Mark Fighting the Force, Ottawa, November 2014

“Do you want to come?”


“You don’t want to go to the museum?”


“Are you hungry?”


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 tantrums when he is not happy, and hugs and kisses when he is.”

Well, he still does this, but now we have to deal with a 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 this 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 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, and 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, then 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 it off once we are home. He gets frustrated if he can’t put his gloves or his shoes on by himself, and 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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  1. petite yaye December 9, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    Aujourd’hui c’était le summum chez nous… En ce moment il est un peu malade donc ça ne doit pas arranger les choses… N’en pouvant plus, j’ai décidé de lui confier beaucoup plus de responsabilités, quand je dis beaucoup, c’est beaucoup beaucoup plus !! Il a entre autre coupé les pommes de terre pour la soupe avec un énorme couteau qui coupe. Ben quoi, il lui reste 9 doigts sur 10, c’est pas si mal… Non je rigole !!! Mais je n’en menais pas large quand même… Cela dit ça c’est vraiment très bien passé pendant 1h30, ce qui est énorme dans la vie d’une maman au bout du rouleau… et ça m’a demandé moins d’énergie que de gérer ses non et ses crises de larmes/colères, à la moindre contrariété. Je crois que pour eux tout ce qui arrive est énorme et il ont encore du mal à gérer leurs émotions. “terrible two”, c’est comme ça qu’on dit ? Welcome…. et courage !

    1. Zhu December 10, 2014 at 9:45 pm

      Ah oui, le coup du couteau…! Je lui ai donné un truc en plastique de chez Starbucks qui coupe que dalle 😆 Par contre, il insiste pour mettre les pâtes dans l’eau bouillante et je frémis à chaque fois. Bon, on fait ça d’une manière sécuritaire, bien sûr…

  2. Lynn December 9, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Ah, life with a two-year-old. It all seems so nostalgic and sweet now – now that I’m well past it, that is! 🙂

    1. Zhu December 10, 2014 at 9:46 pm

      I’m sure I will look back at this time fondly… just not tonight 😆

  3. Amy December 10, 2014 at 3:24 am

    Ahahaha so funny. That’s exactly what came to my mind while reading : moms definitely should be entitled a compulsory, publicly funded UN-like negotiating classes by the time our kids turn two years old.

    Mine is about six months older than Mark I think, but also constantly tries to be smarter than us. Strangely enough, I’m not too bothered having to constantly find solutions, most of the time I end up laughing at him.

    It’s really fascinating to enter into a toddler’s mind and scratch your head desperately trying to understand his logic – well, as long as it’s not time to go to daycare, he wants to switch shoes again and you’re already late.

    PS: I loved your hometown last weekend ! unfortunately the weather wasn’t nice I the trip was too short for us to really enjoy it but I fell in love with the city

    1. Zhu December 10, 2014 at 9:48 pm

      I’m glad to hear you enjoyed Nantes despite the crappy weather! Yes, winter in Brittany is very “meh”, damp and windy.

      “Entering into a toddler’s mind”… YES! It’s exactly that! Love the way you put it. Like you, I usually find it rather interesting. It’s a bit like conversing with someone with a very different culture 😆

  4. Lexie December 16, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    La miss veut quelque chose, et quand on lui donne elle dit non. Elle dit non pour le repas, pour le bain, pour le dodo, pour s’asseoir, pour jouer, pour courir, etc etc. Lol. Je trouvais le non difficile jusqu’à ce qu’elle entre dans la phase “c’est moi qui décide”, cad qu’elle fait lorsqu’elle a envie….

    1. Zhu December 16, 2014 at 9:31 pm

      Ah oui, on a ça aussi. “SELF!” oui chéri, je sais que tu veux faire seul, mais là on doit vraiment accélérer un chouia parce que maman elle est fatiguée…

  5. Holly Hollyson December 18, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Oh, but I love the no stage!! I think it is so funny! Maybe not to live with so much though.

    1. Zhu December 18, 2014 at 9:26 pm

      Yeah, it gets annoying but most of the time it’s funny.


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