If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say

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.

Enter Yogi.

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….


11 thoughts on “If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say

  1. We are barreling into this world at breakneck speed! I look forward to reading about your tips and tools for dealing with it!

  2. I would be rich if I had a dollar for every time I said “It is okay to feel ____. I understand. It’s what you do with those feelings that matters.”

    • My wife directed me towards that site and it is fabulous! I spent about five whole minutes laughing and crying in that this.is.so.true.it.hurts kind of way. Very cathartic.

      • I know what you mean! I don’t have kids of my own yet, but I have taken care of lots of babies and toddlers in my time, and that tumblr rings so true to my experiences too!

  3. Toddlers! Jaybird also has lots of crazy crying spells, whining, bizarre refusals… It really is nothin but teachable moments for Mama. I am not so great at staying calm and detached, which is the advice I hear most often. It’s hardest when he just won’t stop: it starts to feel like I’m under siege.

  4. I have thought about this sentence about fifteen times since I first read this post: “When you have a gut level belief (despite years of dismantling) that it’s not really OK to be mad…that little Id on two legs is a bomb in the middle of your world.” I was not raised the way you were. In fact, I would say that my parents were a bit too comfortable with their id(s) for my liking. 🙂 Still, I was blown away by this sentence. For a myriad of reasons, these little beings are exactly bombs in the middle of our worlds. They will find and push buttons, and how. I love this exploration of this particular button and your particular way through it. I get sad when you’re not writing as much and happy when you are. That is all. Go smooch those bombs of yours.

    • This is not pressure to write more. My being sad is just fine. I mean… you know what I mean. It’s only meant to tell you how grateful I am when you write. Oh, over-explaining. Will I ever let you go?

  5. I’m so bad at this, too. When he gets upset about (what I feel are) stupid things, I’m just like, dude…get over it. And sometimes I say that to him (I can be an a-hole parent sometimes lol). I know it’s totally normal at his age (4 year olds are SUCH manipulative drama queens) but man, I have no patience for it. I’ve started to just tell him to go to his room to work out his feelings. I get it, he’s upset, but when you get upset 40 times a day, it’s a bit overblown.

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