I was lucky enough to spend some time with my favorite little person this weekend. (That makes it sound like I have a preferred adult who is height-challenged, like the Wizard of Oz munchkins, and we hang out. Sorry. Poorly phrased.) The Nephew has recently turned two, and although we’ve all heard horror stories about “The TERRIBLE TWOS,” I don’t think he’s in the least bit terrible. What he is is opinionated.
The Nephew knows what he likes and what he doesn’t. If he likes something, he wants that. Now. And he’s not to be dissuaded from it unless he finds something else he likes better. If he doesn’t like something, he’s equally passionate about that. How he lets you know he doesn’t like whatever the thing is?
“NO,” I don’t want to read the book about Buzz Lightyear, I want to read the book about Lightning McQueen.
“NO,” I don’t want my juice at this moment.
“NO,” I don’t want to play on the swing, I want to go down the slide.
Sometimes he elaborates; you also get a “No no no,” a “No don’t DO that,” and, my favorite, “Don’t sing that song,” directed at me (the kid knows I can’t sing. Already! So intelligent! I suppose it could be that he didn’t like the song, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the case. Who doesn’t like “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers”?)
I am in awe of his conviction. I absolutely adore it. If that sounds sarcastic, you’re taking it wrong. I think it’s amazing. I know, as we age, we can no longer just scream “NO!” when something occurs that we don’t want, agree with, or like. I know, as the adults in his life, his parents, my parents, and his extended family, of which I am a part, are in charge of discouraging this behavior. Soon, it will no longer be accepted, as he will no longer be an adorable toddler but a school-age child, expected to get along with others. As adults, even as children, we have things to worry about: people’s feelings, our jobs, people’s opinions of us, and acting like a well-behaved member of society, where screaming “NO!” will get you at least, strange looks in public, and, at most, committed.
There are situations, however, where I vow, following his example, to start using The Nephew’s vehement NO.
NO, I will not feel guilty about the things I am excited about. I am a proud geek; I no longer have to hide this fact. I will not pretend I watched American Idol last night; instead, if you ask, I will tell you I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD for the fifteenth time. I will not be embarrassed and make a sad face and say, “I know, I’m so crazy!” when you tell me “but EVERYONE likes Extreme Makeover: Home Edition!” and look at me like I’m deficient for not watching it. I will not hide the title of the book I’m reading and tell you it’s “some silly fantasy novel;” I’ll tell you, instead, that I’m reading A Game of Thrones, and proudly. I will let my geek flag fly and I will stop my self-deprecatory behavior when it pertains to my interests. If I can be myself online I can let that bleed into my real life.
NO, I will not act like I know nothing about politics because I don’t want to get involved in a debate. We may disagree, but my opinions are just as valid as yours. And, additionally, NO, I will not accept it when, instead of having a rational discussion, you start screaming or telling me that I, or my opinions, or my point of view, are stupid. I, and they, are not, no more than you, or yours, are. We are adults and can have a rational, adult discussion without raised voices or namecalling.
NO, I will not allow work to get to me, mentally, to the point where I am weeping in the bathroom and letting what happens to me during office hours color the rest of my day. Most people don’t like their jobs; I just tend to take my dislike more personally than most. I will act like an adult, grow a pair, and use my words.
NO, I will not say yes when I really mean no. Not for big things, anyway. Small things can’t be avoided, but there’s nothing worse than looking back on something you’ve gotten yourself into because you didn’t say no in the first place when you knew you should have.
NO, I do not like it when you choose to make eye contact with my chest, rather than my eyes. I don’t find it flattering and I don’t find it sexy. If you can’t be bothered to make eye contact, then I can’t be bothered to continue this conversation, take you seriously, or give my full attention to whatever it is you are attempting to tell me to do. Demeaning me by regarding me as a body part rather than an intelligent, capable woman is not acceptable.
NO, I will no longer overextend myself to the point of getting 4 hours of sleep a night. I deserve better than this. I am no longer a teenager who can do this on a regular basis. I will stop accepting tasks that require me to stay up long past the time I should be asleep; if that means I can’t participate in activities I find enjoyable, then those activities will have to go on without me.
NO, I will no longer second-guess my emotions. I feel the way I feel. People, and myself, telling me “you’re being silly” or “that’s not the way it happened” is belittling me, my experience, and what I’m going through. If something has upset me, there is a reason for it. Don’t tell me it’s because I’m “overemotional,” “tired,” or “melodramatic.” I may be all three of those things, but there’s a deeper problem as well.
NO, I will no longer look in the mirror and see nothing but my flaws. I will see them (let’s be honest, I don’t know anyone who’s confident enough to look in a mirror and not see any flaws at all), but I will also see a strong, capable, intelligent, one-of-a-kind woman looking back at me, and I will be proud of her and all she’s been through that has gotten her to where she is today.
Eventually, The Nephew will get over his “NO”‘s, and things will be quieter for us all. I, for one, will miss them, a little. They’re brave, those no’s. They know what they want. They don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks. They deserve celebration.