A perfectly good word goes bad

Eleanor decided over the weekend that she has a new favorite word: “No.”

She’s heard a lot of that word lately because she’s decided it’s fun to pinch Mom’s face and pull Abe’s tail. And now she repeats it about 30 times a day. As I try to change her diaper: “Mama, no, no, no.” As I try to dress her: “No, no, no.” As I wash her face after meals: “No, noooo!”

Isn’t it a little early for this obstinacy? I thought I had a few more months before we hit the teen years. I decided that if I wanted to hear less of that word, maybe I needed to avoid using it. Yesterday morning, I gathered up all of my patience and tried saying, “Don’t do that,” or “Let’s not pull the dog’s tail.” But “no” is such a perfect word. Clear. Succinct. Immediate.

As I brushed my teeth yesterday, I tried to get Eleanor to brush hers, too. She wouldn’t open her mouth and kept grabbing for the toothbrush. After I handed it to her, she started to chew on the bristles, so I figured that was close enough to tooth-brushing. I set her down and she wandered out of the bathroom, still chewing on it. When I came out of the bathroom, I saw that she had wandered over to Abe. And now Abe was chewing on her toothbrush while she held it for him. And my campaign of patience swiftly ended. Because when your child is using her toothbrush on the dog, there is only one word to use.