One is the loneliest number

agtotOne of the new-found joys of working from home on Fridays is now that Abigail is of an age where things such as music classes and play groups are available to her, I can spend my lunch hour going with her to them.

I live in an area of Chicago where organized activities (read: pay-for-play, literally) are not the norm. We don’t have Gymborees or anything even really close to it, not in the proliferation that they seemed to have spread on the north side of town. And that’s neither here nor there; I would have gladly signed Abigail up for those sort of things earlier on if they were available to her. But we do have the suburban park districts (not to mention our own), and once a week Abigail and her nanny go to our church for a fun little song-and-Jesus program, and now we have a tumbling class that she and I go to on my lunch hour.

Of course, toddlers are tumblers by nature, mine included. The child’s middle name may actually be “Grace” but that shouldn’t mislead anyone. Sometimes she just falls down for no particular reason, as though the forces of gravity were so strong in her general vicinity that she had no choice but to instantaneously kerplop onto the floor. We don’t do any real tumbling, more like structured play and climbing on all sorts of fun equipment.

Abigail loves it and so do I.

On Friday, we made our way into the gymnastics area, and immediately hit the TumblTrack. AG fears very little in life, but things like a big, unsteady surface with a cacophony of children on it tend to send off warning signals for her. As long as she tries something, I don’t care if she eventually ends up being wary of whatever it is.

“Jump, AG!” I cheered. “You can do it!”

And so my girl jumped, hesitantly at first, and then with the sort of gusto that only a human being so overflowing with id can display. Then, just seconds later, two feisty tots joined the track, probably a good year older, and bounced up and down with such force you’d have thought they were born jumping.

“NO! NO! NO!” Abigail crowed, waiving her arms furiously toward them as though she were the maestro of this symphony. “NO! NO! NO!”

Where she learned this is not a mystery. An almost-two-year-old cannot hope to consume a cereal bar or a Cheerio when she’s got a 70-pound Golden Retriever with which to contend. “No! No! No!” escapes from my mouth, several times a day, and it’s always directed at Glinny when the dog is attempting to thwart Abigail’s attempt at a snack. Abigail has learned to employ this tactic for herself, pushing Glinny’s snout away with a firm, “No! No! No!”

But, of course, as is the plight of the only child, she’s adopted this method for any person in the five-and-under set who gets even remotely in her personal space or wants to play with her toys. I don’t know that I blame her for wanting to take charge of her own personal space, and set her own boundaries therein, but let’s not kid ourselves: the kid doesn’t know how to share.

At her age, it’s unlikely that most kids know how to share, but, you know, out of about 40 kids, mine was the only one shouting “NO! NO! NO!” at regular intervals, swatting every small fry within an arm’s length. Mine was the only one who couldn’t seem to grasp the concept that the world is not here to serve her. Mine was the only one who couldn’t even remotely keep her shit together when she saw another kid, across the room, playing with a toy that she’d like to play with.

“NO! NO! NO!” she’d bark, while running toward a sweet little boy who was taking a turn on the tot-sized boat. “NO!”

I’m only remotely ashamed to tell you I totally did not at all like my kid in that moment. I didn’t, but I wanted to grab her by the arm, away from the other kids, and give her a serious talking to. I felt my face run hot with each “NO!” that escaped her usually sweet lips.

We even took a time out at one point, but honestly? That was a display for the other parents. I knew a fat lot of good it was going to do, but hell if I was going to come off as unaware of what a jerkstore my kid was being to their kid. Even for those parents who “got it” – and at least two good-naturedly said to me that their kids have done the same thing – I just couldn’t make it seem as though Abigail was as selfish and earning herself a reputation for being That Kid.

The flush of self-consciousness that ran through me lasted only the course of the hour. I mean, I know what’s going on – it’s a phase, it’s normal for a kid with nothing to compete with, she was taught by me to do this to creatures who get up in her business and try and take away what’s been deemed hers. We immediately took to doing some extra work on sharing, and when her godparents’ girls were over yesterday morning, we made a point out of sharing and put AG in the position of figuring it out for herself.

(She did and everyone played together wonderfully.)

She’s not inherently a little asshole, just a toddler and an only child at that. We’ll work on this like we work on everything else. I will still give her time outs. I will still tell her no, and still encourage her to have agency over her own personal space.

But ugh. I know it’ll be a little bit of time before everyone in her path isn’t being treated like a dog.