Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Read my mind or I will become ANGRY

Lately Elli has picked up a new and very troubling habit.  In lieu of speech she simply points at something and expects us to figure everything else out on our own.  For example this morning she was utterly refusing to get out of bed and throwing a tantrum.  I tried very hard to pry out of her what was wrong and after five minutes of wrangling she finally pointed into the living room.  This was not especially useful as I couldn't fathom what the living room had to do with her mood.  After another minute she said 'sofa'.  Again I was flummoxed and asked her repeatedly to use words because I could not interpret pointing at the sofa.  Finally she said 'Hobo' and a light went on - she was angry that Hobo was no longer sleeping on our sofa and had headed back home in the far East.  Her friend had abandoned her!

If it were only a one off incident I would just drink half a bottle of Jack Daniels and go on with my day but it has become a constant occurrence.  Oftentimes she isn't even willing to point with her hands but will gesture vaguely with her feet and become enraged when waggling her foot around randomly doesn't lead us to understand her problem exactly.  She is clearly falling prey to the fallacy that if somebody cares about you they must be able to determine exactly what is angering you and therefore people who don't instantly divine your problems must hate you.  In a child this is an incredibly frustrating problem but what really concerns me is that it might continue on into adulthood.  The assumption that anyone who really cares should just *know* what you are thinking is not just wrong but incredibly destructive.  I learned that lesson in a relationship a long time ago and I do not want that sort of misery for her.

Unfortunately I don't know if this is the sort of thing that can be taught.  Parents have a lot less influence than they think they do it turns out and even if I had a lot of influence I don't know that I could usefully impart the lesson that assuming that people around you are selective mind readers is an incredibly stupid thing to do.  (Clearly parents can influence their kids destructively but given that you aren't going to be neglecting or abusing them you can't actually do all that much, it turns out.)  I guess that is one of the harder parts of being a parent - not just watching kids make mistakes but worrying that they are going to make precisely the same mistakes you did and knowing that there is nothing you can do to prevent that sorrow.


  1. Don't you wish you could just impart all of your wisdom and they could go on from there? Oh, the progress! The speed of change.

    But, no. They have to learn it all for themselves.

    I think she's trying to control you and make you feel the emotions she's feeling, which validates her feelings. No helpful advice here. Hope it improves soon.

  2. If she's like me, it won't improve soon. Sorry.

  3. Maybe I'm crazy, given that I'm not a parent, but by trying to figure out what Elli's trying to communicate, isn't it a fun game? And given that you eventually succeed, aren't there no down-sides to playing this fun game?

    Assuming that the above isn't crazy..
    Is the plan of "Well, Elli, since you're not using your words, I assume that (nothing is wrong)/(you mean X)" reasonable? Basically, interpret events however you want to, and pretend that interpretation is reality until she decides to clearly communicate differently?

    I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm probably crazy. I'm pretty sure that not having children means I don't understand raising them at all.

  4. You aren't crazy, but you aren't seeing the whole picture either. Imagine you are sitting on the couch relaxing and your small child decides to do this sort of thing. No problem - you play the game.

    Now imagine that the child, every time you don't guess what is wrong correctly, screams and insults you. Now further imagine you need to get them out the door in the next few minutes and they have not eaten and they flat out will not work towards those goals. Continue imagining that if they don't eat they will be miserable for the whole day. So now you are playing a game where you have no control over victory, the stakes are reasonably high, and the person you are playing it with is being a screaming, irrational lunatic.

    This is parenting in a nutshell. Doing things right is easy when you are well rested, everyone is calm, and have nothing pressing to do. The hard part is maintaining composure and doing things when you are under severe time pressure, are exhausted, and have other things you really need to be doing. Combine that with the stress of a loved one trying to hit you, calling you unpleasant names, or just screaming that they hate you. Your brain literally cannot function when your own child is freaking out like that. This is fundamentally why non parents find it hard to imagine why parents complain I think - until you are in that state of mind it is hard to comprehend.

  5. "the person you are playing it with is being a screaming, irrational lunatic."

    That has to be my new favourite line to sum up parenting.


  6. Ya, that's my impression as to why I don't understand raising kids - it's hard to imagine that state of mind properly. Thanks for the vivid picture - it helps - Honestly, I feel like I'd respond by shutting down? Or I'd have to try to detach my emotion/ignore the backlash? I feel like this means that deciding what to do in advance is pretty important? And then trying to stick to it while my brain is shutting down. Parenting seems hard.

    Oh, and the above ("No downsides to playing the game") - was from Elli's perspective - Obviously, you would rather not be playing it, and for good reasons - I'm just guessing as to why Elli is being vague/theorizing that if you don't play the game, it won't be fun for her? Seems like it makes things a lot worse in the short term, though.

  7. I can only imagine how frustrating it is to play this game when: 1) you thought you had finished playing it a long time ago; and 2) this time rather than sharing in their frustration at their inability to express themselves, you know full well that they could just tell you what they want.