My toddler is going through a phase in which it’s possible he thinks he’s an undercover operative on a secret mission to report every single thing I do. But, being a toddler, he’s not being so secret. My day is narrated for me with impeccable precision (within the confines of a not-quite-two-year-old vocabulary). It is also apparently imperative that I respond to each statement, perhaps to confirm its accuracy. However “Roger that” does not seem to cut it.
“Mommy emptying the dishwasher! Mommy emptying the dishwasher! Mommy emptying the dishwasher!” “Yes, Mommy’s emptying the dishwasher. What are you doing?” “Mommy drying her hands! Mommy drying her hands! Mommy drying her hands! Mommy . . .” “Yes. Mommy’s drying her hands. See, they’re dry now. What are you . . .” “Mommy coming into the living room! Mommy coming into the living room! Mommy coming into . . . Mommy going in the bathroom! Mommy closing the door! Mommy . . . Mommy! Mommy, open door please!”
This all serves to basically silence my own, internal monologue. I can’t hear myself think when I’m saying things like, “Yes, Mommy put on her socks.” Or, “You’re right, Mommy said ‘ouch!’ because you hit her in the face with a rhinoceros wearing a diaper.” Or, “Yup, Mommy’s peeing.”
And, while I can’t hear my own thoughts, I can feel myself going slightly insane. Because, while spending time with a toddler isn’t the most intellectually stimulating thing I can think of, before this phase began I could at least think my own thoughts inside my own head. So, since, despite his best efforts, I love my son with all my being and would like him to be raised by a mother who isn’t completely off her rocker, I’ve got to find a way to distract the world’s worst spy. Or at least turn him into a double agent.
The problem is I don’t have a minute to think. So on we blindly stumble (“Mommy blindly stumbling!”) and I become more and more of a babbling idiot (“Mommy’s a babbling idiot!”) and my son trots happily at my heels, oblivious to the mental chaos he’s causing with his incessant chatter.
But if I did have a minute to think (“What Mommy doing?” “Mommy’s thinking.” Mommy thinking! Mommy thinking! Mommy thinking!), it might occur to me that all my son is doing is trying to figure out how to be a human being. His not quite two years on this planet have taught him that people behave in certain ways (“Please close your mouth while you’re chewing”) and not in others (“Don’t reach into the toilet”) but the why of it all is still beyond him. So, he’s developed a system to try to figure it all out.
And his world has come complete with a real-live example of how to behave, in the form of his increasingly unhinged mother. And if I was able to reflect upon this further (“Mommy reflecting further!”) I might then conclude that the way I choose to respond to his maddening recitation of my mundane comings and goings is actually the most important lesson of all.
Luckily for me (since this realization would, no doubt, cripple me with guilt), I don’t have a moment to think. So I continue to shuffle through, inadvertently teaching my son that sometimes, when you don’t really know what to say, you don’t say anything at all. And that, when you’re feeling really frustrated and kind of panicky because of something someone’s saying you just sort of stand very still and take a bunch of deep breaths to yourself until you can respond calmly again. That music is a good way to reset a situation. That reading aloud is a good way to talk about something new. And that hugs and kisses are necessary, needed, and a good thing to do when you’re not sure what else to say.
And I guess, given the vast array of other things he might be learning, that’s really not so bad.