It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Just say Yes!

“Husband told me Jazz was a bit of a handful yesterday.” Mom is smiling, her demeanor relaxed, but she would like more information. This is one of those many mom-dad (aka male-female) differences. Dads get the facts, moms want the details. Moms want the nuance. I’m betting dad said, “Jazz was a handful today,” and when Mom pressed for details, he shrugged and said, “Mary said she was pretty negative.”

End of story. Which, for pretty near any woman out there, would only be the beginning of the story.

I know a woman whose son had open-heart surgery when he was about a year old. Everything went just fine (the son is now a thirty-something adult who works for a high-tech company and travels the world for fun), but for a few years after that, the family had to make the trip to Sick Kids in Toronto for an annual check-up. One year it looked like mom couldn’t make it. Dad didn’t see this as a problem. Everything was going well, they didn’t anticipate any bad news, he could take their son. Not an issue.

This wasn’t good enough for mom. “I know what will happen,” she laughed. “I’ll ask him what the doctor said, and he’ll say ‘He said everything’s fine’. Fine? Yeah, fine. End of story. I’ll want more!” Here she started to laugh at herself. “What was his tone of voice while he said that? How did he hold his head? Did he clear his throat? Did he look relaxed? I want details.” Details that she knew her husband wouldn’t even see, let alone be able to convey to her. A level of detail she knew was extreme and would tell her nothing of significance — but she needed it anyway!

She made it to the appointment.

Return to my front hall. Dad told mom something last night. This morning, Mom wants details. I’m a bit puzzled, though, because Jazz wasn’t a handful yesterday.

“No, she was fine.”

“He said she was very negative.”

“Ah.” Okay, I understand. I know what I said, and I now know what he heard — and they’re not the same thing. I didn’t convey my message well. “Yes, she was, but not in an obstreperous way. She wasn’t misbehaving. It’s more that she has a mental habit of negativity.”

We talked about it — in some detail. A child with a habit of negativity tends to regard the world with a certain level of suspicion. Interactions are viewed as potentially threatening, other children are impositions, daily events are to be resisted, not embraced.

Some examples from the previous day:

— Rory offers Jazz a toy. (Well, actually, it was half an empty CD case. No idea where he found it, but it was Special, and he was Sharing.) Jazz scowls, draws her arms close, turns away from Rory and grunts something grumpy over her shoulder.

— Emily stretches her arms wide and tries to draw Jazz into a hug. Jazz howls as if Emily had wallopped her. (And no, Jazz is not autistic.)

— Another child wriggles onto the couch beside Jazz and looks at the page of the book she holds. The other child does not attempt to take the book, nor even to touch it. They’re just looking at the pictures.

“No! No book! No!”

If this happened once in a while — heck, if this happened six times a day (we are talking two-year-olds here) — I wouldn’t think much of it. But these days it’s been happening with almost every interaction. All interactions are viewed with suspicion. Everything is bad, or potentially so … until you tell her it’s good.

— “Rory is giving you a toy! Isn’t that nice? Say, ‘Yes’, Jazz. ‘YES!’ Say, ‘Thank you, Rory!’ ”

“Yes! Sank you, Orry!” She favours him with an enormous full-voltage Jazz-special smile.

— “Emily wants to hug you! She loves you! Say ‘Yes’, Jazz. ‘YES!’ Give Emily a big hug back!”

“Yes, Emmy!”, breaks into that smile again and snuggles into Emily.

— “Say ‘yes’, Jazz, ‘YES!!’ Grace likes the elephant in your book. What’s your favourite picture, Jazz?”

“Butterfly!” (What comes out sounds a lot more like ‘bar-fly’, much to my entertainment.)

“The butterfly? It is pretty. Show Grace the butterfly.”

Jazz plonks a skinny finger on the page. “Bar-fly! Bar-fly, Gace!”

Default for Jazz, at least this week, is negative, suspicion, and withdrawal. It doesn’t seem to be borne of fatigue, hunger, illness, change, teething, any of the usual suspects. It’s just a habit. It’s not a habit I want to linger. I want to replace it with a habit of openness, positivity, cheerful expectation. She needs to say “yes!” to the world.

“Just say YES!”

I can see it’s going to be my mantra for a while.


June 1, 2011 Posted by | Developmental stuff, individuality, Jazz, manners, socializing | , | 5 Comments