I have a one-year-old and she sucks at communicating. I don’t think this should surprise anyone. She’s really assertive about her opinions and desires, but her only way of communicating is through grunts, laughter, and hand gestures. All of these communication tools are well intended, and I have to assume that she is frustrated because she can’t talk, but frankly they make her come across as an asshole. Here are a few examples.
The Inappropriate laugh: I got undressed in front of my toddler. She was wandering around the bedroom while I was about to get in the shower. The second I dropped my pants, she pointed at my genitals and laughed. I doubt she fully understood what she was doing, but what I can say is that this was the first time I’d ever had someone laugh at me while naked. I will be honest. It hurt.
The shove: The toddler equivalent of “no thank you” is to push whatever she doesn’t want away. This could be a bottle of formula, a toy, or your face. Once, while I was leaving for work, I crouched down to give my toddler a hug. She placed her boogery hand on my face, jabbed me in the eye, and pushed me away. Then she laughed at me.
The scream and point: Sometimes my toddler will point at things and scream. It really could be anything in the room. Sometimes it’s food. Sometimes it’s the TV. Sometimes it’s that stupid jack in the box she loves so much. It becomes a guessing game that get’s more and more frustrating with each scream. The pitch goes up with every moment that I can’t figure out what she wants. I will admit, this communication technique is good for motivation. I tend to really get to work when she does this. However, it is maddening and irritating and makes me want to light my house on fire.
The collapse: When the scream and point technique fails, which it often does, the toddler collapses, face down into the carpet. Her arms spread out over her head, her limp little legs, everything about her says frustration. And as a father, I always feel like a failure at this point. So I pick her up, and she goes stiff, and angry, and then she shoves my face.
The pant leg tug: When the toddler wants to be picked up, she tugs at my pant leg. This isn’t a big deal when I’m wearing pants and a belt. In fact, it’s kind of cute. But if I’m wearing something with an elastic waist, and the toddler want’s me to hold her bad enough, my pants get tugged off. This has become particularly awkward when we have company. No one want’s to see that… No one.
The run away: Whenever the toddler gets her hands on something she shouldn’t (rock, coin, box of open cereal) she looks at me, and then she runs (well.. it’s more of a bow-legged waddle, but is quicker than her usual pace). This is her way of saying, “I know I’m doing something wrong. Don’t take this away from me.” However, it makes her look like a two-toothed teen stealing from a convenience store. Not flattering at all.
The arm flap: Whenever I get home from work, the toddler looks at me, grins, and flaps her arms like a bird. It is clear that she’s excited to see me, but she looks crazy. I will admit, though, every time she does it, I can’t help but pick her up, give her a kiss and a snuggle.
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley