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Going Through the Motions

Going Through the Motions

We all say things we don’t mean.

We utter inanities like “sorry” and “no worries” and “I’m fine, how are you?” in order to grease the wheels of social interaction. We say things we don’t mean to placate people and smooth out situations.

I don’t know at exactly what age we learn these subtle deceptions. I do know that Graham has just started practicing them. And the fact that he’s not overly clear on the whole concept produces results that are equal parts amusing and unsettling.

Graham has learned, for instance, that “sorry” is an amiable thing to say. It matters not whether he is actually sorry. He blurts it out at the slightest hint of my displeasure, which would be endearing if not for the aggressive volume and tone of his voice, which indicate he is anything but sorry.

He hurls “SORRY MAMA!” at me like a weapon, figuring it will stop me in my tracks, so he can go merrily about whatever behavior it was that elicited my displeasure in the first place. He seems genuinely surprised when I don’t accept his “apology” and puzzled when I try to explain that he needs to mean the things he says.

How can I blame him for being confused? Haven’t I already admitted that I am a liar?

But Graham has taken my feel-good strategy one step further. He apparently figures that the best defense is a good offense and therefore employs lavish terms of endearment and displays of affection even while he is misbehaving.

When I chastise him for getting carried away rough-housing, his head butts and slaps morph into ferocious “missile kisses” delivered with the exact same intensity and painful results.

When I tell him that it hurts my feelings when he says things that aren’t nice, he shouts and snarls what he thinks I want to hear: “AWW, YOU’RE SO CUTE MAMA! I LOVE YOU MAMA!”


Less than a year ago I was marveling at how completely transparent Graham was, about how a two-year-old’s tantrums were born of the kind of pure emotion adults wish they had the freedom to express.

But now it is clear he is experimenting with how to manipulate his words and actions in order to get his way and placate those around him.

It is funny and fascinating and oddly discomforting all at the same time. 

Photo courtesy of Don Mills Diva

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