– Brushing her teeth
– Taking off her diaper. Putting on her diaper.
– Putting on underwear. Taking off her underwear.
– Pooping on the potty. Not pooping in the potty.
– Eating breakfast.
– Eating lunch.
– Eating dinner.
– Drinking water. Drinking milk.
– Wiping her face. Wiping her hands. Wiping her nose.
– Having a bath. Wiping herself dry after the bath.
– Putting on her clothes. Taking off her clothes. Putting on hair clips. Taking off hair clips. Putting on shoes. Taking off shoes.
– Combing her hair. Tying up her hair.
– Taking a nap. Sleeping at night. Especially sleeping at night.
(She also almost said no to cartoons, but caught herself just in time).
The nos range from ladylike and British-accented (thanks to the very propah ‘Peppa Pig’, her current cartoon muse) to loud and guttural (“Noaa!”), from a long-drawn out “Noooooo” for moments of greater stress, and the very emphatic “NononoNO!” for those times when she’s really upset and just one ‘No’ won’t do (like when she has to be parted from some hopelessly dreadful Hello Kitty toy in the store or Peppa Pig needs to go beddy-bye).
What really gets to you is the sheer irrationality behind the nos. Not wanting to take a bath or to eat idli you can kind of understand. But during the Terrible Twos, your toddler will say no even to things she’s apparently wanted for months. My daughter, for instance, had been asking for ‘new red shoes’ for ages. It came up every time we dressed up or went to a store. So finally, on a day when I was feeling particularly kind and magnanimous, I took her to a shoe shop.
“Look, red shoes! Do you like them?” I said smugly, expecting ‘wows’ and hugs and excitement.
What I got instead was a big fat “No!”
Fifteen minutes later, we’d pulled out every red shoe her size in the store, and she refused to put her foot into even one of them. “Noooooo! NononoNO!”
I was harassed, the shoe salesman was annoyed and the other customers were thoroughly amused. When the salesman turned away to talk to someone else, I slunk quietly out of the shop, carrying my barefooted daughter, who was now refusing to put on the old shoes she’d worn to the shop.
And so, in honour of parents everywhere who have survived days like this, I propose the creation of “Say No to Your Toddler Day”. You might say, well, parents say no all the time. Ah, but those are sensible nos, when you’re trying to stop your toddler from eating plastic beads or Play-Doh, or preventing them from painting the sofa red or ‘flying’ off the dining room table. Those are tiresome, tiring everyday nos, which lead to frustration and a strong desire to burst into tears on your part.
What I propose is more radical. On this special day, you, the parent, get to be utterly irrational. On “Say No to Your Toddler Day”, you can say no to any random thing you want, anytime. In other words, for a day, you get to be two again. For instance:
Toddler: Peppa Pig!
(and so on)
It can even have the unintended side effect of making a truly contrary toddler do whatever you want her to. For example:
You: No banana today. No! No! No!
Toddler: I want banana!
If you feel a day of such randomness on the part of a parent will be detrimental to the delicate psyche of your toddler, you can ensure that there’s another primary care provider around to actually do the feeding and clothing etc. of the toddler. And you can go around saying no to the adults in your life, which can be just as satisfying.
Significant Other: What’s for dinner?
You: No! NononoNO!
All in favour of ‘Say No to Your Toddler Day’ say NO!
-You need to practice those nos. No more sounding like a stern parent. Feel the joy of being utterly irrational and let that “NO!” rip.
-Go for the ‘no’ length and style most natural to you. That will allow you to clock in more nos a day.
-Shoot for about 58.2 nos a day (a typical toddler average). As you get better at it, you can increase the number.
‘Toddler Talk’ is a weekly column published in The Hindu MetroPlus.