It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Dodge and weave for the win!

“Grace is TALKING to me!” Jazz’s voice soars in indignation. Talking to her? How DARE she!? We are walking to the park, the little girls trotting side by side on the grass. I have no idea what preceded this. They seemed to be getting on just fine.

“Grace is TALKING to me!!”

If you have more than one child, or have been responsible for more than one child, you’ve heard this sort of thing before. You’ve probably joined right in the dance. Even though you hate it. Even though it’s silly and petty beyond belief, and ooooooooooh, sooooooooo tedious. Because there’s a pattern here, a tried-and-true, oh-so-familiar call-and-response, and it’s hard to avoid it. But tedious? Lordy.

Boring. I know people told me about the sleep deprivation of parenting an infant, the lack of privacy, the conflict and power struggles of parenting, but I don’t know that anyone ever warned me that great tracts of it are so UTTERLY BORING.

Different parents will be bored by different things. Some parents hate reading the same book over and over and over again. Hearing the same song, watching certain television shows, changing diapers, the constant battle against clutter, cooking meals, soothing a not-quite-sick, not-entirely-well child, helping with homework … Maybe your particular tedium thing is on that list, maybe you’re bored to tears by something else.

For me?

Squabbling. Some parents find squabbling enraging. It drives them INSANE. Me, I find it boring. Boring, boring, boring beyond belief.

Not a real conflict, mind you, where honest-to-goodness problems are being addressed — more or less constructively, perhaps, but a genuine issue is being addressed directly. That’s necessary, and necessary conflict doesn’t bore me. Done properly, necessary conflict is interesting, and, ultimately, constructive. No, it’s the petty, frivolous, pointless, MORONIC bickering that is really just jockeying for power, control, and/or attention.

So, the automatic, obvious response to:

“She’s TALKING to me!” can go a few ways, depending on the personality of the adult involved.

1. Annoyance.
“For heaven’s sakes. Why shouldn’t she?”
“Oh, don’t be silly!”
“What’s wrong with that?”

2. Coaxing.
“But Grace would like to talk with you. Grace is your friend. You can talk with Grace, honey!”

3. Sweet Reason.
“Is Grace saying anything mean? No? Then you can talk to her. You’re friends, remember?”
“If you don’t feel like talking, just tell Grace, politely.”

4. Arbitrator
“If you can’t even talk together, then you can’t walk together. You come here, you stay there, and not another word till we get to the park.”

5. Mockery.
“NO! Really? How DARE she???”
“TALKING to you? How will you ever survive?”
“So, what? You want me to tape her mouth shut, now?”

So what do I do? Well, not 1 or 2. Because I find the mindless squabbling so mind-numbingly boring, I don’t want to do anything to prolong it. If I respond in annoyance, I’m not discouraging the squabble, I’m joining in. Yawn. Coaxing? Coaxing is almost as boring as squabbling. Besides, it puts you in the place of supplicant for your child’s good behaviour, a truly bad parenting strategy.

Sweet Reason is laudable, and were I a more worthy human being, I would do it most of the time, but, oh, the brain-bleeding boredom.

I have been known to indulge in some gleeful mockery. Self-indulgent, I know, but it amuses me. And divide and conquer? Certainly.

Today, though, I simply deviated entirely from the script. Any of those scripts.

“Grace is TALKING to me!!!”

The indignation is profound, the expectation that I DO something about it clear. And imperious. Jazz does ‘imperious’ extremely well. I know what my role is … and I refuse to perform. Instead, today I pretend that Jazz is a normal human being instead of a toddler. A normal human being, interacting with her best friend.

“She IS? Well, isn’t that nice? What a good friend she is!”

The look Jazz shoots at me can only be described as nonplussed (definition 1, obviously). (Victory! Keep ’em off-balance, that’s my motto.)

Nonplussed, confused, off-balance, bewildered … it’s all there. I keep smiling. “You’re a good friend, Grace, talking to Jazz. It’s fun to talk with our friends, isn’t it?” I beam at both of them.

Jazz looks at Grace, who beams along with me. Grace has no idea what’s really going on here, but she loves all the smiles and happiness!

And Jazz … talks to Grace.

We continue our walk to the park.

September 7, 2012 - Posted by | Grace, Jazz, Mischief, potty tales, whining |


  1. Bickering is crazy-making. Unfortunately my usual reaction to bickering is either 1 or 4. With a side order of “for heaven’s sake, if you don’t want to play with / talk to / be near Child X, Just. Walk. Away.” Your way sounds better.

    My particular boredom trigger is books / songs. You want me to read the zoo-animal version of “The Wheels on the Bus” (bus-book) for the 7,000th time? OK. But then as soon as we’re done you want me to read it AGAIN? No. Please. Anything but that. Let’s fingerpaint or play with nitroglycerin or chase the dog or go for a 3km hike or anything ANYTHING BUT THAT BOOK AGAIN.

    “Just.Walk.AWAY!” Ha. Done that. Also, now that I think on it: “Do you like fighting? Is fighting fun?” When they say no, I say “Then why are you doing it? Just STOP!” Strangely, this reasoning doesn’t seem to carry much weight with them.

    I’ve been known to hide books I really can’t stand. Or toss them outright into the recycle bin. For the most part, though, I don’t mind reading books many times (though I never do it back-to-back). I am quite sure I’ve read “Are You My Mother” about 9,000 times over my life. Amazingly, I still like it. 🙂

    Comment by Hannah | September 7, 2012 | Reply

  2. I like that!!!

    Thanks. I was rather pleased with it, myself.

    Comment by Kate | September 7, 2012 | Reply

  3. Ha! I LIKE that deviation. My standard response is a mild, “Oh? That’s interesting,” because the little buggers haven’t asked for anything! It’s also my response for statements like “I want water.” It either throws them off or clues them in that they forgot a few key words here and nobody is going to do the heavy lifting for them in the manners department. Admittedly, this works much better with 3s and up than with toddlers.
    I find repetition of rules mind numbing. We don’t jump on the sofa. We don’t jump on the sofa. The rule is the same as yesterday. We don’t jump on the sofa. We don’t leap on the sofa. We don’t jump on the-for heavens sake get down. You may stay on the floor for the rest of the day.

    “We don’t jump on the-for heavens sake get down.” That line made me laugh out loud. Of course I’ve been there. Who with small children hasn’t?

    I do that with the “I want” questions, too. “I’m thirsty!” bothers me also. What is that besides an indirect order. I will often answer with “Really? I thought your name was Suzie,” or “Nice to meet you, Thirsty.” It amuses me, but as you say, isn’t really effective with the under-threes. (Most of the three-year-olds, for that matter, need to go through it once or twice before they get it, but then it becomes a big joke, so they can laugh… before correcting themselves.

    Comment by Samantha | September 7, 2012 | Reply

    • Oh god, the rules repetition. YES. I’ve said “don’t jump on the sofa” so many times that we’re actually removing it from the dayhome area altogether this weekend. I just… can’t say it anymore.

      How I envy you for having a home large enough to have a ‘dayhome area’…

      Comment by Hannah | September 7, 2012 | Reply

      • When I just can’t say it anymore the children have to go outside. Sadly, nannies don’t get to remove furniture. I have no problem with re-reading books, but I simply cannot do it back to back!

        Comment by Samantha | September 8, 2012

  4. Awesome, the Judo response!

    I sort of get this comment without quite understanding why… Dodge and weave? Use their own momentum against them?

    Comment by Matt C | September 7, 2012 | Reply

  5. The newest thing driving me crazy is the “why” questions coming from the three year old I watch. She asks why about everything, which is fine, I want her to learn. But then I explain and she asks again, and again, and again. I got to the point where I started asking her to answer her own questions and she knows the answers! Every time! THEN WHY DO YOU KEEP ASKING ME?!?!?!
    Small one: Why are we walking this way?
    Me: We’re going down here to see the trains go by.
    A minute later….Small one: Why are we going down here?
    Me: Remember? We’re going to see the trains
    Small one: Why are we going this way?
    Me: You tell me…why are we going down here?
    Small one: To see the trains
    A minute later…Small one: Why are we walking down here?

    Gah. Its beyond exhausting!

    Comment by Brooke | September 8, 2012 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: