Making a fuss

I don’t know about your two year old, but my two year old makes fusses. Ridiculous fusses. Here are some recent triggers for major upsets:

  • A friend left Tiny Town without saying goodbye.
  • I turned the dishwasher on without inviting him to push the button.
  • Another child picked up his hat and gave it to him when he dropped it (he wanted to pick it up himself).
  • The iceblock broke in half.
  • Someone else flushed the toilet when he wanted to do it himself.
  • I told him he wasn’t allowed to sniff people’s bottoms because other people don’t like it and we need to respect everyone’s boundaries over their own bodies.
  • The baby was on my knee when he wanted to be on my knee and for the baby to be on the floor.
  • His dad waved goodbye from outside but he wasn’t right up next to the window.

And each time, the fuss is… hilarious. It’s so hard not to laugh at the disproportionate response. Screaming, hysterical, because another kid picked his hat up and handed it to him in an obviously helpful way?! Oh, come on!

The knee-jerk response, other than laughing, is to tell him not to fuss.

But then.

I’ve been seeing a lot of people immediately try and damp down concerns over Donald Trump’s election, minimising the risks of a registry of Muslim citizens and other travesties.

Don’t make a fuss.

And we just had earthquakes, and several buildings are cordoned off, and there is discussion about whether to red-zone the CBD and do more checks, and some people want life to go back to normal straight away, but the advice from Geonet is that there is a 93% likelihood of another quake between 6 and 6.9 in the next month. Today we got the camping stoves out to assemble our quake supplies in one place, and I was talking to my husband about this and he said maybe I was fussing a little bit.

Don’t make a fuss.

And also my 11 year old nephew had a scary encounter with stranger in a van on his way home from the park last week, but he sprinted away and the van stopped following him. The following day, there was this news item (worst nightmare scenario for any parent). The timing doesn’t seem right for it to be the same guy, but the van sounds similar and it was in a same part of town. There is the terrifying possibility that it was the same man, and the other young boy was in the van when the driver approached my nephew. The guy hasn’t been apprehended yet.

On Wednesday I lost it at an unfortunate phone operator who was not to blame for the incompetence of her organisation or the BLOODY HOUR I’d been on hold. I apologised at the end of my rant, and felt so silly and sheepish, and awful for the person on the receiving end who was just the lightening rod for a whole lot of unrelated stress about constant aftershocks, and totally shouldn’t have to deal with irate customers raving about abysmal customer service while their kids yell in the background. Sigh. The little dude was aghast “no gwumpy talking on da phone Mummy! I not yike it when you do dat gwumpy talking!”

So I explained to him that even grown-ups get frustrated sometimes, but that mummy had an over-reaction, and shouldn’t have been grumpy at the person on the phone, that wasn’t very considerate or thoughtful. I thought about it in relation to him making a fuss about things, and felt a bit more empathetic to those little tizzies.

While, also, pondering the message we send in saying “don’t make a fuss”.

What we mean, is don’t make a fuss at people who don’t deserve it. Don’t make a fuss about inconsequential things. Don’t be like Mummy was on the phone last week. Don’t blow off steam in unproductive and harmful ways.

But what we say is – don’t make a fuss. Several times a day I’ve been saying “no need to fuss”, or “calm down”. And I’m thinking, maybe it’s the wrong thing to say. Maybe it’s a missed opportunity to teach him to think carefully about his reactions. Because sometimes, he should make a fuss. I don’t want to inadvertently tell him to ignore his internal warning signals that things are going wrong – one day, he might need them.

Here are some things I will try and remember to say instead:

  • Use your words to tell Mummy what’s wrong.
  • I understand why you’re upset, that’s really frustrating/disappointing.
  • Next time we’ll try and remember to do it the way you prefer.
  • Is this something we should try and fix? How could we do that?
  • Would a cuddle help you feel better?
  • Is part of this reaction because you’re hungry/thirsty/too hot/tired/need quiet time?
  • I know it’s hard, but I think this is a time when we need to practice being patient.




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