Young children, particularly preschool and kindergarten aged children, are a lot like fanatical Conservatives. It doesn’t matter how much science or logic you hit ’em with; they are determined to keep believing whatever is their current chosen reality. My daughter will not be swayed by the “facts,” and is determined that someday she will “grow little again” and once again be able to use her training potty.
Much like politicians, the apologies of young children mean nothing. They should basically all have little paper signs taped on their backs that read “hashtag #sorrynotsorry”, because the only time you will get an apology out of them is when they have been caught doing something wrong, and they only apologize to mitigate consequences. In other words…they totally don’t mean it.
Likewise, try getting a direct answer about even the simplest thing. If you try to get a young child to admit to anything that could even maybe, possibly, conceivably be interpretted as something that could get them in trouble, suddenly, you get complete silence… and maybe this face:
And no matter what you say, they just stare at you with that patient deadpan look that says, I can do this longer than you…
Or, maybe you get that look that’s one part stubborness and one part vacancy, all parts infuriating… that look says they don’t know shit, they ain’t saying shit!
If you can tease an answer out of them at all, young child doublespeak is about as confusing as a Lark Voorhies interview. You end up feeling baffled, and like you’ve been conned, but you’re not quite sure how.
The fact is, my five year old could probably drive me to drink the way she talks circles around me, and not with actual logic or anything, but just good old fashioned gaslighting. Or, to use another geometric-shaped metaphor, her explanations tend to be extremely elliptical. A conversation will go something like this…
ME: You know you spilled juice on the floor?
ME: You spilled juice on the floor.
J: I spilled juice on the floor (a statement.)
ME: Then why didn’t you clean it up?
J: Because I spilled the juice on the floor.
ME: (trying to keep my voice even) I know you spilled the juice, cuz I just stepped in it. But if you knew you spilled it, why didn’t you tell me so I could clean it up?
J: (matter of fact) I didn’t know I spilled it.
ME: (face is probably getting red…) You just told me you knew you spilled it. Did you know or didn’t you?
J: I didn’t know.
ME: Then why did you tell me you knew?
J: I didn’t know.
We can go round and round like this, and the end result is usually her deciding on an answer and sticking to it, and me giving up in frustration and feeling like a bully for trying to badger the truth out of her.
As is often also the case with politicans, you can end up leaving a conversation with a young child, unsure whether or not even they know just what the hell is really going on.
Tonight I asked the five year old if she wanted to share the last piece of chocolate cake with me. She said, no, and she asked her Daddy to make her some chocolate milk. But he told her we were out of chocolate syrup…so she turned to me and said, “Can I have some chocolate mi- [ me giving her the look that says ‘ask me, I dare you’…]”
And she says …”cake?”
Related: Conversations with My Two Year Old