What my toddler can teach me about complaining

A toddler holding a phone to her ear and scowling as if complaining about something.

I’ve never been any good at complaining. I don’t know why, because I still have a strong sense of injustice when I’ve been wronged. Last week, for example, I sent what I thought was a sternly-worded email about a ridiculously late payment for some work I had done.

Immediately after hitting send, I re-read it fearing that I had gone too far. I had actually done the opposite.

If you recall The Fast Show sketch in which awkward aristocrat Ralph tries to admonish his gamekeeper, Ted, for leaving a greenhouse open, it was a little like that.

I actually ended up saying things like “I appreciate that this isn’t your fault” and even apologised for complaining. Oh dear. And, much like Ted at the end of the sketch, they didn’t reply.

A new approach is most definitely required. I’ve been told more than once that I’m too nice and self-deprecating and this seems to have underlined it.

I’m a strong believer in learning from my children and one of them excels at complaining. The two-year-old. She has never been backward in coming forward and complains about the most benign of things with vim and vigour.

A few days ago, for example, she made her feelings about the cat known. “I don’t like the cat, she’s too beautiful,” she snapped.

I don’t have a strong bond with our cat either, but it’s not down to her appearance. It’s because she’s an aloof moron who hates me and tries to trip me down the stairs.

There, that’s more like it – I insulted a domestic pet who, in all likelihood, won’t read this and will remain blissfully oblivious of my contempt for her. Baby steps.

Then youngest had a gripe with her drink one morning. “My orange juice is too wet,” she wailed. I tried explaining why it needs to be wet, but she was vehement.

Obviously, I could do nothing to remedy the fluid nature of her beverage, but her fierce determination compelled me to at least try and find an alternative.

Since then, she has accused me of spilling coffee on her. I didn’t. It was tea and I didn’t spill a drop, but she still managed to make me feel guilty.

It’s time to be more toddler. The next person who upsets me is going to get a screechy phone call complaining about the minor details of the matter at hand.

Who am I kidding? I can’t do that. It’s just not in my nature.

I’ll just dial the relevant number and put her on.


  1. Tim Bonner

    It might be going too far but you could always threaten to take them to the small claims court. I guess it depends on whether it was a one off piece of work or if you think there might be more opportunities from the same source.

    I’m in the same boat with some work I did and haven’t plucked up the courage to even chase for it yet! Maybe today…

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