My son is currently going through what I’ve dubbed a “contrarian” stage. Our conversations often consist of nothing but clashing over basic facts.
[Editor's note: the child is also stuck in a fascinating yet aggravating stage of linguistic development in which he reverses "you" and "I," thus speaking in rhetorical statements all day long.]
Upon greeting him when waking…
Me: “Good morning, sweet love! Mama’s here to see you!”
S: “Do you NOT want Mama to be with you?”
Mathematical inquiries over breakfast…
S: “What is 5 plus 8?”
S: “Do you NOT want 5 plus 8 to be 13?”
Spelling agonies over snack…
S: “How do you spell ‘Mama'”?
S: “Do you NOT want it to be spelled M-A-M-A?”
His refutations of my every statement are often accompanied by whining, whimpering or wailing. As if all the NOs weren’t already enough to grate like fingernails on a chalkboard.
These are the BASIC FACTS OF THE UNIVERSE, I want to laugh (or yell). 55 will always follow 54. Sacramento will always be the capital of California. Wednesday will always come after Tuesday. Why are we wasting our time arguing about unchangable truths?
After losing my temper over one too many similar exchanges, I found myself fuming as I washed my hands. God, help me to be patient with him, I prayed, my always prayer.
Then I added, Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to have someone say “no” to your every “yes”?
At which point I caught my own eye in the mirror. And heard God give a simple reply: Yes.
My toddler’s constant naysaying is all-too-familiar, if I’m honest. Because it’s exactly what I often say to God, wrestling away from a loving embrace with all the stubborness that free will and even wilder nature bestow.
I say no to moments to love, chances to grow, opportunities to serve. In choosing my own selfish pride, I’m arguing against a basic fact of the universe: the existence of a loving Creator, in whose constant “yes” rattle all my little “nos.” Maybe being contrarian isn’t just a stage of toddlerhood; it’s a condition of being human.
I get his frustration, sympathize with his desire for control. The world can be an exasperating place to figure out. Maybe I need not just more patience, but more empathy. After all, I still refuse to accept basic facts about existence. Like the inevitable mortality of those I love. Or my own limitations. To name but a few.
Karl Rahner called it the supernatural existential – that we exist everywhere and always within God’s free offer of grace. All our yeses and nos echo within God’s one emphatic YES.
This mama calls it theologizing the terrible twos.