I love the English language. I love it’s clarity, the potential for great precision. I love that 100 different words mean almost the same thing, but each is nuanced in a way that may only fit 1 of 1000 different situations! I love crafting with words, playing with them, and using them to deliver a message, a tone, and an implied purpose. When my little guy started using words, I was over the moon! Additionally, his ability to understand infinitely MORE than he could say blew my mind.
Before I was a parent I nannied and I remember being shocked that the one-year-old twins I watched couldn’t utter more than a few words, but when I said “No,” they listened. They listened and they responded. They actually did NOT do whatever I had requested them NOT to do — the compliance was amazing! Naturally I was looking forward to this honeymoon period with my then, one-year-old, but, here’s the deal– I didn’t get one. And you may not either!
“No” really is a beautiful English word. It clearly implies, NO. Do NOT do that. STOP what you are doing.
Unfortunately, when one is a toddler, No means No — except when . . .
there’s a cup of water in your hand and you feel like dumping it on the floor.
you’ve decided running into the road is the most fun you can ever imagine.
referring to $20 bottles of Vermont Maple Syrup that reminds you more of a soccer ball than a precious and expensive condiment.
Mom is ahem . . . indisposed . . . and there is cookie dough sitting on the counter.
the basin of the little potty is extra full after nap and attempting to dump it into the toilet is significantly more likely to result in a miss than a hit…
you’re trying to climb on to the chair to grab an open stick of butter off the counter and you know Mom can’t get there quicker than you can.
In all seriousness, I’ve been shocked that just when I thought my son might NEVER listen to or heed my warnings, he has started to listen and respond in a way that shows he understands what’s at stake should he choose to ignore (or reimagine) the meaning of “NO” in a given situation.
I honestly think he’s just calculating the cost from moment to moment . . . “Would I rather kick this bottle of maple syrup across the room, or would I like to have syrup on my pancakes today?” I think he’s the kind of kid that is strong willed enough to be willing to accept the consequences if he wants something bad enough. And although that might mean we stop buying our syrup in the organic section, or having pancakes altogether. . . I’m not convinced it’s a terrible character trait.
And maybe the truth is “No” can be a bit unclear to a toddler. It doesn’t magically stop you from doing something and there’s usually a chance you might get to do it again, if the circumstances are right. Maybe my son has just picked up on a nuance of the word that I’ve failed to, that there’s still a bit of room left for interpretation here . . . At the end of the day, in our house, No means No, except when . . .