The dreaded: “I caaaan’t” enters our house.

“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.

Oh.

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”.

Argh!

Outwitted by a toddler…again.

How do you deal with I caaaan’t? Tips welcome.

 

Little Hearts, Big Love
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19 thoughts on “The dreaded: “I caaaan’t” enters our house.

    1. Hah! Thankfully I think this was a fluke but I don’t think it will be too long. I bet you have loads of great ways of dealing with it. She probably needs someone not as clueless 🙂

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      1. I’m not sure that I do have better ways than ‘no such word’! I’m sure if I was a mother I’d be doing things for them just like you. In class I just demonstrate then expect them to get on with it whilst I monitor from a distance, ready to step in if needed. I do have the benefit of teaching slightly older children though and in general most teachers say things such as ‘I’m not your mother/ I’m not doing it for you/ things won’t magically appear in front of you, this is why we have legs’ etc!
        Goodness, I sound so sarcastic and mean writing it down but seriously, they would just sit there if we let them. I love them all really!

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      2. I actually said the other day: “What’s wrong with your legs?” when she asked me to get her drink which was in front of her. Completely lost on her though as she looked down at them and gave them a pat 😀

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  1. Haha you’ve made me laugh. Aren’t they little tikes! That “cannot” would have caught me off guard too.

    I was in the living room on Sunday and asked Alex if he wanted his banana which was closest to him I might add. Yet I reached over and handed it to him!? He also stands beside things saying “X mama” but I’ve started saying “Ada can do it”. I realised on Sunday that our toddlers are the slave masters and we are their slaves (if and when we don’t stand up for ourselves)!

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    1. Hehe, I’m glad it’s not just me that does it! It didn’t even occur to me that she could open it. Mark says she’s been doing it for at least a month. Cheeky monkey 🙂

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  2. Oh wow – that might have been a fluke but it was a very impressive one and would have completely taken the wind out of my sails too. Well done Freya – and it certainly sounds like she’s got you wrapped right around her finger! Thanks for linking up to #ftmob 🙂

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  3. This brings two things to mind Tara. First, of course we are trying to teach our children the skills to be independent, and it sounds like you are doing a good job. But is there any harm in doing things for her? I would argue that as they start to gain independence it is a scary prospect for them and they need the reassurance that you are still there and will still help them if they need. I’m all for not babying a child, but helping is another thing. And secondly, when she says ‘I can’t’ then you have a couple of alternative approaches. Either getting her to tell you what to do i.e. giving instructions to you, or giving her an alternative task while you do what she wants. That way you are helping her but she is not passive in the situation. Hope that’s helpful rather than anything else! Xx

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    1. Actually really helpful advice, Alice, thank you. I’ve been taking that route with the unzipping of things, which she can clearly do herself. I’ve still been doing it but getting her to explain how I should do it (and then she often takes over herself anyway). I’d be happy to carry on doing everything for her, probably forever 😀

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  4. Have no parenting advice but this is hilarious! And uncomfortably close to home for anyone with a mother I bet…

    Still pretend that I can’t do things so that my Mum will do them and am 37, so I guess it just goes on forever?xxx

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  5. I have just realised that I had not actually left a comment on this post despite having gotten my friend at work to read it! She has a little one who is three in July and has just discovered the same thing about being able to do things for herself but just doesn’t when her mum is there, she is very clever too ha! x

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