No means no

In the great quest to eliminate some of the whining that goes on around here, we decided to teach Addie the word, "No." That way, if there's something she doesn't like or want, instead of making awful sounds that send my head to the brink of exploding, she can simply tell us, "No." Are we crazy? Perhaps. But I will tell you, the whining has decreased incredibly and it has been replaced with a pointed finger, furrowed brow, puckered lips and an adorable, "No, no, no."

Most of the time, I don't mind that Addie is using this dreaded word, because it has been quite helpful thus far. We know the answer to whatever issue she is having much more quickly and we can then fix the problem and move on. The times that I struggle, are when she's telling me, "No," and I can't honor her wishes--especially when it has to do with her body. If she has just pooped, for example, and I tell her I need to go change her diaper and she doesn't want me to, or when it's time to undress her to change into pajamas and she tells me, "No," as I take off her shirt.

As you probably already know, I am painfully aware of how my former work has impacted me and how I view the world. I also am aware that this case is no exception. It has always been so important to me that Addie knows what the word, "No," means and that she has the right to say it whenever someone is doing something to her that she doesn't want. Of course, she's only 19 1/2 months old, so I understand that she will not fully comprehend why that is important for quite some time.

But really, how young is too young to teach this? The word, "No," can have such power. For the first time she is able to tell us exactly what she thinks and we can then react. However, she also just likes saying it and sometimes shouts it with a smile while she emphatically shakes her head, yes. (We are now working on, "Yes," and what that means as well.) As her mom, how do I teach her when, "No," really means, "No," yet show her that sometimes we don't always get what we want?

Of course, when I have to go against her wishes, I try to explain why. "Mommy is sorry. I know you don't want your diaper changed, but we have to make sure your bottom is nice and clean. You don't want to stay in a poopy diaper all day, do you?" Sometimes, adding insult to injury, she nods her head that she would in fact, like to stay in her poopy diaper. Mercy.

Curt often tells me that I'm too sensitive to these kinds of things and I need to relax a bit. In some ways I agree, but I also think that as Addie's Mom and as an advocate for ending violence against women, it is my job to freak out about her safety. Even if it's a little over the top and even if I scare myself to death every time I think about it, what else are my options?

There is a saying about understanding the movement to end violence against women: Once you know, you can't un-know. A small part of me wishes this wasn't true. I wish I could relax and trust that somehow Addie will simply be OK. I wish I could just say, "Too bad, kid. We're changing your diaper!" and not even think twice. Instead, it sends me into a whirlwind of overthinking and I'm left feeling overwhelmed, ineffective and terrified.

I'm not quite sure where to go from here, except to keep doing what we are doing. Teach her in the best way we know how, take it one step at a time, ponder and ponder again why we're teaching the things we are and hope to God that she takes some of it in... and also hope that in the process I don't nurture social phobias, fear of relationships or the inability to trust others.

Next topic for discussion: Is it inappropriate to send a child to kindergarten with a keychain of pepper spray? Discuss.


Jamie said...

Micah has been saying no for a couple of months. Not a big deal... or so we thought. The problem is that everything is NO even the things he really does want. It's hard. But empowering, yes!

sara said...

Thanks, Jamie. I forget that he and Addie share a birthday and that you all are likely going through the exact same stuff we are!