This morning, my girls were discussing the cookie-making we’re going to do this afternoon. Dulce wants to make chocolate chip cookies. Natalina wants to make sprinkled cookies.
We’re making peanut butter cookies…because I’m the mom and I don’t care what you want, particularly when you want different things, and you are looking forward to yelling about that.
During the course of their lengthy discussion on the merits and faults of all kinds of cookies that we are not making, Dulce had a wonderful idea.
“I know!” she said. “We can put chocolate chips and sprinkles on the peanut butter cookies!”
Indeed we can. Problem solved. Or is it?
I took Dulce to mean that we could put chocolate chips on the cookies she made, and put sprinkles on the cookies Lilly made. Mine, of course, would have sugar on them…mostly because I’m boring.
“Great idea, Dulce!” I replied. “We can do that.”
Cue a shriek from Natalina.
There were two problems with this solution as far as she was concerned. The first was that Dulce had thought of it instead of her.
This is not just a childhood problem. How often are we held back in life because someone else came up with a glorious idea we wished we had had? How often, when we hear that person praised for their insight do we bristle, shutting ourselves off from cooperating in something we would have otherwise stood behind? Remember, when someone else does well, it does not mean that we are doing badly.
I have to remind my kids of this all the time. One of us will say to one of them, “Oh, you’re so clever!” Or “Oh, you’re so funny!”
And my other child, having no filter or subtlety, will say this: “You don’t think I’m funny / clever!”
Which obviously isn’t true. A good reflection on someone else is not a bad reflection on you.
Sometimes, they’ll take it even further.
“You don’t love me.“
It seems overly dramatic, but it captures a true feeling that we all have, an easy step from the first notion. So that if we first think, “Someone did well, that means I did poorly.” We then go to, “I’m not worthy of being praised because I’ve done poorly.” Which can easily turn into, “I’m not worthy of love.”
Again, huge over-simplification, but this is real, in subtler form.
Of course, I always correct my child, saying that she is also funny and clever and of course I love her. The child who received the praise at that particular moment had done something specific that I was praising. What she did. Not what she is.
The second reason Natalina was upset about these cookies was that she didn’t want to ruin her sprinkle peanut butter cookies by putting chocolate chips on them.
A simple misunderstanding that elevated into madness because my four year old is too young to take a second to think about what has actually been said versus what she perceived.
This also happens in the adult world quite frequently. My husband laughs at me, saying I have the worst hearing in the world (I, on the other hand, would argue that he’s a mumbler), and I’ll often mishear things he’s said, and repeat ridiculous notions back to him.
“It’s a nice, clear night out tonight.”
“Why would a deer need light out at night?”
He’ll laugh and say, “Yes, that’s exactly what I said. Take the thing that would make the least amount of sense, and go ahead and try to make it work.”
That’s a benign and ridiculous example of something that’s much more pervasive in real life. Mainly, that what you hear is most likely not what the other person said.
And if you hear something completely obnoxious, better to question it first, to be sure you are gleaning the right meaning from the speaker, instead of immediately going on the attack. They could be saying something you want to hear, and you’ve simply missed it through the haze of your own distractions.
Clarify before getting angry. Otherwise, we’re all just toddlers throwing tantrums about chocolate chips, when we could have had our sprinkles without the tears.
Communication is so important. We think that because we learned to talk we automatically communicate effectively, but that’s not necessarily the case.
I’ll try to teach myself what I’m teaching my kids. Be patient, really listen, compromise, use words, speak, be heard, understand, have faith in yourself, take joy in others’ accomplishments.
They are all tied together, no matter how much we’d like to tackle them separately.