Yesterday my 2-year-old explained to me, panic-stricken, that if a trash truck came and picked up her bike and didn’t put it down, “very, very, very, really, really carefully,” that it would end up broken and smashed and flat. She then proceeded to tell me what would happen to all sorts of things that could potentially be lifted by the trash truck, including, but not limited to our car, her sister’s bike, her sister, her, me, my boobs (which, since she is still nursing, are considered a separate entity from me. I told her, “I guess if the trash truck lifted my boobs, you would have to climb a ladder to nurse.” She liked that one). Today the trash truck talk continued. What if the trash truck lifts our house? What if the trash truck comes into our backyard? What if the trash truck smooshes something flat? Big sis chimed it at one point, announcing, “It’s okay if the trash truck sees you in your bathing suit. The trash truck is our friend! It helps us recycle!”
The littlest seemed to like that, too.
Personally, I wouldn’t have thought to mention the bathing suit thing (well, and I haven’t really put that much thought into it. Is it okay if the trash truck sees someone in a bathing suit? Are their ethical or existential implications there? What would Camus think?). But big sis is a clever one, so I roll with it. The next time little sis mentions trash trucks is while I am trying to convince her to take a nap. “You don’t need to worry when you’re here, baby;” I croon, “trash trucks can’t fly.”
She seemed to like that.
At some point, when you’re parenting little kids, you just have to give in to the absurd. I find that hard. I have depression and a panic disorder, and I really want to control things and use logic. My logic is incompatible with little kid logic, though. Little kids don’t have very much experience with the world. Once a week the trash truck comes and takes away anything we leave out by the curb. We’re good about not putting out the things the trash truck won’t take, so as far as little sis knows, the trash truck just takes whatever we put out there. Plus it’s loud.
Big sis used to like to follow the trash truck all around the condo complex while looking in wide-eyed wonder at the big dumpster prongs lifting dumpsters way over the top of the truck and dumping the contents in. In the condo complex, all the dumpsters were in little gated areas, and the garbage truck driver would get out and open the gate, then climb back into the truck and push the buttons to make all the hydraulic parts do their thing. She knew the trash truck driver’s name (Aaron), and we would often have brief chats about his daughter, who was just a week older than big sis. The trash truck didn’t need to be scary, because we knew the driver, and he was nice, with friendly, big, brown eyes.
We live in the suburbs now. We leave our trash can by the curb. The truck that services our neighborhood had one of those arm grabber doohickeys mounted on the side. The driver has a special camera mounted inside the cab of the truck. He doesn’t even have to look in the direction of the trash cans. He barely slows down, actually. We don’t know his name. He usually doesn’t even wave. This trash truck is scary, because it’s basically a big scary inexplicable robot that steals whatever we put in the blue cans once a week, and whatever we put in the green cans every other week. Little sis does not want to follow the trash truck around the neighborhood. Little sis wants to bury her face in my chest and run inside any time she hears any noise that sounds even a little bit like a trash truck, which is hard, because we live not too far from a site where more suburbs are being built. Dump trucks sound just like trash trucks.
Big sis was diagnosed with anxiety disorder last year. She has panic attacks at bedtime almost every night. I hate that she got those genes from me. Sometimes, when she is scared, she gets violent. She tells me that she’s afraid that we won’t want her in the family ever again because she got scared and panicked and hit little sis in the face. I want to control it, I want to use logic. I want to use charts with stars and Xs and elaborate reward systems to convince her not to hit her sister so that she doesn’t worry that there is anything she could do that would make me love her less. But that doesn’t work. I was listening when she told her sister about the bathing suit and the trash truck. I saw that little sis seemed to like that.
“My little one, I love you every day, and I will never stop. Even if you poop on my head, I will still love you.”
She seems to like that.
Julia High is a computational cognitive neuroscientist-cum-social media strategist-cum-stay at home mom. Julia was inspired to create Hello Mamas after her own experiences trying to find mom friends after moving across the country with her then 18-month-old.