Friday, February 20, 2009


Talking with a toddler is many things: it's like negotiating with a violent drunk, talking with an emotional overstrung stage actor with a 5 word vocabulary, and like having a conversation with a pathological liar who changes their mind every 1-3 seconds. One is never quite sure if what your toddler is saying has any basis in reality, or just random misfirings meant to frustrate you to no end.

"Owlet, you want some crackers?"
"No tracters!"
"ME TRACTERS! ME TRACTERS" *on the verge of tears*
"You want crackers?"
*Hand out, emphatically* "NO!"

So, communication is often on eggshells. Emotionally explosive little people with almost no vocabulary make every day a nightmare in linguistic interpretation and non-verbal communication. I mean, uh, a joy of finally 'reaching' your child and responding to their emotional and spiritual needs.

Uh huh.

What this all leads to is a deep, deep suspicion of anything and everything Owlet says. I mean, she doesn't even know what she wants, why should I? When she speaks, she might be telling me something, or she might just like the sound of the word "Super Store".

So one night, when I'm prepping her for bed, she says "OWIE", and points to her foot. Now, she said this earlier in the day, so I think, well, this isn't just a random brain firing, this is could be linked to reality. Another part of me is wary. Maybe she's just learned another technique to horse around and avoid going to bed. Maybe this is code for "Actually, I'm really quite HUNGRY". The possibilities are endless.

I pick up her foot, and look at it (I had looked at it earlier in the day, too actually, but could see nothink!). Now, under the floodlights of the bathroom, I can see she has a hangnail.


There's very few things as satisfying as cutting a hangnail off your child's toe. It's easy, it's full of mystery for the child ("WHAT DAT DADA? DAT?!" aah the nail-clipper), and you immediately take away the owie. And I find myself projecting Owlet's memories in these tiny actions. That this simple act of Dada taking away the owie will further solidify our bond, another brick in a little house we're building, one I'd like to call "Oh Please Oh Please I Hope I'm Not The Reason You're In Therapy".

I can't say I look forward to the days when she's completely verbal, when she's able to enunciate exactly what's wrong with her, in increasingly sophisticated terms, about problems that I can't begin to understand, let alone solve.


Kim said...

I never would've understood this post before I babysat 3 toddlers a week ago. (The first time I ever interacted with kids on my own, so, learning curve).

Now, I sympathize with you to the max.

At least I got to return the kids at the end of the evening.

Chris B. said...

I heard an interesting suggestion that children are the greatest scientists of all. Since they are completely objective as a newborn, they are testing with every touch, utterance, taste, smell, etc. As they get older and more experienced, the testing becomes more advanced and specific.

The thing is, you're just like anything else in their little scientific brain - a thing to be dealt with and to test. You just happen to be there more than most other things.

Mooseman said...

@ Chris: Yes! I think this is exactly right. They are hardwired to behave in random ways, and then they evaluate the results of their behavior over time, to learn to get what they want.

I too, think about my child's future therapy sessions...and how I want to be spoken of therin.