What the What?


Do you know what the worst part about raising kids is?  The lack of communication.

Okay.  It’s probably not the worst part (sleepless nights, lack of a social life, so much poop, and all that damn vomit), but I needed an opening line, so let’s run with it.

Why can’t they just come out speaking in full sentences that include complete thoughts?  Actually, do you really want to know what someone who has just exited another human being has to say?  I think the shrieking covers that situation pretty well.  So let’s fast forward to the homecoming.  Once the doctors, nurses, and visitors have all left, it’d be great if babies could tell you what they’ve got going on in those tiny, little heads that didn’t seem so tiny or so little a few pushes ago.

But they can’t.  Not for years.  There’s that first year when the baby has the capability of a stupid gorilla.  Before all you PETA folks start slamming those keys for an angry comment below, what I mean is literally an ape with diminished mental ability.  Because even Koko was able to communicate with her handler!  Not your baby though.  There’s the crap about the “different cries” newborns have that a mother with a trained ear will be able to differentiate.  Now I don’t know about your fancy ears, but mine were only able to tell if the baby was cranky or really pissed.  Oh, I pretended to know the difference when we had company.  That must be his hungry cry.  He’s been so fussy lately that it can be hard to tell.  Probably going through a growth spurt or teething.  Lies!  I didn’t know.  I was guessing.  Doing my best to be sure, but mostly just trying what worked the last time he was wailing and hoping for the best.

And before you get too hopeful, that guessing game continues after they turn one.  At this point, if you’re lucky, they might know a word or two.  Although, is yelling “MAAAAMAAAA” in your direction really satisfying at all?  Or just frustrating because then the Man can look at you and say, “He’s calling for you.”  Uh huh.  Nope, you’re still just guessing.  Only now you’ve learned to really pay attention to the cues.  Just like with an ape, the babe gives off a bunch of grunts and cries, but the gestures are what you notice.  Are his fingers in his mouth?  Is he staring at the Cheerios box?  Is he pulling at his diaper?  Did he just rub his eyes?  Get him in the crib!  Quick!  You just watch and wait and react as fast as you can, so you don’t miss a sign for the next thing you need to do to stave off the tears (the baby’s or yours) for a little while longer.

At some point he might throw a completely unhelpful word at you.  Ball?  Really?  You want me to know that you like to play with toys?  I’m no Sherlock, but I figured that one out on my own, Watson.  If you’re dedicated, he might even learn a very specific sign that only you can understand.  When he wiggles his fingers up and to the left it means it’s lunchtime.  Not dinner or breakfast or snack.  Just lunch.  For the most part, though, you get an adorable animal that you can’t leave home alone.

Then, Year Two arrives!  Time for actual talking…except that the baby gorilla has turned into a boy who speaks a foreign language through a bad cell phone connection.  Conversation consists of a few mispronounced words spoken with a pretty heavy accent.  “Momma gudda ukuta uminull quakurs gudda apkin pweeeeese” means he wants animal crackers and a napkin please.  True story.  And with his newly acquired ability to make you partially understand him comes a complete frustration when you don’t know what the hell he’s trying to say.  Hence, the terrible twos.  It was cool for the first two years, but get your shit together, Ma, and figure out what I am trying to tell you.  All the time.  No exceptions.  I’ll be over here melting down until you piece together that “sahuba” means “go to the park.”  No rush.  So you get to spend the next year playing the worst game of charades of your life.  And you almost always lose.

Year Three!  She can talk.  Like a real person!  Mostly just a college student who came to party though because she sounds like she’s drunk or high and, even worse, she’s constantly crying over something that doesn’t really matter.  Need an example?  Take three:

After the girl came home from her first day of school:
Me:  How was school?  Did you have so much fun with your teachers and friends?!
Her:  It’s hard to be a penguin.  I don’t want to talk about it.

While playing in the afternoon:
Me:  What were you doing in the playroom?
Her:  There’s so many things.  I saw them all.  I shaked them.

At my feet while I type this:
Her:  Waaaaaahhhhh waaaaahhhh!  Stick, stick…waaaaaaah!  Misterrrrrrrr!
Me:  What?  Calm down!  Are you ok?  Take a deep breath, and tell me what happened.
Her:  Mister won’t let me put a sticker on him.

And since she can finally speak to you, you foolishly think you can reason with her (wrong), so you decide to give her a few important phrases to use only in dire circumstances.  But when you drop and run into the living room carrying a half-diapered baby for the fifteenth time that morning, you’ll realize that she has no idea what “emergency” really means.

And so it goes… I figure you get the handle of real, back-and-forth communication just in time for them to age into teenagers who would rather wear last year’s clothes to this year’s dance than be caught actually having a conversation with their parents.  And then they leave the house (we hope).

Is it any wonder stay-at-home parents relish adult interaction?  Can you guess why working parents always have a minute to chat?  Are you comprehending why so many parents are always posting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter?  They don’t think they’re so interesting or important.  They just want to actually talk to somebody.

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