My friend has a picky eater — her first, only child. It’s one of her persistent struggles with her son, the kind that has its ups and downs but is always there. We all have them, I think, the things that you as a parent, or adult, just can’t get your child to see the same way. Or can’t quite grasp about your child’s behavior. And more than that, we can’t bring ourselves to let go of the conflict. You deeply want “X” for your child or your child to do “X,” without even being fully aware of it. I remember the first time I stepped onto a soccer field with my child, excited for her practice, and how deep the fear — my own fear — ran when she spent most of the time crying. I was surprised by my own emotion as much as hers. It’s possible they’ll hate the things you love. But it’s also possible that they’re just that age — 2, 3, 4, etc.
Imagine you have a boss you simply can’t please or do anything right by. Your day becomes a series of annoying little interactions, big fights, or one exhausting slog. If you let a horrible boss get to you, it can ruin your career. I found a short list of problematic boss styles: the Bully, the Micromanager, the Poor Communicator, the Fickle Boss, and the Saboteur. Now imagine that’s your toddler. Sound familiar? I particularly like the Saboteur — if I spend any time picking up a mess, my toddler usually devotes that time to making another one.
I know toddlers have been compared to bosses before. That’s how my friend described her frustration; she said it’s like having a boss that constantly rejects your hard work. Often the work you do at home — cooking, feeding, or playing — is a labor of love. But if that boss is your own child, it’s a terrible feeling, a kind of blow to that love. While there are ways to minimize this conflict, I’ve been thinking, what would your day be like if your kid actually was your boss?
We can all imagine the bad version if you did what your toddler boss demanded — overflowing tubs, a looong time spent on the floor of the grocery store, and, if you ever get out of the store, the playing of loud music. Incessant car-horn honking. A week of crackers and cookies with nary a diaper change. Never buckling in. So many zoo trips. Drawing on everything. Running at all times, everywhere. No sunscreen, no thank you. Bloodcurdling screams about the sticker that won’t stick.
I like to dream about the opposite, though — what’s your toddler boss like on a great day? You spend an hour at the zoo, of course, watching the gorillas methodically groom each other. You may spend another hour watching polar bears swim or tigers nap. You definitely eat ice cream without spoons. Adults around your toddler boss are constantly complimenting her, even as her face is covered in ice cream. No one really cares about the sticky hands. You then spend another hour following the sanitation truck around on pickup day, shouting, “Truck, truck!” which, in toddler language, sounds like “f*ck, f*ck!”
You may spend an hour cuddling and sleeping wherever you please, as long as toddler arms are clasped tightly around your own neck. After lunch (who even remembers eating?), you spend an hour walking out of doors looking at flowers and puppies. If any loud noises occur, toddler shouts, “Ow!” followed by a scamper toward you, followed by the demand, “Hug.” You get hugged, prompted or not. You get hugged. Toddler sings along to whatever song she hears, regardless of language/music ability. She requests “Twinkle.” Toddler is immensely pleased with everything. Sisters, babies, sun, sky, wind, neighbors, bugs, and you. When she’s tired, she wants to be held for a while, before sleep.
When you think about it, this stuff happens every day.