Monday, June 8, 2015

Parenthood: Week 104 – No, no, no . . .

There are some milestones you look forward to as a parent like first steps, first words and the first song your child learns to sing.  And then there are the milestones you dread. There’s the first painful burn, the first allergic reaction and the first notes your child plays on a viola.

In the past couple weeks, it’s become clear that we have hit one of “those” milestones: the use of the word “no.”

“No,” isn’t really a common word in our household. When we were raising Buffy, we were very conscientious to only use “no” rarely and really focus on positive feedback.  Buffy’s trainer taught us that using the word “yes,” with a bright smile make a dog want to look at you whenever you talk, which makes the times that you need to use an assertive “no” have more impact. If you are always saying “no” to a dog, like humans, they begin tuning it out.

In Ollie’s first year of life, it wasn’t really necessary to tell him “no.” If he was getting into something that he wasn’t suppose to, it was more our fault than his own, so it didn’t make sense to lay the blame on him. Now that he is 103 weeks old, he is comfortably walking, running (kind of) and jumping. There are things around the house that he needs to know he shouldn’t get into and there are actions that he needs to learn how to control. So the word “no” has become part of the way we interact with Ollie. And of course, it comes to no surprise that he is now using this word in his interactions with us.

There’s the expected “no, no, no” whining when we turn off the television or take away a toy that he is not done playing with. That’s easy to take and not a big deal, but the screams of “no, no, no” when I reach to pick him up out of his crib are a different thing altogether.

Some when I go to pick him up or reach out to him, he will yell “no, no no,” and push me away. Diana responds by telling him that this is not how we respond to people in our family and she will give me a hug. Seeing this, Ollie will often walk over and want to join in on the embrace.

Here’s the thing about Ollie saying “no.” Often, he doesn’t know what I’m talking about. If I ask him if he wants to eat a certain kind of food and he says “no.” if I then show him the food, he will often say “yes” and smile. The word “no” for Ollie isn’t so much a negative but one of the few verbal ways he can express confusion, frustration or discomfort. While I get that he is not being purposely hurtful, it’s difficult to deal your child screaming at you to get away when you approach.

This past Thursday, before I left for work, I heard him stirring so I went in to say good morning and he was not happy to see me. He screamed “no” at me, wanting his mom. Diana got him to calm down, but he was cranky and in a bad mood so I left after unsuccessfully trying to get him to calm down.

I got home about an hour after he had gone to bed. As I was walking around the house, I heard him giggling in his crib. Most of the time, I would just ignore this and let him work himself back to bed but I decided to peek in. As I looked down at him in the darkness, he softly said “dada” and reached up to me. I picked him, settled into the rocking chair and sat him down on my lap.  Then turned his body around so he was facing me and with a big smile began talking to me.

Ollie sat up, reached toward my face, giggled when I playfully chomped at his finger. Then he hugged himself and said “I love you” and fell forward into my chest. After we talked some more, I put him back into his crib and let him fall asleep.

Do I know for sure that his words at the nighttime were more sincere than his protests earlier in the morning?


Ollie may verbally say “no” to me, and he may push me away sometimes when he would prefer my wife or to be left alone. As much as we sometimes try to define ourselves by what we don’t like (which can be an endless list), it is where we find solace in difficult times in our lives that we find what is most meaningful to who we are as people. 

Does it hurt when Ollie says “no” to my presence? Yes, but its easy to get over, because even if he doesn’t want me at a certain moment, I know that other times, more often than the moments of rejection we bring meaning and love into each other’s lives.

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