Olive is three, and lately our interactions have had an odd vibe to them, one I couldn’t put my finger on until after an exchange we had yesterday at the library.
First of all, she kicked me out of her bathroom stall. After I’ve been accompanying her into bathroom stalls every time she’s had to go to the bathroom in the entire last year she’s been potty trained.
It wasn’t a delicate process either. There wasn’t any, “Hey, mummy. Thanks for squishing yourself into tiny bathroom stalls with me for the last twelve months to watch me eliminate, help me wipe and prevent me from licking filthy, probably feces-bacteria-laden-surfaces. You’ve taught me so well, in fact, that I think I may just give it a go on my own today.”
No. It was more like this:
Olive enters the bathroom stall.
I go to follow her into the bathroom stall AS I DO.
Olive spins on her heel and looks me up and down.
“Mummy! ” she cries in an affronted tone, ” PRIVACY! ”
And then she shuts the stall door in my face and I hear her actually fumbling with the lock.
The LOCK! To keep me out! Child, I made you!
I tried to take it in stride though and not make a big deal out of it. She came out, we washed our hands, and went back to the library. Done, right?
Wrong. Three-year-olds are never done when what they’re doing is fucking with you.
As we headed to the back corner, which is where the kids section was, she kept turning around to look at me.
Finally, she stopped and she said, “Why are you always following me around everywhere?”
She didn’t say this rudely, I might add, the tone was the same, gentle pitying one you’d use to address a hopelessly lovesick boy in third grade. Sorry buddy, never going to happen.
I stopped in my tracks and started laughing. “Olive! Because I’m your mom, that’s why!”
And then she sighed this exasperated sigh, “You’re not my MOM! You’re my MUMMY!”
She shook her head, chuckled to herself and wandered away. I stood there, thoroughly schooled, and eventually wandered off, dazed, in search of some good fiction.
Olive is a big fan of playing pretend and make-believe. She’s also quite demanding, so when she plays with you, she has very specific ideas about how it’s going to go down, and she’s not going to risk you fucking it up. So, she feeds you your lines. She tells you what to say, you say it, everyone is happy/terrified of her iron rule.
But lately, she’s been messing with me. Playing pretend has turned into a humiliating game of intellectual one-upmanship that I’m somehow losing and frankly, I’ve had enough. I’m no idiot! I’m university educated! I read things! Sometimes even the news! A friend recently asked me what 8 x 7 was and I happily replied “42!” but that’s math, no one’s good at math!
Anyway, this was the situation a few week ago. We were playing one of Olive’s favourite games, “Puppy”.
Olive: Can you say, “Hi Puppy!”
Me: Hi, Puppy!
Olive: Say, “Good dog, puppy!”
Me: Good dog, puppy!
Olive: Can you please say, “Go to bed, Puppy!”
Me: Go to bed, Puppy!
Olive: *visibly upset* But Puppy doesn’t WANT to go to bed!
Me: What? Oh, ok, that’s fine. Don’t worry Puppy, you can stay up a little longer.
Olive: NO! Say “Go to BED, Puppy!”
Me: *confused* Go to…bed? Puppy?
Olive: *Instant rage* PUPPY ISN’T SLEEPY!
Me: What?! Olive, I don’t know what you want! What do you want? I’m only telling Puppy to go to bed because you’re asking me to! Why are you getting so upset? I can’t-
Olive: Say, “Let’s go on a walk, Puppy!”
Me: *still trembling* What? Can I say what?!
Olive: Say. Let’s. Go. On. A. WALK, PUPPY.
Olive:*Skips away, dragging her stuffed Puppy behind her*
Me: *Breaks down into silent sobs, stress eats a veggie hot dog with mustard and an entire wheel of brie*
Pure trolling. If you had any doubts, they can be put to rest now.
I am writing. Olive is drawing. She is talking to me and I’m responding with the sort of bullshit distracted answers employed by mothers everywhere, loathed by children everywhere.
Olive: I drew an ice cream cone!
Me: You did?
Olive: Look at my ice cream cone!
Me: That’s gorgeous! It’s a great ice cream cone.
Olive: It sure looks yummy.
Me: Mmhmm… (then, feeling a bit dickish for ignoring her and I don’t know, trying to actually get some work done, I try to engage) What kind of ice cream is it? Chocolate? Vanilla? Or your favourite, strawberry?
Olive: *blank look*
Olive: *Speaking slowly in a patient, if slightly patronizing, tone* Mummy, this isn’t a real ice cream cone. It’s just a drawing. It’s not chocolate or vanilla or strawberry. It’s paper.
Me: *unintelligble tirade of internal swearing*
I mean, this is some next level bullshit. I had dreams once, Olive.
I. Had. DREAMS.