It was a calm afternoon, big brother was at preschool, little brother was sleeping, and Ellie was perched on a counter-stool eating lunch. I had ventured into the princess’s lair, rather her “house-room” as she calls her little domain. I can’t quite remember what I was looking for as I waded through piles from her six-a-day wardrobe changes and collections of her brothers’ toys she had squirreled away, but I was on some sort of mission. Whatever I was looking for, I found far more than I bargained.
I’m alway a little apprehensive searching through her room. Her squirrel-nature leads to all sorts of discoveries of things that do not belong in her little nest. The scariest place is her play refrigerator. No matter how many times I tell her that play refrigerators only keep play food from going bad, she insists on sneaking in perishable snacks if given the window of opportunity. This time, however, it wasn’t the fridge that stirred up writing inspiration, it was what I found in the oven.
Baby Minnie Mouse sat inside the oven, pretty as you please. Feeling mischievous I called out, “Oh no! Baby Minnie is in the oven! Why did you put her in there? She’s going to get cooked!” I peeked out the doorway at her.
Ellie placidly responded with a flip of her hand, “It’s okay Mama. Don’t worry. I didn’t push the button.”
“I didn’t turn the oven on.”
Not the response I expected. I thought she’d come running to snatch Minnie to safety, or tell me I was a silly mommy and the oven wasn’t real. She has a flair for extreme reactions, but her drama is normally nothing more than a performance.
What I did next, I blame on the influence of the men of the house. They’ve corrupted me. I was a sweet innocent person once upon a time (Please don’t ask my brother for confirmation on that). “I’m gonna push the button!”
A blood curdling screech sounded from the kitchen. “Noooooo!!!!!” She scurries down from her perch at the counter. Her little bare feet slapped the hardwood as she sprinted for the rescue. I’m trying so hard to keep a straight face, that my shoulders are shaking, my face is turning red, and tears are streaming down my cheeks. She is all-in on this pretend game.
Just as she leaps through the open doorway, I can’t resist, I reach for the doom button. It emits a feeble squeak.
“Noooo!!!!” Ellie scoops up Minnie Mouse, cradling her like a baby, and patting her back. “There, there. It’s okay. You are safe now. I won’t let her hurt you.” She wasn’t pretending.
Again, I’m torn. I feel like rolling on the floor laughing at her extreme range of emotions, but her authentic maternal response to her toy serves me hot plate of guilt.
I might have just been playing, but in her mind those buttons were real, and Minnie was about to be charred rat.
She shoots me a daggered glare. “You shouldn’t have done that Mommy. You scared her. Don’t push her buttons.”
Was she talking about Minnie Mouse, or herself?
We all have buttons. It is easy enough to look at other people’s triggers and discount them as pretend, as fabrications, as being dramatic. But to them, they are real, they matter, and pushing them has real consequences.
There is a little bit of our childhood that lingers within us that marvels with the concept of cause and effect. A little bit of sick satisfaction can be found in knowing if you say or do a certain thing to a person you’re close to, you’ll get predictable results. We think it is okay to push their buttons, because we think it’s silly, or we feel like they need to “get over themselves,”or maybe we are feeling a little vindictive.
Ellie is right. When somebody pushes our buttons, it is scary. It is always scary when trust is broken. We’ve trusted the people we love with the most vulnerable parts of ourselves. The silly stuff. Our pet peeves. Our fears and anxieties. Whether in anger, in a spark of mischief, or because we think it is for their own good, every time we purposefully push a button we break trust.
Careful. Push a person’s button too many times, and it won’t work anymore. It isn’t because they “got over it” it is because they’ve stepped back from you.