Parenting

A friend called my toddler annoying!

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is surprised by her reaction after a friend refers to her daughter as annoying.

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Tara-Michelle with her toddler, Anna. Photo: Tara-Michelle Ziniuk.

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My toddler has been a little extra lately. Extra everything, really. Extra sensitive, extra whiny, extra noisy, extra defiant. All of her regular behaviours have been amped up in what seems to be an emotional growth spurt — or regression, maybe? Is it our recent move or the transition to a new daycare? Is it the overwhelming Toronto heat, or the fact that we’re inching closer to her third birthday? (For which, by the way, she’d like to “go to Canada on [her] airplane” and/or “have a dog party” where guests will be the doggies and she’ll be the mommy…)

Things I will often hear people say about my daughter include:
“She speaks so well for her age.”
“She’s so funny.”
“She’s so imaginative.”
And with that, also that she is “weird” (which she is — see the dog party idea above. I blame myself for that, and make no apologies.)

I never intended to be a super-parent. I was never attached to the idea that my kid would be gifted or great at everything she tried or the best looking. I accepted the semi-frequent comments that she looked like a little old man as a newborn. Overall, so far, she’s well-rounded, she has a variety of interests and is just as happy to put chunky beads on a pipe cleaner as she is to kick around a soft soccer ball. She makes up stories (often lies about her day) and is generally nice to animals and babies. She no longer looks (as much) like an elderly man, and is in fact quite adorable.

A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine was in town visiting from Dawson City, Yukon, where he’s been working for the last year. Last spring, prior to his big move, he stayed with us for a month and became familiar with our general day-to-day habits and developed a rapport with Anna.

My friend’s visit went something like this: He and I meet up solo for coffee, we catch-up a bit, hit a thrift store and head back to my neighbourhood where Anna is finishing daycare. He, Anna and I go out to the back porch of our apartment — however, I have no idea what either of us said next because all I can hear is: “Mama, what are you talking about? Mama, what are you saying to your friend? I want more grapes. I don’t have to go pee. I want water in a water bottle. I want to watch Curious George [the DVD which I’d already returned to the library]…”

The next thing I hear my friend say is: “Your child is totally annoying.”

To be fair, what he probably meant was something to the effect of, “She’s really getting into those terrible two’s, huh?” but what I heard was, “YOU’RE RAISING A MONSTER. THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO TO MAKE THIS BETTER. YOU WILL SUFFER FOREVER AND NO ONE WILL WANT TO BE AROUND YOU. THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT.”

When I relay an abridged version of this story to my Today’s Parent colleague Jenny Charlesworth, she responds, “That’s a milestone, isn’t it?”

Is it? Do you remember the first time an adult told you that your child was irritating? For me, it felt like being the teenager who constantly complains about her mother, only to get all defensive when anyone else agrees. Does the same thing happen with parents being protective of their kids — and is it really our kids we’re defending, or our role as a parent?