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We’re hearing a lot of this in our house these days. Most of the time, though, it’s funnier than it is annoying, possibly because Simon is so enthralled with the word that he says it to mean many, many things. Consider these uses:

“No-o-o?” (slow, with intonation up at end, vowel halfway between an “o” and a “u”). We here this when after a string of negatives, we ask Simon something where the expected response would be yes. As in, “Simon, do you want a cookie?” “No-o-o?”

“No-o!” (faster, with intonation up at end, entire thing said in higher voice than the first) This one means yes. “Simon, would you like to swing?” “No-o!”

“No” (said softly, intonation down at end). This “no” is a random syllable, thrown into conversation that way many might use “like” or “um”. We here this one a lot when Simon reads to himself; it most often comes between long streams of babble and the words “light” or “ball.”

“Oh no” Another favorite combination, and another that isn’t always negative. Simon might say “oh no” after a fall, but he’s just as likely to say it as part of casual observation.

“No” (said a bit more loudly, and with the vowel closer to “ow” as in “wow”) This is an expression of wonderment often, and may even be “wow”, except that’s not a word Matt or I use very often. We hear this when Simon is animated about something or is explaining something very important to us.

“No!” (said quickly, with medium intensity). This means “no” for sure, but it doesn’t have much force behind it. When we hear this, we know we can impose our will with few repercussions.

“Noooo!” (said very loudly and lingering on the vowel). The grand-daddy of them all. This one sounds like the tekiah gadola shofar blast or the way Jorge Ramos or Andres Cantor call “gooooool” in Spanish language soccer broadcasts. When Simon says “no” loudly and holds on to the vowel for as long as he can-he is expressing toddler defiance and fury at its most textbook. We don’t always comply when we here this, but we know we’re in for a fight before forging ahead in the face of it.

When faced with a torrent toddler negativity, typically accompanied by copious thrashing and whining, I usually muster up my patience and think of the wise words from T. Berry Brazelton. I try to understand where Simon is coming from and work to calm him down or simply leave the room to let him work through it on his own.

But yesterday, I’m afraid an hour of wall-to-wall “no” got to me. After his nth “noo!”, scrunched up face, and twisted, flopping posture, I turned around, fixed him with my best death-stare and said to him in a flat, annoyed tone: “Simon, just be quiet already. I’m trying to get us ready to go out to play, and all you’ve done all morning is scream and fuss. Well, I’ve had it. So just be quiet and leave me alone. Mommy can’t take it any more.”

Simon looked confused and stunned in equal measure. He’s not used to this tone from me. At a loss for his next move, he looked at me some more, then turned around and began to quietly play with a book.

Wow! This maneuver will use its power if I over-use it, but I think I just added a new weapon to my parenting arsenal.

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