Recently a friend was outraged over a video that was shared in a local Facebook group. It featured an exasperated mom ranting about her asshole, bully kids. At one point she looks off camera and bellows, ““Why are you crying? Why are you crying? You don’t even know why you’re crying, so stop doing this shit to me, please.”
I found this language fascinating, that the act of her child expressing emotions was something being done to her. It was personal, and it was about the mom. Certainly it’s difficult not to take some meltdowns personally, but if we are willing to gain a little perspective we can usually acknowledge that our children don’t emote at us. They don’t cry to spite us or make us miserable. It’s not part of a toddler conspiracy to test the brinks of parental sanity.
Assuming that our children’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions are about us is a dangerous path to tread. When we lack emotional boundaries, we run the risk of projecting all sorts of neuroses of which our children never agreed to be the receptacle.
Who’s the Real Bully?
The justification of many parents for engaging in this type of humor is that they would never actually say these things to their children’s faces. It’s harmless to vent their frustration to friends, and what’s wrong with using a little humor to lighten dark moments?
I understand these arguments, but I don’t agree with them. Talk this way about one friend to another and you’re gossiping. Vent this way about a spouse and they would likely perceive it as a betrayal. Children are smaller, but they aren’t any less human than the rest of us. In fact, they have less power and are more at our mercy than anyone else in our lives. Truth be told, two year olds aren’t bullies, we are if we choose to pick on someone smaller and less empowered than ourselves.
I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking negative thoughts about my son, and I felt confident that if I didn’t share them with him, he would never know. Except that he did. Because when I became inwardly infuriated by his meltdowns to the point of name calling in my head, it began to show in my body language and my tone of voice. And it’s a short jaunt from tone of voice to using the words we swore were reserved only for complaining to our friends.
You’ll never see me taking a picture of my son crying over the fact that I peeled his banana wrong, and at the next mama happy hour you won’t find me complaining about my “little sh*t.” This isn’t because I think I’m somehow better than the parents who do. It’s because I know that my thoughts inform my actions, and the longer I see my son as something worthy of mockery, the less I will see him as a small human struggling to make sense of a big world.