Lessons from my 2 year old: Why husband doesn’t notice your new dress

Ella (2 1/2 years old) is jumping on the trampoline in her new skirt from Israel which she refuses to take off.

Her best friend David (3 1/2 years old) comes down to the garden and sits on the grass showing me his new truck books with some car named Mater in them.

Ella stands on the end of the trampoline: “David, look at my new flower skirt, it’s pretty”, she squeals at him.

David looks up at her quizzically and after a few moments looks back into his book.

Ella shouts louder: “David, look at my beautiful skirt”.

David looks up again and is confused. He scrunches his eyes together in concentration and then he goes blank. She may as well be talking to Chinese. He returns to his book.

This happens a few times. Ella is desperate for her best friend to appreciate her new skirt which she loves so much.

But David doesn’t get it. He tries to, but just has no clue how to respond. Her pretty new skirt is out of his universe.

She eventually gives up; and they both go fight over the blue bike.

This small interaction, almost insignificant, stays with me all day.

I imagine this scenario in 25 years from now.

Girl is married, and she gets a new shirt. As she did at 2 years old, she assumes & wishes that the world around loves and appreciates what she does. So she expects that her husband will compliment her new shirt. But of course he doesn’t.

Depending on her level of maturity and self-worth, it could go many ways. It could easily turn into hurt and anger and disappointment. It could spiral into defensiveness and disconnection.

“If he really cared about me, he would notice”

“If he loved me, he would remember…..”

Yet this toddler interaction is the truth. There is no malice or cruelty involved. There is no intention or viciousness. David tries to understand. He looks up and hears her words. But he just has no ability to respond.

And likewise, Ella takes no offence. She tried a few times, and then moved onto a subject they could connect over.

Imagine. Imagine our relationships if these disconnects were handled with such neutrality. Imagine if our spouses/friends/parents’ limitations were simply experienced for what they are and forgiven in the moment.

And Ella? David and her play/jump/fight happily for a while, and later she shows her new skirt to her granny and together they obsess over the flowers and the colours.

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