Communication Nation: What You Say vs What Your Toddler Hears

Communicating with a toddler can, at times, be quite frustrating, and not for the reasons you might think. Sure, the ear-piercing “NOOOO!” that can be heard 300 miles due South can be difficult, but our main issues seem to stem from what are turning out to be simple miscommunications. When I say something like “Go get your pink shoes,” what I am asking our daughter to do seems clear enough, and until recently I thought she was understanding me. But as time goes by, it is becoming more and more clear that Baby 1.0 does not understand approximately 80% of the words coming out of my mouth. Sure, there are people who will argue that she is hearing and understanding me, and then deciding to mentally flip me a tiny, perfect, pink, middle-finger, but she’s so sweet and precious and there’s just no way that she would consciously and intentionally disobey me this often. Clearly the only explanation is that she just has different definitions of nearly every word in the English language.

Here are our most common trouble words: (more…)

Things I Never Want To Forget: A Letter To Baby 1.0

A letter to Baby 1.0, days before you turn 18 months old.

Oh Baby 1.0, you are growing so fast. It seems like just yesterday you came into this world, with your head full of black hair, and your tiny pink lips. It’s no secret we had a bit of a rough start, but that doesn’t take away from how much I love you, and have loved you, from the very first second of your known existence. Every day you grow, and every day you change. Looking back, there is already so much I fear I’ve forgotten, little details buried under more recent developments that are equally as important. So today I will write you this, in hopes that someday, you can look back and know how I was feeling days before your 18 month birthday, and if not you, then me when I am days away from your 18th year birthday, and I want to rip my hair out because you have decided to get a neck tattoo and run away with a biker gang to Costa Rica.

-You sing songs and communicate with us by meows. You also seem to think you have kitty cat hands and feet, and often hold them up to me requesting I kiss them by making a pouty face and sadly meowing at me until I do it. In fact, as we discovered tonight, you actually quite like it when we talk to you and pet you like you are a cat. (Note to self: socialize Baby 1.0 with more babies, and attempt to reinforce she is indeed a baby.)

-Speaking of animals, you love dogs. I mean, you really love dogs. The way you say it “dawg dawg daaawg” makes me laugh every time.

-You have an insatiable appetite for dancing to questionable music. To be fair, it’s not all questionable, as you will dance to anything that makes a rhythmic sound (including the dryer), but you appear to show a strong preference for pop, much to your daddy’s chagrin. I may or may not have introduced you to that pop, so I don’t care much. I just like to see you happy. We both do.

-You still have baby breath, and it is the most amazing smell in the whole world. Sometimes while I’m rocking you to sleep and you are breathing tiny puffs of air in my face, I close my eyes and try with all my might to put that smell so deep in my brain I will never forget it. It is the only thing about you that is still baby-like, as you are turning into a little girl faster than I am prepared for.

-You love books. You have always loved books, but the bigger you get, and the more capable you are at handling them, the more you love them. I hope you always feel this way.

-You are so smart. I can’t imagine this ever changing, but you never cease to amaze your daddy and I with how much you know. You just have to see us doing something once, and for better or worse, with enough time, you will figure it out.

-You show an incredible degree of empathy for humans and animals alike. When our rambunctious young male cat picks on our old female cat, you drop everything to break it up, and then calm our old lady. When someone is crying, you are right there to pat them on the back, or participate in a good old-fashioned sympathy cry. You have a good heart, little baby. I hope that never changes.

-You are fearless. There is no play structure too high, no hill too steep. You take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’ and this is equal parts admirable and terrifying. I hope you continue to toe the line here, and never fall too far on one side or the other.

-You love your daddy. I get that, he’s a pretty great guy. Watching the two of you together, laughing and being silly? It doesn’t get any better. I hope you always think he is as funny as he thinks he is, though I worry one day you will think both of us are actually quite embarrassing.

-You are loved. Though you’ve never been a snuggly baby, occasionally when I do get an extra long hug in, the feeling of your little body in my arms is enough. It’s all I could ever ask for in this world. You are all I could ever ask for in this world. I may make light of the parenting undesirables, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t change one single thing about our experience together. You are truly my sunshine, little baby. I love you so much.


I Communicate Real Good: Why Right Means Left In Our House

I am, what could be described as, really, really terrible at directions. I think my navigational nincompoopery somehow ties into my math brain, or rather, complete lack there of. While I haven’t ever asked, or dug down into my childhood medical history farther than the time I got frostbite on my ankles, I am starting to wonder if maybe I had a partial lobotomy at some point, and am subsequently missing that part of my brain. Symptom-wise it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch. I’m forgetful, I drool (in my sleep), and can be wildly impulsive. On the flip side, I can be so paralyzingly incapable of making decisions, I will often find myself standing in my kitchen swaying back and forth, trying to decide if I’m going to put my rapidly cooling toast on a plate or a paper towel. In the end, I usually just forego both, and eat my cold toast hunched over the sink like some sort of barbarian with modern-day plumbing.

Lobotomy or not, looking back, I think I’ve pretty much always had this issue. I’ve consistently relied on my hands, for example, to determine with certainty my left from my right. Even worse, I was once pulled over in a Super Target parking lot by four cops who had assumed my erratic driving was the result of excessive alcohol, rather than just being very, very lost. In a parking lot.

This problem was most recently brought to my attention Saturday night, when trying to follow directions to a nearby friend’s house. It wasn’t complicated, and all told required fewer than 5 actual turns. Additionally, I had the directions on my trusty iPhone, but instead of being lazy and letting her tell us where to go, I decided to take charge and use the old “follow the blue dot” navigational method first made popular by one, Christopher Columbus (or so I heard). My husband was driving, and fortunately, being very patient with me. Our conversation went a little something like this:

Me: “Ooookey dokey, Artichokey. You are going to stay on this road for, like, a while, and then bang a right on 23rd. I mean 24th, or actually I think it’s Fullerton” (said with major degree of overconfidence as I squint at my phone).

Hubs: “Okay…” (said with mild degree of doubt because he has a general sense of where we are going). Me: “Whoa! It’s getting close. Are you driving 90 or something? Remember you are turning right,” (said with urgency because I miscalculated how far we had to travel).

Hubs: “That doesn’t make sense, Hun…Right? Are you sure?” (said with calmness that belies his probable annoyance at my inability to read directions from a phone screen without screwing them up).

Me: “Yeah, it’s right. You’re turning this way… (at this point, picture me wide-eyed and panicked, wildly jabbing my whole hand toward my stomach in a way that makes me appear as though I am auditioning to be both the stabber and the victim in a low budget slasher film, yelling, “Right! Right! Right!” because I am trying, but failing, to make sense of the blue dot rapidly approaching an intersection where it appears we need to somehow turn behind us).

Hubs: Briefly glances down at phone because for some reason, me pointing behind us, through my stomach, and yelling “right” over and over, doesn’t compute… “We need to turn left.”

Sure enough, we needed to turn left. He then, patiently, tries to explain to me, like some kind of sailor, that the map is oriented in a “standard North/South” configuration, and because we are traveling South, I need to say the opposite direction of what it looks like on the map. I’m not sure if he thinks I’m tenured at Hogwarts as a Professor of the Dark Arts, or maybe a direct descendant of whoever invented the compass, but looking at a map with a line going to the right, and then purposely instructing him to turn left just isn’t going to happen. Period. And it didn’t happen, because for the remaining 4 turns we had to make to reach our destination, I told him the wrong direction. Every. Single. Time. And my mind was blown, every single time, when we needed to go the opposite direction. The scary part was that I was actually trying.

So what gives? Can one teach themselves a sense of direction as an adult? Or ever? Are some people just born with the natural ability to navigate, while others, like myself, would fly out to sea never to be seen again, if given a pair of wings and an iPhone? I don’t know the answer to these questions. But I can say, probably my best asset is having a husband who has accepted my directional deficiencies, and instead of belittling me for giving him the wrong directions for the umpteenth time, just knows when I say right, I probably mean left.