Broken Expectations

Dear Alexander-in-the-Middle,

You are two and a half. You are quickly entering the magical realm of not quite understanding how specific language can be.

You’ll have a mental picture in your head of a potato roll. You’ll ask for it using the words you know. “Mommy I want some bread!” and I’ll say “Of COURSE you can have some bread.” and I’ll go to the table and get the oat bread that I know you like, and I’ll give it to you and your little heart and brain will break in the upset and disappointment that I broke the promise to “get you bread” by trying to give you something you did not ask for. In your mind you understand deeply that “bread” is that potato roll that you had pictured in your memory.  Your upset is bigger than it would be if I simply told you “No. No bread.” because I PROMISED YOU BREAD and I BROKE THAT PROMISE.

Or you’ll ask for green pancakes when your brain remembers green as blue, or as polka dots of green, or as something else that daddy made you that weekend that I slept in. And I PROMISED YOU GREEN PANCAKES and I BROKE THAT PROMISE.

Or you’ll ask for a story that you think you remember the name of. “Want to read Yertle, mommy! Want to read Yertle!” and your world will shatter when I go to read you Yertle, because you actually wanted to read that book about the Grinch and the Who’s in Whoville.

Or you’ll ask me to cut your toast and I’ll ask you “strips or triangles” and you’ll say “strips” while you picture triangles, and then you’ll be SO upset that I didn’t listen carefully enough and that I didn’t see that picture in your head.

I used to become upset. It felt like a lack of gratitude. I did what you asked. I went out of my way to do what you asked. I spent energy on doing that thing. All I wanted was to make you happy, and here you are yelling at me and saying “I HIT YOU MOMMY” because you’re so angry at these broken “promises” that you want to hit everything around you.

Now I understand. What you were picturing in your head doesn’t match up with the words you used, you don’t fully understand that more words are needed to paint a picture of what it is that you need. This is something that adults have trouble enough with.

Now I say quietly “I’m sorry you’re disappointed, Sasha. I didn’t understand what you meant by “strips”. And next time I ask him how he wants it cut, I try to draw it with my finger first. Or I try to show him the color, or I change the way I say that he can have bread by turning it into a question. “this type of bread? No? This type of bread? Yes? That’s called POTATO BREAD. It’s made with potatoes. Isn’t that awesome? Yes you can have potato bread. Do you want to eat it like this? It is cold and soft. Do you want it to be warm and crunchy in the toaster?”

You won’t learn to describe things better if I send you to time out over your hurt feelings. You’ll learn through my using my words.

I can use my words, sweet child, so that you can learn to use yours.

<3 Mama

5 thoughts on “Broken Expectations

  1. I check your website almost daily, though don’t often leave comments. I just want to say that your gentle parenting is exactly what I’m striving for, and the fact that you’ve been down this road before and share what you’ve learned helps so very very much. Thank you.

  2. I think this is lovely, I’ll soon be minding a 21 month old as well as my 9 month old. I’m just wondering what you think of using flash cards, would they help or hinder?

    1. Anneka,

      Depends on the child. :) What would you use them for? To help them understand the meaning of the words? Careful with that, because this is a very literal age for some and if the child thinks of “apple” as a certain thing and the red/green are in the wrong places, it can all go kerboom.

      I don’t think it is a bad thing, or something to circumvent.. It is just one of those things to understand so you can keep your calm when the child loses his. It’s the process of the child truly learning that what they can imagine is not always what is real.. It’s a good thing and they just need someone to support them through it without trying to fix the differences.

      If you think something would be educational and helpful, I’d give it a try.

  3. I never would have thought this out atthis stage when my LO is only 7 months old. Now thanks to you I feel armed with more understanding and thank you as always…

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