I wonder if there is an exact number of years that have to pass before certain experiences that were horrible at the time, all of the sudden become funny. Maybe it depends on how bad it was or who it affected, I'm not really sure. However, the other day, I was reminded of one of those experiences. I had completely forgotten about this day and I don't know why. I guess my brain must have blocked it out in order to save my sanity.
Anyway, the other day I was doing what all moms do, multi-tasking. I was just trying to finish up a couple of things at the same time but there was this tiny, annoying sound behind me. "Mom ... Mommy ...
Mom .... Mama ... Mommy," repeated my four year old, over and over and over. She wouldn't even let me say "Yes" before she'd interrupt with yet another, "Mom ... Mama." I've seen lots of kids do this, so I know it's universal among all moms. The first three times they say it, aren't too bothersome but it seems by the sixth or seventh "Mommy", your blood pressure rises and you scream, "WHAT?!" You don't mean to be cruel to your ever-so-sweet, impatient child, but the constant "Mommy" is no different than a pesky fly buzzing your face or someone's persistent tapping on your shoulder. After a while, it becomes too irritating for any normal human being to remain calm.
Well, the continuous "Mommy" triggered some wire in my memory bank and I burst out laughing thinking of a terrible experience that occurred over seven years ago now, when my middle daughter was 2½ years old. We were living in Oklahoma at the time and the local university there was looking for volunteers for their child development department. They wanted children 1½ to 3 years old to participate in a behavior study with their parent. It was a three-part study that would take two or three hours and at the end they would provide us with some sort of a gift. Sounded easy enough. My middle daughter was always well-behaved, a little independent and stubborn, but never a problem, so I thought she'd be a perfect candidate.
The first part of the study was mostly filling out questionnaires while she played with a few toys that were scattered around a small room. The college students sat and played with her and asked her questions, then jotted down little notes based on what she said or what she did, and so on. They'd informed me when we got there that I'd be able to pick out a restaurant gift certificate and she would get to pick out a new toy so I was thinking I'd made a wise choice coming here. This was an easy way to get a free dinner!
For the second part of the study, we had to go into a different, larger room where there were a more toys scattered about and a desk and chair in the corner with a telephone (unhooked) and notepad on it. They asked me to show my daughter all the toys, get her interested in a few, pat her head and tell her I had to make a phone call. Then I was asked to go sit at the desk and pretend to make a call and take notes. All of this was being secretly videotaped for the students to analyze later for their thesis, and I had to wear an ear piece so they could give me instructions along the way.
I was a little nervous about being videotaped but followed their directions and pretended to make a call. Well, as all little kids do the second their parents get on the phone, my daughter ditched her toys and made a beeline for my side. "Mommy," she said tugging my shirt while I carried on my fake phone conversation. The college student instructed me in my earpiece to walk her back to the toys, inform her I'm on the phone, pat her head and return to the table. Okay...so I did that....about three times and after each time, here she'd come again, right by my side. Every time I had to hold back the giggling and try my darndest not to bust out laughing, because I knew what she was going to do.
"Mommy. Mom, I talkin you. Mommy," she repeated patting my arm to get my attention. That time, the college student asked me to not acknowledge her whatsoever. "Don't talk to her, don't even look at her. See if she returns to the toys on her own," he said in my earpiece. At that point, I'm trying my hardest to follow along, still holding back the laughter, but I know my daughter is getting fed up with this business and now I'm suppose to flat out ignore her. I had a feeling it wasn't going to go over very well.
"Mama, I talkin you. Mom. Mommy. I talkin you," she repeated over and over while now smacking my shoulder. The student kept telling me in my ear, "Don't give in. Try hard not to look at her." All the while I'm still trying to carry on a bogus phone conversation and not laugh at the ridiculousness of this situation. I kept thinking these college kids have no clue about real parenthood.
After a few more seconds of constant "Mommy", my utterly confused toddler began yelling, "Mommy! I talkin you! Mama! Mom!" Then she lost it! She started bawling her head off, screaming, "MOOOMMMY!" and pushing my arm as hard as she could. I couldn't take it any longer, so I put down the phone and turned and hugged her, letting the ear piece fall loose. The college students came out from behind their secret room and I apologized for giving in.
I thought they would be apologetic as well for traumatizing my little girl, and perhaps thank us for our efforts but that wasn't the case. They informed us, with fake smiles, that they guessed it wasn't going to work out with us but thanks for coming in and giving it a try. What? Apparently my daughter didn't react the way they predicted in their study. Stupidly, I asked if we should just continue to the third part of the study or maybe try the whole thing again another day, to which they politely said no thank you to. So in other words, we got kicked out, booted, canned, dismissed.
It wasn't funny then, but today I have to laugh, thinking about how many times she must have said "Mommy" in a row. They did end up sending us a gift certificate later in the mail but we were never asked to return. That's okay, I'm sure they learned a little something for their thesis that day about REAL child behavior.