EVERYTHING you believed while you carried them and changed their cute little diapers. It is a beautifully simple statement with no negotiations possible. They hate it because it seems sooo unfair. A perfectly good explanation to any child’s question is “BECAUSE I AM YOUR MOTHER AND I SAID SO!!”