“You know she can do that herself, right?” Mark said after Freya handed me her zipped bag of Frozen figures to open.
“No, she can’t,” I said confidently, shaking my head in a sort of “as if I’d open and close this for her at least three times a day when she could do it herself” kind of way.
Mark took the bag and handed it back to Freya.
“Show mum how you can open it,” he said.
Frankly I thought this was mean. Why put so much pressure on her, she’s just a tiny baby, there is no way she can…oh, wait, she did it. Easily.
She looked triumphant.
He looked smug.
I looked thoughtful.
How many other things that I just do for her can she actually do for herself? And if she can do them, is the reason she’s getting me to do them because she’s lazy, clever or because she can see that I’m not taking this whole growing up thing all that well and she’s humouring me?
Over the next few days, I tried a few simple tests:
Getting her own coat from the hook. Check.
Taking her shoes off. Check.
Walking down two flights of stairs on her own (watched closely). Check.
Actually pedalling her trike rather than me pushing it along. Check.
Getting the Play Doh out of the pot (something I struggle with). Check.
While I really don’t mind doing stuff for her, I felt like the correct parenting action after this mini-revelation was to encourage her to do more of them for herself but, as a result, a new phrase has entered our house.
The dreaded: “I caaaaaaan’t”
The first time she said it made me a bit sad. Surely, at 2 3/4 she should believe she can do anything?
The second and third times I launched into an empowering speech about how she can do whatever she sets her mind too. I even said: “The only thing holding you back is yourself!” She’s two, Tara! Don’t worry, I rolled my eyes at myself.
The fourth time I realised my gradual transformation into my mum was complete.
“There’s no such word as can’t,” I parroted the phrase from my youth, as if I hadn’t said it myself only a few days earlier.
What I wasn’t expecting – and what left me momentarily speechless – was her reply: “I cannot do it.”
Wait. What? Did she just say that? Now I know this was a fluke and don’t for one minute think she really understands but I was flummoxed.
“That’s not what I meant,” I stuttered. “Can’t is a word but we say it’s not because…” I felt like I was digging myself a hole here and Freya was looking at me like I was speaking French.”Because….because… I want you to do things yourself, like a big girl.”
She paused for a second, held out the pot she wanted me to open and, with just the hint of a smile, said: “I can’t”.
Outwitted by a toddler…again.
How do you deal with I caaaan’t? Tips welcome.