In my childhood this phrase was so frequently used that my parents never even said the last six words aloud. Who needed to? Everybody knew the drill. If you weren’t smiling and brimming with good cheer than you could just take your sorry sad sack self somewhere else. No room for that here.
Long before Yogi came along I knew that wasn’t the tone I wanted to set for my own family. Unfortunately there is a huge distance between knowing what you don’t want to do and understanding the how of doing something different. I didn’t enter parenthood entirely ignorant of how to handle myself with others, I had managed to pick up a few lessons from close relationships and therapy, but I still had almost 20 years of day in, day out training in the art of being Just Fine, Thank You. This is high, high art in my family.
Being Just Fine, Thank You centers on always being pleasant with others and admitting sadness or vulnerability to no one. You handle those kinds of things on your own. Clearly this is a ridiculous altar to kneel at, but those early voices are impossible to un-hear.
All the book reading in the world could not have prepared me for the emotional wild west of toddlerhood. I thought I knew what to expect. I had read that all of this* was entirely normal. And then it became my life. Spending every waking moment with a two-year old is like a crash course in Freudian personality theory. Well, it’s an excellent characterization of one part of the theory at least. It’s all Id, all the time. Of course this is all as it should be, but when you have a gut level belief (despite years of dismantling) that it’s not really OK to be mad (or sad or disappointed or unhappy, you get the idea) than that little Id on two legs is a bomb in the middle of your world.
Much of the last few months has been devoted to learning from the fallout. Yogi is always willing to offer a teachable moment and maddening as those moments may be, that’s a blessing because I’ve got a lot to learn.
I’ve managed to gather a handful of tools so far and with the hope that you might also find them useful I’ll be writing about them in the weeks to come.
* This takes many forms. One moment it could be desperate hysterical tears coupled with wild on-the-floor writhing. The very next it might be sudden unexplained and high-volume chanting of “No Mama! No Mama! Nooooooo Mama!”. Or there is always my personal favorite, crumpling in whiny misery on the floor after being offered a cookie. Explain that….