Questioning My Kid

Yesterday my daughter came down with a fever. And I found that I was relieved.

For the last week she has been acting (quite frankly) like a bit of an a**hole. My usually independent and outgoing kiddo had become clingy and super needy. So much so that I have an actual pain in my neck from having to hold and carry her so much. She has gone through phases of violently preferring either my husband or myself to the other and rather rudely displaying her preference to the “unchosen” parent. She has cried, loudly, over seemingly nothing. She has told us “no” soooo many times, run away from us and basically just been a butt.

My husband and I started to question ourselves. Should we begin to make some changes? Should we ignore her outbursts? Give her comfort? Continue to stress that she needs to express herself a bit more maturely (ha!)? We weren’t going crazy (after all, it had only been a week), but we were becoming a little disheartened. We had talks as to whether or not this was just how things would be from here on out. Sigh.

But then I felt her fever and all those questions went away. She had been trying to tell us that she wasn’t feeling well. And we had let that message become conflated with questions essentially about her personality and overall behavior.

Then I started wondering, what made me so quick to second guess all that I’ve learned about this kid in the nearly 2 years that I’ve known her? If one of my friends had been acting like a butt for a few days, I would not assume that they had simply turned into a butt (and would stay that way for the rest of their lives!). I would assume that they were under some undue stress or were, likewise, not feeling well.  Why is it our default assumption that our kids are really supposed to be assholes? And that up until now, my husband and I had simply lucked out that she hadn’t shown her “true” (poopy brown) colors to us? Seems a bit unfair to my kid, no?

Our collective narrative about kids, especially toddlers, is pretty clear. They are “terrible!” When we are out in public and my child is acting like a ‘regular’ person, people comment on her lack of terribleness. While I usually try not to let these ‘compliments’ go to my head, I now see that everywhere we look, we expect children to be wretched! And that we are surprised when they’re not! Sounds like a recipe for wretchedness if ever I heard one. If we are just waiting for kids to turn into uncontrollable monsters, then that might explain why some of them do. We can finally say, “I knew that this day would come!”

So while there will definitely be short tempers (on both sides) and whines and crying and some butt-like behavior from kids as they grow older, maybe it would behoove us (and especially me!) to hold off deciding that our kids are now terrible. They are still who they were and who we have loved. Maybe we could reframe our narrative just a little so that we don’t simply jump to the conclusion that we now live with an asshole. It just might help everybody act a little less like a butt.

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