Toddlers are just miniature scientists and everything is an experiment attempting to determine the outcome of a certain action.
This is the theory that keeps my reactions to Wolfy reasoned, rather than reactionary. I think whoever came up with it must be a genius. But wasn’t it also scientists who discovered LSD? Perhaps toddlers are more in the vein of these sorts of experimenters. What I mean is that toddlers are not living in quite the same reality as everyone else. Their reality looks and smells like our reality but it is slightly off.
Wolfy believes that the dog can “give it back” when she steals his crackers. He thinks that our cat understands him the same way that his father and I do, like that he can make complex demands of her and then expect that she’ll do what he says. Wolfy’s idea of an experiment is to poke Mommy in the eye and see what she does. Then poke Mommy’s eye when she is sleeping and see what she does. And finally to poke Mommy in the eye right after you kiss her and see what she does. Is the outcome always the same? Okay. Great. We’re getting somewhere. None of these pokes are done out of aggression. They are purely a manifestation of Wolfy’s curiosity. But a nice jab of curiosity when you least expect it doesn’t always feel good.
I love the scientist analogy. It provides some rationalization to the chaos of raising a tiny human.
But there’s one part of this idea that I don’t like. I don’t like being the lab rat. There’s something within the toddler-as-scientist that implies, I must always, always, always respond in a consistent way. There is no room for real human emotion or error. There is no room to lose my composure when he pokes me, even if it’s to wake me up out of a dead sleep. And if I was to yell or react in a way that wasn’t measured and careful, then not only am I failing the experiment, I’ve also permanently damaged the scientist. And what is this whole complex relationship between parent and child, if it does not have room for genuine reactions that are as unpredictable as our children are themselves?
Last night, Wolfy yanked on my nose. “Ouch!” I said, “Why did you do that?”
“I was trying to pull it off,” Wolfy answered, his face completely serious. Then he tried it on his own nose. At least we got one thing established. Noses are parts of faces and they don’t come off. Not my face, not Wolfy’s face.