Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

Archive for the tag “toddler nonsequiturs”

The Hardest Thing

The other day Owlet fell asleep in my arms while nursing. I held her until my arms grew numb, then gently woke her to preserve sacred bedtime.

“What is the hardest thing?” asked Owlet, drowsy and rosy-cheeked from the unexpected nap.

“Huh?” I asked, as sleep-blurry toddler speech can sometimes sound like one thing and mean another. “Did you say, ‘what is the hardest thing?'”

“Yes.” And she waited expectantly.

Death. Losing a child. Losing a parent, or a spouse. Violence. War. Illness and poverty. I am big on no-bullshit, age-appropriate honesty with kids, but it took a stumbling heartbeat for me to flip from mourner to mother.

I knelt, centering myself in her rich hazel eyes. “Not being with someone you love. That’s the hardest thing.”

And it really pretty much is.



One day recently, Owlet said “no,” when I said she was my little [insert her real nickname here]. So I said, “ok, you’re my little [insert her real name here].” “No, I’m not your little [real name].” “What are you, then?” I asked.

“I’m a dinosaur.”

I love toddler nonsequiturs. Really. They kind of make my heart sing dangerously for more children.

Since I laughed hysterically, she’s declared herself to be a dinosaur on numerous occasions since then. And a few nights ago, as we were snuggled together waiting for sleep to catch at least one of us, she asked if I were a dinosaur, too.

“Well, if you are a dinosaur, and I am your mother, than I must be a dinosaur, too.”

I’ve been telling this story around, laughing at our cuteness, but today it hits me more poignantly. If she is a dinosaur, and I am her mother, than I must be a dinosaur, too.

Don’t yet follow? Try this:

If she is easily frustrated, and I am her mother, I must be easily frustrated, too.

If she is ready to throw things when she gets too hungry, and I am her mother, I must be ready to throw things when I get too hungry, too.

I know we are all our own people. And I know people whose kids seem to be their photo negatives. (Does anyone even remember photo negatives anymore? I was trying to use them as an analogy for complimentary rhythm with an eight-year-old student not long ago, and found myself struggling to explain beyond her attention span, though her mom was, I believe, mildly amused.) But I can feel the truth threaded deep in this concept. What I am, she absorbs. Behaviors that irk me seem lifted from my impulses, as much as I am better able to control them in my semi-adult way.

Why is this so hard to see in the moment?

Take the food example, above. I mean, really. Pregnant women and nursing moms are the most hungry beings on the planet. Not even teenage boys come close. So how do I still sometimes fail to notice the roots of bad behavior in hunger?

There’s always a good explanation. My job is to find it and fix it, not to be “in charge” or “right all the time.” (Is that my husband laughing at me?)

And then there’s the glorious flip side:

If she is sensitive and shy and opens like a flower in a magician’s palm when given time and space to warm up, and I am her mother…

Tell you what, baby girl, let’s make a deal. I will help you (and me) master our faults, and you will help me (and you) honor our spirits.

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