The odds are stacked against the house. It’s one of the shortest words, ‘n’ is one of the easiest letters, and we’ve been saying it since Ian started crawling. So should I be suprised when Ian tells me ‘no’?
The answer, invariably, is no.
Actually, this is not a new development. ‘No’ is a very easy to word to say, and, from birth, things happen to us that we don’t like or want. So it’s not surprising that Ian learned to say ‘no’, rather than clamping his mouth shut and being coated in puréed peas.
At first, ‘no’ is simply a statement of preference. ‘Father, I’d really rather not be a part of this.’ But, on the whole, parents don’t much care. We know what’s best, and we understand the consequences of an unchanged diaper or playing with Mama’s pinking shears. Children live in the present, parents live in the future.
But now we’re entering into more sinister territory. Ian has begun to grasp the concept of consequences, and he doesn’t really see the harm in staying upstairs. Because there isn’t any; I simply want my son downstairs, and what Daddy wants isn’t quite cutting it for Ian. ‘Son, I’d really rather you not be a part of this.’ Well, Dad, I don’t much care.
I can see his point. His room is upstairs, and some toys, and sometimes the cats. We have a neat old house with creaking wood floors, strange hallways, and ill-fitting doors. Why should he want to come downstairs when he’s perfectly fine, having fun, and just because Daddy says so? Honestly, being a kid stinks. You can’t do anything! And here’s this guy telling my son – yet again – that Ian has to drop everything, and do what he wants. And Ian is tired of it.
Preference has now become defiance, and all of that frustration and angst is packed into the one word which we both know we both completey understand: no.
And whooo, boy. Does it set me off. Ian narrows his eyes, furrows his brow, and says ‘No!’ in that sharp tone which brooks no discussion. The same tone Kelly and I have used, again and again, with wonderful results. Ian knows full well what this tone is supposed to do.
Ah, but parents are not so easily manipulated.
I fold my arms, look up at my son over the top of my glasses, and in a tone that trumps all others I say, ‘Excuse me?’
Ian pauses, the scowl wiped from his face, and puts his hand on the stair railing. ‘No?’
I say nothing, just look. Ian starts to walk down the stairs, and says, ‘I don’t know!’, as if I’d asked him where he put his shoes, or where Mommy is. He puts an emphasis on ‘know’, as if that’s what he had been saying all along and I’d simply misheard.
I love this job.