I recently stumbled across a truism that instantly saved me from most of the emotional head-butting that had become a daily feature of my relationship with Boo:
Children are crazy.
Consider this monologue, reported here as close to verbatim as possible: “Do you want to hear the song I just wrote about a horse named Rahm? It goes like this: I have a HORSE named RAHM OBAMA! A HORSE named RAHM OBAMA! I — wait just a minute! I forgot the WORDS! I forgot a song I made up MYSELF!” Then maniacal laughter and an announcement that the speaker needs to poop.
OK. Let’s just say you ran into someone on the street who talked like that. You’d immediately think, “This one’s a little nuts,” and if you’re like me you’d smile that benevolent, humoring smile and take up the semi-defensive posture we city-folk have mastered.
Empathy and safety, not engagement.
* * *
I’m not letting Boo use the big armchair at the head of the table and she’s pissed. I explain that since she can’t push that chair in, food threatens to spill all over when she uses it. We covered one chair specially and it’ll be hers until that happy day she manages not to spread her meal in a three-foot radius around her. I point all this out and, being three years old, Boo’s reaction is to scream.
Crazy, right? But it doesn’t bother me anymore because crazy is now what I expect!
So now Boo gets one logical explanation and if that’s not enough she might have to take a break in her room. But knowing what I now know — that children are crazy — I do not get angry, I do not yell or guilt trip or wheedle. I never count to more than three or back off from my position. And when the break is over, so is the issue: I don’t hold grudges.
My life has completely changed.
* * *
Now my only question is: when do kids become un-crazy? Especially since most days, I’m not quite sure I’ve reached complete sanity myself.