Every Friday my 4-year-old daughter Margaux brings home a little bag of bread that she made that day at school. The bag is covered in scribbles and has her name on it, so it’s very important to her, sort of like the preschool version of a Louis Vuitton. Last week, she held up her bread bag and said, “I want to save this and bring it back to school for next Friday.”
“Great you want to recycle it,” I replied.
“No! I want to bring it back and use it again.”
“Yes,” I told her. “That’s called recycling.”
“No! You don’t know what you’re talking about it,” she insisted. “It’s not recycling. It’s using it again.”
Then we both started to cry. She cried because she said I was frustrating her. I cried because I was trying to rationalize with a 4-year-old about the semantics of reusing a tiny white bag.
I finally said, “You’re right,” and then promised Margaux I’d buy her a pony or a unicorn if she’d just…stop.
If you’ve been around a 4-year-old, or really any child, you know that sometimes it’s better to just agree than not. We Moms don’t always have to be right. Sometimes we choose to surrender and let our children think they’re right, even when they’re not. That’s because children are allergic to being wrong. And they are experts on everything (regardless of how old they are), which means we’re an expert in absolutely nothing. This makes children frustrated.
Margaux and her 7-year-old brother have been using the word frustrated a lot. They always look my way when using it, as if it’s a secret code that I haven’t yet figured out. Truth be told, there are a lot of ways I frustrate my children, even beyond the recycle debate. It’s not intentional, I swear. I just can’t seem to help myself. Here are a few of my top offenses:
I don’t take what their classmates say as gospel. My children both have a gift for hearing only half of what someone is saying. This leads to a lot of half-truths coming home from school by way of one of my kids repeating a story he or she swears is true, from aliens living on Earth to boys not being able to wear pink.
I know the correct definitions of words. But, defining words with children is like playing a game of Telephone with someone who can’t hear and doesn’t know how to play.
I don’t always buy two of everything. I try to keep things fair for my kids, but I don’t believe everything they do, see, and eat has to be equal. So while I try to buy two of special things, I do occasionally forget. This is a great source of frustration to my kids, even if they get something different that’s equal or better.
I don’t always know what “that” is. My kids have a special gift for being vague. Yet they expect me to understand exactly what they are asking about, pointing to, or trying to remember just by the description of “that.” Even when I tell Margaux I’m not sure what she means by “that”, she’ll tell me I do. That’s when we both get frustrated.
I’m not psychic. Both of my kids love to ask me questions while driving in the car, but they usually reserve their questions for information about total strangers. “Why is that car going that way?” one might ask. “Where is that car going?” is another favorite. They’ll take any answer as long as it’s not, “I have no idea. I’ve never met them.”
I forget things. I can barely remember all the things on my own to-do list, but my kids expect me to remember all the things on theirs. Personally, I feel great if I remember to pick up both kids and if I remember to feed them, but they seem disappointed and frustrated when I can’t remember the book or project they were supposed to bring to school even if I didn’t know about it.
I don’t have mom G.P.S. From shoes to library books, it’s assumed that I telepathically know where everything is. I don’t. My kids find this incredibly frustrating. They clearly assume moms have special powers of retrieval.
Even though my kids would tell you I’m the world’s most frustrating person, I know I’m not. My kids will find that out someday when they’re grown up and listening to their own kids tell them the meaning of the word recycle. Talk about frustrating!