Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Three Year Olds Are Assholes- The Positive Reframe - By K. Cozzo, School Psychologist

K. Cozzo is a School Psychologist, Aspiring Writer, and temporary SAHM on the brink of insanity due to temporary SAHM status

Saturday morning, a comrade-in-arms (aka fellow parent of a preschooler) sent me the link to the Huff Post Parents blog post entitled ‘”Three-Year-Olds are A**holes.”  My initial reaction was, “Daaamn straight,” and upon reading the entry, I found it to be every bit as hilarious, honest, and accurate as expected.

Truth is, it’s been a long winter on the East Coast, and “snow” is the dirtiest of four-letter words. There’ve been too many weekends where by Sunday night, my house has been trashed and my patience trampled by a crabby little creature literally climbing the walls in a paint-stained purple princess dress, worn over her pajamas, both of which she’s refused to take off since morning.

Tonight, with another day of snow (aka house arrest) looming, I’m weary before it even arrives. But instead of dreading or fearing what lies ahead, I find myself harkening back to my introductory counseling class in grad school. I remember a lesson on the “positive reframe” technique and being given an exercise where we were forced to turn negative adjectives/qualities into positives. So, in the hopes of starting tomorrow with a more optimistic outlook and renewed patience, I’m going to (temporarily) forget that “three-year-olds are a**holes” through the following analysis: Three-Year-Olds – the Positive Reframe.

(I’m pretty confident the following list of tendencies applies to the vast majority of three-year-olds out there, but for the record… yes dear daughter, I’m talking about you.)

Terrible Toddler Tendency #1: You may be dressed like a sweet princess, but you’re a wicked little drama queen. By seven-thirty AM, I’ve lost count of the varied crises that have compelled you to drop to your knees and scream to the heavens in utter despair, disbelief, and/or fury. On this particular morning, the antics were incited by the dumping of your Jelly Belly jelly bean dispenser. You know the one – the Jelly Belly jelly bean dispenser you’ve been told on countless occasions that you’re not allowed to touch. But you didn’t listen, or maybe you just didn’t care, and proceeded to dump approximately 6,482 jelly beans all over the kitchen floor.  The highlight was the subsequent mourning period, during which you wailed “Jelly beans! My jelly beans!” on repeat for a solid twenty minutes. (Interesting side note – while I’m quite certain you could be heard in every house on the circle, somehow, miraculously, your father heard nothing.  A story for a whole ‘nother time.)

Positive Reframe: You are passionate! I should commend you for that. There’s no denying that you care, about big things, and about things as small as, well, jelly beans. I hope you always care. I hope daily occurrences always inspire passion in you, and that you are never reduced to merely going through the motions. It’s good to care, and it’s good to feel. It sure seems to take a lot of energy, all that wailing, but at least no one can ever accuse you of apathy.

Terrible Toddler Tendency #2: Good Lord, you are bossy. I never realized when I had you that I’d committed to several years of indentured servitude. Yet by the time you take your nap, I’ve been “commanded” to fetch you drinks (heaven forbid they’re delivered in the wrong cup), cue up the appropriate princess DVD, pour a refill of breakfast cereal, find baby Teds, your beloved (filthy) teddy bear, refold a blanket that I’d folded improperly, turn up the volume on said princess DVD (because you can’t hear it over your rapid-fire demands), and maybe wipe your bum a few times. While nursing your brother. (Not only are you bossy, you’re usually pretty rude about it, too. Like yesterday, when you were reminded to say “please,” and you informed me that it would be the LAST day you’d be saying “please,” because my constant reminders about it were “annoying.”)

Positive Reframe: You know… I see some natural leadership abilities in you! I’m not too terribly concerned that, being a woman, you’ll have any difficulty scaling the professional ladder. I feel confident in your future at the head of industry, or possibly as the dictator of a small European principality. Tempered, I’m certain your ability to “delegate responsibility” and demand immediate results from “those you manage” will take you quite far in life.

Terrible Toddler Tendency #3: Impatient much? Believe it or not, I am not deaf, and I heard your request to “come HERE!”the first forty times you barked it at me. You don’t need to get louder, or more adamant, or say it forty more times. You seem oblivious of the fact that I have only one pair of hands, and that often times these days they are tending to a person who’s been on this planet less than 75 days. Being that often times I have to wait until late afternoon to even take a shower, I feel I’ve become a shining example of patience myself. It clearly isn’t rubbing off on you.

Positive Reframe: You are eager.  Eager for me to join you at the delicious picnic you’ve assembled using every food item from the 195-piece set (thank you, Uncle Tommy). Eager to have me admire the beauty of the fourteenth picture you’ve just painted in a fervent state. Eager to have me read the Nemo story for the seventh time from the Disney anthology, because you still enjoy it THAT much. Mostly, you are eager to interact with me, to have me share your excitement, beauty, and joy, and to use our imaginations together. And when I phrase it that way, I have to ask… can I really complain?

Terrible Toddler Tendency #4: You’re appallingly argumentative, and you talk back like a surly sixteen-year-old, which, ironically enough, is how old you think you are. You always have an excuse, a reason, a counterpoint, an exception to the rule, which you feel the need to share in a most belligerent manner. You have a total inability to accept “no” as the final answer. You believe your way is the best way, even when it results in the yogurt container spilling all over the coffee table, the paint ruining the princess dress, or the chair falling backward with you narrowly escaping banging your noggin against the wall. No one knows better than you do, and you’re not really going to entertain the idea that they might.

Positive Reframe:  What conviction! How fierce! No man will ever push YOU around. You have a voice, and you’re going to use it. On top of that, you have a tremendous grasp of the English language, and your ability to share your thoughts and feelings is somewhat awesome. I know better than to take this for granted. At my “day job,” I work with children who can’t articulate their words, or lack the receptive or expressive capacity to share experiences with others. No matter how loud, verbose, argumentative, or chatty you are, your power of language should not be taken for granted. I know better.

Terrible Toddler Tendency #5: You are careless. You leave your crap, I mean, priceless treasures, everywhere. You rarely (never) pick them up. You step on your favorite crown and then tantrum because your foot hurts (you refuse socks these days, even in subzero temperatures) and because your favorite crown is now broken. Food is spilled. Food is in your hair. Drinks topple. Puzzle pieces never make it back to their boxes, and now poor Sofia the First will forever be missing one arm. Daddy nearly suffered a black eye during bedtime hugs. To put it bluntly, you’re a hot mess.

Positive Reframe: You are care-less. You float through most days with nary a care, and kudos to you for that. Most days I have too many stressors, anxieties, and items on my perpetual to-do list to keep straight, and the definition of carefree is somewhat lost on me. Thank you for modeling the lost art of care-less-ness. One day, maybe I’ll try to be care-less with you.

Terrible Toddler Tendency #6: You have the short-term memory of a mosquito. I’ve asked you to put your coat on three times now. I’ve reminded you to pick up the Legos seven times. I’ve told you to stop bopping the dog on the head with your inflatable hammer thirty-two times. Yet each and every time, you look up as if you’re hearing the instruction for the very first time… and then promptly go back to forgetting it again.  You’ve passed hearing tests, but somehow, you miss every word I say. Except for “lollipop.”

Positive Reframe: You have the short-term memory of a mosquito. So you never hold a grudge. There have been several times today when you could have viewed mommy as unnecessarily dramatic, bossy, impatient, argumentative, needling, bossy, boring, or even mean. Yet at the end of the day, your attitude toward me has not soured at all. You’re still offering smiles, seeking hugs, and scooting closer to cuddle on the couch. My wrongs do not seem to amass throughout the day, leaving you impatient with me by bedtime. You love me just as much as ever and continue to clamor for my company when I am admittedly a bit eager to take a break from yours. And you know what’s really wonderful about you? It doesn’t take a positive reframe list for you to feel that way. It seems that your heart is set to automatic positive reframe.

So yeah, maybe three-year-olds sometimes act like a**holes.  Maybe sometimes they act dramatic, bossy, impatient, argumentative, careless, and forgetful. But at heart, three-year-olds are passionate, independent-minded, eager, strong-willed, care-less, and most importantly, forgiving.  Because I’m not so perfect either.

With that in mind, it’s time for bed, because I definitely need to rest up. Here’s to a fun-filled snow day with my girl.*

*followed by a glass of Pinot at bedtime

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