After thinking more about my last post, I experienced a couple of “bad absurdity” moments with Lily, so I thought it only fair to add this to the official record.
I gave Lily some smoothie in a blue sippy cup last night, and she drank it right down and asked for more. OK, give me your cup, then. “No! I want it in the purple cup!”
Now, I had just washed what felt like 82 sippy cups by hand, since we were running low and the dishwasher wasn’t anywhere close to full. So although this doesn’t technically qualify in the “causing harm” exception to my rule regarding Lily’s absurd requests, I said, “No. Absolutely not.” (One could argue that it would cause ME harm to make the already Sisyphus-ian nature of housework feel even more pointless, but that’s stretching it.)
She raged, she whined, I refused to budge. And she eventually used the same cup again.
Similarly, we went to the grocery store today. After making an extra little jaunt home to pick up her toy grocery cart, I followed Lily as she raced down the aisles, having a ball – which was the fun part. But then, suddenly, she stopped, got worked up and upset, and tried desperately to pull off two of the wheels.
“What are you doing?”
“I want the oh-nitz (orange) wheels!”
Huh? What the hell was she talking about? And where on earth did the idea come from? “There are no orange wheels.”
“I want the pink wheels!”
“Sweetie, the cart has green wheels, and they don’t come off.”
Here we were, that cliche couple with the screaming kid at the grocery store. Ugh. (Things had started out roughly getting her into the store, when she’d said, “I want to go to the park!” and I’d responded, “But this is kind of like a park with food!” And when she’d gotten riled up about something else 10 minutes later, I’d picked her up to remove her from the store and get her to settle down.) Regarding the cart’s wheels, Lily struggled mightily against the inevitable for a while longer before getting distracted by a roll of brightly-colored wrapping paper – which we bought for no other reason.
I note these rough moments in the interest of full disclosure. Part of my mission with this blog is to be candid about my parenting experiences, warts and all. The reason that parents, particularly mothers, often feel crappy about the job they’re doing is that the conventional party line is that motherhood equals bliss. I’d absolutely hated it when, while Lily was a baby, women I didn’t know would ask me, as if rhetorically, “Don’t you just LOVE being a mother?”
I refused to smile politely and take the easy way out by saying “yes.” Instead, I shrugged and said, “In some moments. At other times, no.” Which was true. At that time, I sometimes thought I was in hell. So how could I just further the lie?
It’s always easier to go along, of course, and we’re all susceptible to it, because so many people and media images shove us into absorbing that mindset. But I’ve discovered that the truth about parenting is that many of the wonderful things (like absurd flights of fancy) have their negative side, too.
Small kids have this amazing imagination because their world is full of blanks that they fill in with the little bits they know, and they don’t know enough to realize that usually, the ideas don’t make sense whatsoever. That’s what makes their whims so much fun; but it’s also why you can’t reason with them when they suddenly go nuts over the color of their toy cart’s wheels, and that’s frustrating. So like most things, increased levels of absurdity is a double-edged sword.
When we’re lucky, the positives outweigh the maddening elements on enough days to get us through. But it does a disservice to ALL parents to make the experience seem brighter or simpler than it is.