I have a problem. I find toddler despair to be funny.
Not true despair.* I’m talking about the kind of despair that comes when they really really really want something and they can’t have it.
Ryan’s favorite toy right now is an old plastic storage bowl with a lid. He loves to fill it with things, screw the lid on, walk around with it, and then hand it to me to unscrew the lid. It brings him a lot of joy.
He did this all weekend and it was all fun and games until he decided that it would also be fun to bang it on the wall over and over and over. And I when told him to stop, he looked me straight in the eye and bang-bang-bang. So Mike said, “That’s enough, I’m taking this away for a few minutes. You cannot bang your toys on the wall” and took the bowl away.
And poor Ryan cried out in such utter sadness and desperation like I’d never heard before. And he put his head in his hands and bent halfway over from the pain and anger and frustration of losing rights to play with the coolest toy that ever was.
And I chuckled.
I tried really hard not to. Because I know I send mixed messages when I laugh at certain behaviors when I’m supposed to be all “I know this is frustrating, Ryan, but we don’t bang toys on the wall, blah blah blah.” But it was physical display of such immense emotion over an everyday annoyance that you never witness in adult society, yet they were feelings we can all totally relate to.
It once took me hours to get to work because I came upon not one, not two, but three different car accidents on the freeway. By the time I saw that third accident coming up, you better believe I wanted to stand up, put my head in my hands, bend forward and yell out “AAAAAHHHHHH!”
And then there’s the time Mike and I took turns arguing on the phone with a computer company in an hour-long cyclical debate over a warranty with a “customer service” representative who was clearly reading from a script and did not understand how illogical his responses were. “AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!”
I know that part of our job as parents is to teach him what is a socially acceptable emotional response and what is not. And this clearly was not. And eventually he’ll learn that (I hope). But it was also sort of … refreshing. To see such an over-the-top reaction to the little injustices of the world… it was so very honest.
I really should try not to laugh next time, though.
*Sheesh, I’m not a totally heinous person.