Sometimes I think my daily life looks like the scene from “Coming to America” when Prince Hakeem meets his arranged betrothed, Imani Izzy. Imani has been trained her whole life to do anything he asks of her, and he tests just how far she will go to meet his demands. (“Make a noise like an orangutan” ring any bells?) The difference in my life is that my prince is a two-year-old who, after getting exactly what he wants, changes course and decides screaming for the exact opposite is in order.
On any given day, we have many conversations about food, toys, and activities that go something like this:
Me: “(Prince) Ethan, you’ve been sick. What would you like for breakfast? Pick anything you’d like from the fridge.”
Ethan: “I want dat yoguht peas.”
Me: “Sure, please sit at the table to eat it.”
Ethan: “NO, I DON’T WANT DAT YOGUHT!!!!”
I don’t remember child #1 or child #2 doing this. It’s very possible I blocked it from memory like every mother does for the survival of the human race. Or maybe my older ones didn’t really test me in this particular way. But at least a small part of me wants to take the yogurt and dump it all over him. Some days I probably would if I could get past knowing I’d just be creating another mess to clean.
I had his teacher conference today, and the teacher reminded me that he is dealing with normal two-year-old issues such as making good choices, following directions, and learning to share. Honestly, it must be really hard to be two.
Unlike Imani Izzy in “Coming to America,” I actually say “no” to my prince quite often. Over the course of a day, he probably hears “no” or “not now” or “try this instead” so many more times than he hears “yes.” Part of that is being two and making ridiculous requests, like “Can I eat dis wip balm?”; part is being the third child and having older siblings who get to do things he can’t but would love to do; and part of it is I am an older, more distracted, more easily exasperated mom now than I was five years ago. In all seriousness, it must be really hard to start to understand you’re a person, and have so much to learn, but have so many handicaps.
My little Prince Hakeem is testing boundaries and trying to find his place in this world. He wants to know just how much power he has, whether I mean what I say, and whether he can do whatever he wants. When Ethan gets an answer he doesn’t like, he simply keeps asking the question over and over, assuming I must have lied the first (32) times I told him he couldn’t have any candy. In fact, in the car the other day he asked me seven times for my soda and 14 times for dessert in a span of five minutes, despite my answer being the same “No” every single time. Imagine wondering at every turn if “no” really meant “no,” or if it meant “maybe” or simply “not now.” He has to figure out these things for himself.
Now more than ever, I have to patiently and consistently deal with his antics so he knows he can trust me and what I say, and also so he can grow into someone who respects authority instead of demands power.
If he wants me to bark like a dog for fun, I’ll probably do it for him. If as soon as I start barking he changes his mind and decides he wants me to make a noise like an orangutan, I might even do that if he asks me nicely. But if he’s screaming about getting exactly what he wants when he wants it, he’s not going to get it because this world is not his kingdom. And he might need to test this truth thousands of times before he believes it.