Declan was trying to tell me a story this morning and I just wasn’t getting it. He’s starting to link words together but they are not sentences by any means. More like Tourette’s for preschoolers. He said blue and vroom and some two-syllable word that could be about 20 different things, depending on the context . There were also hand gestures…none of them, fortunately, the middle finger as I attempted in vain to guess the topic of our conversation.
Airplane? You’re right! Dad was on an airplane.
The airplane was actually white.
Are you talking about Mama’s car? She has a blue car.
Yeah, Mama’s car goes vroom. She drives her car to work.
(Foreign hand gesture)
Are you driving Mama’s car?
Yes, we can drive and get banana bread later.
No! Boooo! (Same hand gesture).
Dad took a green car to the airport. Do you remember when the green car came?
This went on. And then, at some point, about 20 minutes later (and when he’d seemingly given up trying to communicate with the invalid in front of him) it clicked for me. The whole story made sense.
Did you see the trash truck yesterday?
And what does the trash truck sound like?
And what does it pick up?
Buh-buh! (trash can)
And what color is the trash can?
Even the hand gesture (in which he held one hand at chin level and one hand at stomach level and then rotated both of them rapidly to the left) made sense. He was imitating me when I told him a few days ago that the trash truck picks up the trash can and dumps the trash (insert hand gesture) into the back of the truck.
Declan, what does the trash truck do with the trash can?
(Excited hand gesture) Buh! (dump)
These types of conversations happen all the time now. And I am constantly amazed at how much he understands.
On Sunday, I hid plastic Easter eggs around the house while he was napping. One of them was in the hallway outside of his room. When he woke up, Colleen carried him down the hall, past the egg, and out to the living room. I kneeled down, eye level with him, and said I had a surprise.
Did you know… that while you were sleeping… Dad hid eggs…Easter eggs… pink and blue and green. Can you find… the eggs?
I didn’t really have any expectations about what would happen next. So it was pretty incredible when he turned around, walked right back to the hallway, picked up the green egg I’d “hidden” there, and exclaimed “Heeeeeeeeyyyyyyy!” or maybe “Egggggggggggg!” And over the next 15 minutes, he found most every egg around the house.
This ability to give directions and have them (sometimes) followed is just one of the many things that are fun about this age. When someone asks how old Declan is and I say 18 (almost 19) months, the almost universal response is: what a fun age. And it is. What’s most fun, I think, is watching the light bulb above his growing melon light up almost hourly. Things are clicking for him, and he is so anxious to share his discoveries with us.
The order of the universe dictates that more fun must be counterbalanced by more challenges. And those are happening, too. I like to think of them as little annoyances.
During the baby stage, there were crisis-level problems (namely, no sleep). Things were also simpler. There’s no real mental challenge in caring for a baby other than the obvious negative impact a lack of sleep has on your brain’s ability to be anything other than ape.
At 18 months, the major problems (for us anyway) have given way to smaller, but more numerous daily battles. For awhile, the diaper change was the cause of many tears and much revolt. Lately, he has resisted (quite vocally) getting dressed in the morning.
Little annoyances (for me) include the doing of dirty things. Painting. Digging. Smearing of food. These have all ramped up in recent months. I cringe just thinking about the mess, so I will leave it there.
Little annoyances also include the repetition. Life is one big re-run. The trash truck was a great discovery. But for the past few weeks, his interest in trash trucks has bordered on obsession, and to my chagrin, the damn things only come by once a week. So the first hour of my morning six days out of the week involves the same unsuccessful attempt to explain that the trash truck isn’t coming today and maybe we can go do something else. Today I managed to convince him that we could pretend that his dump truck was a trash truck and we could simulate what it did. He played along. We’ll see how long that lasts.
In the military there’s a saying: adapt and overcome. That mantra works for parenthood, too, although I might amend it for the toddler stage to distract and overcome.
The great and terrible thing is, nothing really lasts long in toddler world. There was a time when the microwave and the blender were obsessions. A time before walking and crawling when he just rolled everywhere. A time when he fit snugly into our cradled arms. Now the microwave and blender are clearly not loud enough, rolling and crawling are not fast enough, and cradled arms are not nearly big enough to contain his growing limbs and spirit.
At some point, we, as parents, will not be big or loud or fast enough to warrant prolonged attention. So for now, we are reveling in the countless discoveries he shares with us and the stories he tells, even if it takes us longer than we’d like to admit to totally understand what is going on.