A conversation I had last night with the 5yo reminded me of traps I fell into in several former relationships.
5yo: “I’m thirsty.”
Me: “Aw, sorry, buddy.”
5yo: “Really thirsty.”
5yo: “Why can’t I have anything to drink?” Weepy whiney tone in voice now.
Me: “You can have a drink.”
Me: “Well what?”
5yo: “I’m thirsty!”
Me: “Thank you for telling me, and I deeply sympathize with your condition. Is there anything I can actually do for you?”
5yo: “Can I have some milk?”
And then I got up and got him some milk.
Informing me of a condition or an emotion isn’t always enough. During some post-breakup texts with a former girlfriend, I asked, “Why didn’t you tell me that would bother you?”
“I DID tell you,” she replied. “You just weren’t listening!”
Believe me. I always listen. The thing is, there’s this whole Mars/Venus thing, and as amazing and sympathetic and empathetic (and maybe to that same ex, just plain pathetic) as I am, I do not always understand what that condition actually requires to fix it. Would the 5yo have been satisfied if I had given him water? Or juice? I don’t know. But it turns out, in this simplistic 5yo example, that he wanted milk, but it took him minutes to actually ask for it.
None of this reflects badly on the 5yo; this is part of his communication training. Don’t beat around the bush. If something bothers you, say so, and not in uncertain terms.
For me, lately I expressed my displeasure in the husband-in-law constantly replying, “No,” to requests, and then sometimes just doing them anyway. Saying something you don’t mean is just as bad as not saying what you actually mean.
One of us: “Hey, can you let the dogs in?”
Husband-in-law gets up and lets the dogs in.
So I told him and he, having been informed, now is trying to break the habit that I am sure he thinks is just harmlessly funny but is awfully annoying to me. Until I said so, how could he ever have know that it bugged me? I told him firmly and directly without trying to be a jerk (and I think I managed to, I think…).
Don’t assume that people you are talking to will be able to read between your lines. If you have something to say, don’t be afraid. Just say it!