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Mark Fighting the Force, Ottawa, November 2014
Mark Fighting the Force, Ottawa, November 2014

“Do you want to come?”

“No.”

“You don’t want to go to the museum?”

“No.”

“Are you hungry?”

“No.”

This isn’t a blog time machine, you haven’t jumped into the future and lost twelve years, Mark isn’t a moody teenager yet—just a toddler who entered the “no phase.”

Everyone had told me one of the two-year milestones was the “no” stage. “Not for Mark,” I had shrugged. “He doesn’t really say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, he just throws tantrum when he is not happy, and hugs and kisses when he is.”

Well, he still does this, but now we have to deal with firm, clear and loud “no”. I learned not to ask open or rhetorical questions around strangers, otherwise it can get awkward. “Mark, do you want to say ‘hi’?” “no.” “Isn’t his pretty?” “No.”

Toddlers don’t really do “white lies”.

Strangely enough, the “no stage” doesn’t annoy me (yet), I just ignore him and proceed as usual, much like if I were a political leader—“I heard you” doesn’t mean “sure, I’ll do it your way”. Well, okay, I do listen when he claims he isn’t hungry because opening a yogurt if he doesn’t eat it does piss me off. But the rest of the time, I shrug and I just say “oh well, I hope you’ll change your mind.”

I’m also considering registering us for a model UN activity since he is developing his negotiating skills and I have to sharpen mine. For instance, the other day, I had to cut his nails. Singing a song while doing it wasn’t working anymore—“it hurts!” he claimed, holding his index finger. “Okay, how about I cut all the nails but the one that hurts? So that, ta-da, no hurt!”

It worked. Okay, sooner or later I will have to cut this nail, but meanwhile, 9/10 isn’t bad.

I had him sandwich pieces of carrots between crackers, I had him trade his pacifier for an apple, I had him put a hat on as long as it’s my hat…

It’s freaking exhausting, but if I force Mark into doing something, he starts crying and then I have to comfort him… and it’s even more exhausting.

It doesn’t help that Mark is as emotional as a reality TV “star” when the cameras are rolling—he goes from laughter to tears in less than a second. He laughs when I let him shake some salt on his eggs, than cries when I take the salt away before he empties the pot. He puts his heart into building a super high tower with his Duplo blocks, then wails when it falls. He happily puts his hat on (“bbrrrrr… cold!”) but sobs when I take if off once we are home. He gets frustrated if he can’t put his gloves or his shoes on by himself, he is upset if we forget to let him press a button or turn on the lights…

Yes, living with a toddler isn’t easy. Mark can be amazingly strong-willed and he knows what he wants.

The other day, we took him to Toy’R’Us to check out the toys. There were several basketball hoops on display, beside a mountain of soft plastic balls. I could see it coming… Mark throwing the balls, losing them under shelves, me running after them in the aisles, etc., so I resorted to a basic nonsensical mommy lie: “sorry, Mark, the balls are sleeping. Yes, dodo.”

He shrugged, clearly disappointed but understanding.

Yes, fortunately, toddlers don’t question logic too much.

Half an hour later, we were across the store, in a different section, when I saw Mark picking up something and walking away, a determined look on his face. I decided to follow him.

He turned left and right around aisles, Christmas displays and people—this is a huge Toy’R’Us, not your mom and pop store—and found his way back to the basketball hoops. Yes, you guessed it, he had found a loose ball that “wasn’t sleeping”.

“You win, buddy,” I said, amazed that he was able to find the hoop among the thousands of other toys. I let him play for a while.

Then he cried when we had to leave… of course.

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