Is this the face of one bent on my annihilation?
A popular buzzword in the psychiatric field right now is “Gaslighting,” which describes the process of undermining a person’s confidence in order to gain control over them. It’s based on the 1944 Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman film, Gaslight, about a man who subtlety convinces his wife she is losing her mind so he can have her committed and steal her inheritance. She notices the gas lights in the house flicker at night, when she mentions it he tells her she is imagining things. In truth, the lights flicker because someone is searching for treasure in the attic. She imagined nothing.
Based on this term, I would like to introduce a new one to the world of clinical psychology.
Basically the same as Gaslighting, but for toddlers.
My toddler is trying to make me go crazy. I’m convinced of it.
Now, because he's almost three his techniques of manipulation are not as subtle and sophisticated as a dude of say, 30. He doesn't show up late for tea parties and then tell me I'm being too sensitive. Mostly he just argues with me loudly. Sort of a "Jedi Mind Trick" only with screaming instead of hand waving.
Me: I'm not going to do that right now.
Toddler: YOU ARE GOING TO DO DAT WIGHT NOW!
When that doesn't work, he switches tactics. His new one seems to be changing his mind and making demands that twist my brain into pretzels as I try to filter through them. Do I pick my battles when he asks for macaroni and cheese for breakfast or stand my ground? Why did he ask me for apples and then refuse to eat any? Why did he ask for apples AGAIN once I was upstairs and no where near the kitchen? Does he really think I am going to let him eat a boiled egg ON THE BED?
And for a moment, I think, maybe I will just spread out a towel and let him eat an egg on the bed.
An egg he is sure to refuse a minute later.
I know that he cannot possibly know that he used to be frail and tiny and on the edge of failure to thrive, and he can't possibly make the connection that eating a bunch of cheese and bananas are going to lead to bowel movements that make him cry and not want to participate in story time. HE CANNOT KNOW THIS and YET he somehow seems to know that food is my weak spot with him and that if he asks me for a reasonably healthy snack I will get it for him even if he just refused it five minutes before.
Always. Because NightLighting.
Plus, he's like, ALWAYS THERE. In stalker mode. I used to have a boyfriend who'd get mad at me for following him around like a dog in his small apartment. I was just trying to talk to him and I didn't know if he was leaving the room for a while or just a second but anyway I want to apologize to him because I GET IT NOW. If my toddler's not wedging his body between me and the kitchen sink he's climbing on the dryer expecting me to catch him and do "To INFINITY AND BEYOND." OVER AND OVER.
By the time lunch is over, so am I. All my intentions for accomplishing the day vanish by nap time, and I can be pretty well guaranteed to spend the rest of the afternoon eating 60% cacao chips straight from the bag and tweeting comedians who ignore me until it's time to go make supper.
I have been NightLit.
The good news about NightLighting is that it encompasses a short period of your life, essentially the ages of two and three. Side effects are quickly negated by snuggles, big eyes, and funny little speeches about the letter W.