You’re mean! He muttered as I took the dirty towel away from him to throw it in the hamper. C had somehow spit toothpaste everywhere and had used the towel to wipe gobs of it off of her arm.
You’re mean! He repeated as he followed me into the hallway.
You’re mean! My heart sank.
About two months ago Big E started using the phrase You’re mean to me a lot, usually when I am correcting him or telling him something that his four year old brain doesn’t want to hear or process. If I take away a toy the kids are fighting over, he says it. If I ask him to go to the bathroom before getting in the car, he says it. If I tell him that we aren’t watching tv, he says it.
And every single time he gets in trouble. We’ve explained to him that what he is saying is wrong. He’s had numerous time outs. He’s apologized countless times. And yet at least three to four times a week he calls me mean. It’s hurtful and frustrating, but I also know he doesn’t really mean it. It’s his way of expressing his distaste for the circumstances he finds himself in. I am not condoning it, I’m just following his logic.
However tonight it was extra upsetting to me. Not because Big E said it again, but because it wasn’t Big E that said it at all. You’re mean was muttered from Baby E’s lips.
Baby E isn’t even two yet, and up until now his vocabulary has been steadily growing with words like Mommy, Daddy, Wawa (waffle), and LittyLittyLitty (kitty). To hear him say You’re Mean broke my heart. The months of hearing his brother say it had worn off on him. I distracted him to change the subject and then I took Big E aside and spoke with him. I explained how Baby E had learned that phrase from him and that it was very hurtful, and not something that a baby should ever be saying to his mommy. As I explained I watched Big E’s countenance change as he began to realize that Baby E was copying him. He got genuinely sad that something he said would be repeated by Baby E and cause me to be sad. It’s too early to tell, but I am praying that it was finally the conversation that got through to him and he will start to think before blurting out that phrase at every perceived inconvenience.
Meanwhile we have the task ahead of us of removing that phrase from Baby E’s vocabulary. Unfortunately with so few words, he likes to use the ones he knows in steady rotation. So if you walk by Baby E and he shouts You’re mean please don’t take it personally!