She was the happiest child I’d known. I’d read all these articles online about babies that cry all the time or crying babies driving people nuts – parents and others in public places like flights, trains, alike. Mine was not anything like that. She was always happy. Everyone said she was such a happy child. Those days my biggest worry was whether, as parents, we would be able to keep that alive. “How do we make sure we keep her happy spirit and not destroy it as we groom her to fit into the society?”, I used to wonder.
Life just happened and before we knew it, she was a threenager. We went through a phase where all she ever did was cry. If she wanted something, she cried. If she did not want something, she cried. If we tried to talk to her, she cried. It felt like her mode of communication was crying. The only problem being, it would’ve been easier to understand crying as a language when she was an infant with very few needs but as a toddler, her wants were numerous. Also, as her parents, we had moved on from being able to understand the different tones of crying as a language and wanted words. If we could get sentences, even better!
As she moves on from being a threenager, her language consists of a mix of whining, words and weeping. I might have even spent a few minutes a couple of weeks ago wondering if we were failing as parents. Earlier this week, she was waiting for me to brush her hair in the morning. As I stood before the mirror brushing my own hair, she stood before the mirror making faces. Suddenly, I heard her crying but when I looked at her, she wasn’t even addressing me. She was practising in front of the mirror to cry and at the same time say, “I want to wear the pink ballerina”, while scrunching up her face! She was trying out different ways of crying and facial expressions. I froze for a moment, stopping myself just in time from saying “But we already decided you will wear this other dress”. Before I could stop myself, I laughed out loud. She looked at me and grinned. I think she was trying to pull the crying and ballerina demand on me but she couldn’t help herself while I was laughing with incredulity
The child has been manipulating us all along. I wonder how long she has been at it. Was it from the start or did she figure out somewhere along the way, during the crying phase, that she could twist us around her little fingers with the right amount of screaming and tears? I mean, it explains those times when she sounds really distressed, with tears running down her face and the crying stops as soon as she gets a hug or something she wants. I’ve known her to pause for the briefest of moments while deciding whether to cry or not, on occasion but has it been an act all along?
On a positive note, I can now feel less guilty about failing as a parent and blame the manipulative streak that humans seem to be born with, for most of the tears around the house. Now I know how to deal with her the next time there is an episode of ‘I am so sad you are doing this to me’. I feel armed and ready. So much for feeling proud of my own negotiation skills when I try to manipulate her into wearing clothes other than the ‘blue Elsa dress’, ‘pink ballerina’ and ‘peach ballerina’. She probably just played along or accepted a failure in her game, for the moment. One step up the parenting ladder.