Everyone knows communication makes everything EASIER: Work, friendships, marriage. Even when you are out and about in public saying “excuse me, can I get by?” or “Are you in line?” will make those insufferable errands seem more tolerable.
Everyone also knows communicating can be challenging. Especially when trying to understand the needs and wants of kids.
My 5-year-old can tell me what she needs but your communication varies “What would you like? Juice, milk, a snack? I can’t hear you. I can see you pointing to that, but I still don’t understand. Please use your words without fussing or breaking down in tears”.
Honestly though, 5 and a half-years after becoming a dad, I’m still missing the mark on communicating with my girls (ages 5, 3, and almost the landmark age of…1). I ask my 2 older girls how school went or if they have made new friends. I read to them, ask them questions about what we have read or what letters or words they see. For this, I’ll go ahead and give myself an A++ for effort in the communication department (asking questions, reading, even responding with an “ah Ok” deserves an A++…Right?…Maybe??) but I’m struggling.
This morning before preschool, my 3-year-old told me she was thirsty. Good thing I saved her milk from the night before (don’t worry, I put it in the fridge…it’s still good. It is. I tasted it). I said, “Let me get your milk from yesterday.” My wife and I have a very simple rule: Drink your milk and you can have something else to drink.
Unfortunately, this morning was chaotic: My 5-year-old’s clothes were not ready, neither was her lunch. My 3-year-old’s clothes weren’t ready, neither was her breakfast (Her first statement in the morning, every morning is: I’m hungry). I was unprepared for this mess of a morning (that alarm went off too early so did the snooze button. I’m supposed to wake up feeling refreshed then wake up my sleepy kids, not the other way around).
While I took my 5-year-old to her bus stop, my 3-year-old manipulated the parental system. She told my wife that she was thirsty. My wife did not know that I gave our 3-year-old milk and because of our hectic morning, our 3-year-old took advantage of it. She asked for apple cider.
My wife went to work and my 3-year-old says to me, “Daddy, I’m thirsty.” I see that she is nowhere near finished with her milk. I firmly but casually say, “Drink your milk.” That didn’t fly with my 3-year-old. She pointed to the cup that had her apple cider in it and said, “I…I… think I want apple cider instead.” I tell myself to stay calm, no need to raise my voice. Using JUST a firm voice this time, “Drink your milk and I will give you some apple cider.”
I had no idea the apple cider she pointed to was in fact hers. I thought the cup she pointed to was mine because I had a little left over from the night before.
Insert tears that would cause a flood, turn the corner of her lips downward that would break any heart that isn’t mine (Through the law of parenting I am forced to resist any sort of lower lip turning) and add a soft cry “But…but…but I want apple cider!!”
Oofda. We have… 5 maybe 10 minutes until we leave for preschool and you are having a meltdown now?
“No you can’t. If you drink your milk. I will get you some cider. If you keep throwing a fit, you won’t get any.” Insert the same tears, cry, and lip turning here just a little louder this time. Uggh. I give up.
“It’s time to go to preschool. Let’s get your sandals on.” The torrential downpour of tears suddenly stop, she laughs saying, “Daddy, these are my shoes. Not my sandals.”
Oh goodness. Dear Lord, I pray for patience and the skills to understand what my girls are trying to tell me.