Works in Progress

My often hilarious, frequently infuriating but never ever dull Mary Bullock has always been in command of her words.

She started asking “uh-dat?” [what’s that?] incessantly at 12 months and filed away our answers in the vault that is her mind. She didn’t use them all right away, but she has forgotten exactly none of them.

Her first sentence was at nineteen months in the backyard with Lee: Puppeet eat grass. Puppeet is what she used to call Ingle before she started calling him A-noool [which made us laugh like middle schoolers for a long, long time].

That was such a cute age, when she had all these interesting things to say, and we were finally getting to know what was going on in that noggin of hers, after spending so much time just guessing about what she might be thinking, putting words in her mouth. See the doggy? Do you like the doggy? The doggy smells bad doesn’t he? Yes, he does.

But now, well.

Now she does not need words put into her mouth. She’s got enough to say on her own these days. Only it’s not so sweet as Puppeet eat grass.

Last week, for some reason I have already forgotten, she yelled [and she can YELL!]:

YOU! NEVER! LET ME! DO! ANYFING!

and then:

I! AM NOT! YOUR BABY! ANYMORE!

And then she went in her room and slammed the door.

I had visions of my future, let me tell you. In my head, I told her: If you think I don’t let you do anything now, you just wait until you’re sixteen.

But the words that crush me, that really really just crush me, are the words that she turns against me.

YOU! ARE NOT ALLOWED! TO SPEAK! TO ME! THAT! WAY!

THAT! IS NOT! HOW! YOU TREAT ME!

Because she’s heard me say those words to her, and she files them away in the vault, and she trots them back out right when I am being the worst parent I can be, the one who loses her cool and yells about messes and sibling fights and oh who knows what else, there seems to be an endless list of reasons these days.

And what am I going to say? That I’m allowed to yell at her? Of course I’m allowed, but that doesn’t mean I should. Or that just because she’s only three she wouldn’t call BS on that reasoning.

Lately we’ve been talking to Mary Bullock about the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Or: Treat other people the way you would like to be treated.

So when she came back to me with YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SPEAK TO ME THAT WAY! last week, I thought to myself [after I stammered for an appropriate comeback]:

Well, aren’t we just a pair of works in progress?

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