Will someone please tell me how I can keep the dreaded N-word off my lips for more than 10 minutes, when in every 10-minute slot of time Ayaan does atleast one of these very no-worthy things:
- Slaps, bites or pinches me
- Pulls my hair
- Assaults some unsuspecting kid in the park
- Tries to eat mud
- Picks up handfuls of mud and throws them at me or other kids
- Attempts to paint the wall with his food
- Throws his food at me
- Climbs up onto high surfaces and prepares to leap right off
- Tries to climb onto the dining table (which by the way has a glass top and pretty flimsy wrought iron chairs)
- Tries to throw something out of the window of our fourth floor apartment
- Finds one of our mobile phones and tries to murder it
- Tries to play with the electric switches (the sockets are blocked off but still!)
And that’s not quite the end of it – the list could go on for atleast another page. So I don’t know how I can be expected to go for more than 10 minutes without saying no.
What I count as being worthy of uttering the negative can essentially be categorised into 4 categories:
This includes things like launching himself off the 2-foot high sofa, playing with electric switches and trying to investigate the kitchen counter (which is often populated by sharp, glass and/ or hot objects. When it comes to this category, there is no doubt in my mind that there is no option but to let Ayaan know that I am vehemently against what he is doing and that he must stop it RIGHT NOW.
These are actions that destroy items of value such chucking of things out of the window and the use of my mobile phone as a hammer. These items too I place outside the limits of letting Ayaan explore and discover. Let him do that with things that cost under Rs. 100 - destruction on a budget!
This category is about behaviour that is socially unacceptable. My expectations on this are pretty low. I have no problem with reserved behaviour where Ayaan refuses to interact with some over-enthusiastic baby-loving person we meet along the way – that is completely his prerogative. But I do object to violent behaviour towards me or other kids in the park – and this includes both actual violence (slap, pinch, bite, etc.) as well as snatching things that do not belong to him. I have to say that the snatching part is not such a problem and Ayaan will usually give back what he has snatched with good grace when asked to. But the violence… now that’s a whole other cup of tea. I actually have scratches on my face sometimes and the other day, he picked up a pebble and threw it at another kid, completely unprovoked. Again, very no-worthy behaviour.
This is the hardest one. It is very difficult to draw the boundaries between learning and discipline here. For example, when Ayaan attempts to paint the wall with his food, should I let him ‘express his creativity’? And when he wants to splash around in the filthy puddle in the park, do I let him enjoy this wonderful experience and forget about germs and the mess in the car from his dirty clothes and shoes? Here I usually decide based on the degree to which the mess is reversible. So food on the wall and mud stains on the car upholstery are clearly out but playing with dry mud, emptying the onion rack and pouring water on the floor is okay.
Anyway, that was my side of the story. But that’s not all. What does Ayaan have to say on this subject? When I say this word to him, his reaction is one of the following:
- He actually listens and obeys – a rare but satisfying response. He does this for a few things like not entering the loo and not walking out of the park gate but mostly he doesn’t approve of the word.
- He pretends that I never said it and continues with the offending task that he is being reprimanded for. This is what I call his denial mode. If I repeat the N-word often enough, it will result in one of the other reactions recounted below.
- He looks at me, nods his head in disagreement and goes back to what he was doing. This is the toddler equivalent of showing me the finger.
- He screws up his face and starts crying – this usually happens if he’s already pissed off in general or if I utter a particularly violent ‘No’.
- If he has hit me and I say ‘No’, he will sometimes smile and press his face to mine in an imitation of a kiss in an effort to placate me. Basically, the rascal knows he did something wrong and he is admitting it and apologising in his own (very cute) way but do you think that stops him from doing it again just a little later? I would have to say no.
And of course, no discourse on the subject would be complete without an account of Ayaan’s love affair with the sentiment of refusal, especially when it originates with him. It’s like he’s suddenly woken up to the delightful (for him) fact that he has the fundamental right of choice and he can exercise it with a simple movement of his head. Sometimes he will say no just for the heck of it – because he can. Like when I know he is thirsty and offer him a drink of water, he will shake his violently as if I have suggested the most unthinkable thing ever and then just moments later, he will go up and pick up his sippy cup and drink as if it were going out of fashion…