Sometimes, when we speak to children, specifically those under the age of 3, we find that there is something of a communication barrier.
Sometimes it’s because the words they use contain different meanings than the words we use. For example, when my children say “yesterday” they don’t mean “the day directly previous to today.” Instead they mean “any period of time that came before my last sleep.”
Dinosaurs were yesterday.
Sometimes Rory says that I’m being a bully. But he doesn’t mean “someone that pushes smaller people around” he means… well, he actually means exactly that but the heart of the matter is quite different. He doesn’t like being disciplined. So when I give him a time-out for hitting his sisters, I am, effectively, being a bully.
And then there are times where things are not understood because they are taken out of context.
One day I’m at a friend’s house and Rory turns to one of the girls there and says, “My dad says that we should eat blood.”
And then all eyes slowly shift towards me and I smile sheepishly and stupidly because, well, yes. Actually, as a matter of fact, I did say that.
But my context… was a little different.
Jade and I had recently visited Ireland where they have black pudding. Black pudding is made by taking animal blood, mixing it with oats and spices, forming them into patties and then frying them. Ultimately they look and taste a little like breakfast sausages. So I was telling the kids about this. I was telling them about the time daddy ate blood. And I was telling them that people do this. And I was telling them that they could do it as well.
So yes, I was telling them that they could eat blood.
Conversations and words are strange things because ultimately, words are just empty containers – empty cups – and each of us gets to choose what we’re going to fill them with. Knucklehead can be aggressive or endearing. It’s just an empty cup until I fill it with intent.
*** *** *** *** ***
Sometimes, however, we can’t understand children of that age because, well, we just literally can’t understand them. Their lips and tongues and brains aren’t quite functioning at full capacity yet. Their words sound mushy and drunk.
Like today when Bryce said, “Darezah aimbow in our-owse.”
I hear these words escape her mouth and they’re said with such conviction that I’m certain they mean something. Certainly she’s saying something. For Bryce it seems that she has full intent but no cup and her words, rather than being neatly contained, are just splashing all over the place.
And so we try to interpret.
“Darezah aimbow in our-owse.”
I’m sitting in a chair reading a book when she says this. I’m in the other room. There’s a wall separating us and my location in space has my back positioned to her. Ironically, you’ll just love this, my book is about finding happiness in the minutia of life. So it makes sense that, reading this book, I turn my head a quarter of an inch in my daughter’s direction and I say, “Oh, yeah. Neat. Okay,” and then go back to reading.
Rather than finding joy in my daughter, who is discovering and interacting with the exciting world around her – rather than connecting with a human, a child that came from me, no less – I choose to bury myself further in my own thoughts.
Because that’s what kind of person I am, I guess.
Because actions do speak louder than words.
Because even if we say, “I’m not like that,” our actions show us who we are. It’s so funny how, more often than not, our thoughts and our actions do not align. Our thoughts speak to ourselves (no one else can hear them) and our actions speak to others. So if we think one thing but do another, it creates a rift in our reality. We begin to think that we are someone that we are not. Or, worse yet, the world thinks we are one way while we think we are another.
There grows a haunting disconnect between that which we think we are and that which we actually are.
If I think I am the guy that gets up and engages with my children but when my children speak out to me, I pay them lip service in order to make them go away so that I can indulge in whatever it is I’m doing… who am I?
I give her just the absolute most minimal attention possible to hopefully satiate whatever want she has in this moment. Because I’m sure it’s nothing.
And then Bryce says, a little more enthusiastically, ““Darezah aimbow in our-owse.”
“Nice. Nice. Yes. Yes. That’s very wonderful, isn’t it?” Look! I’m paying attention to you, Bryce! I’m giving you words.
I am giving Bryce empty cups. My words are cups but I have filled them with no intent at all. She is asking to be fed with attention and I’m just pushing empty plates at her.
“Nice. Nice. Yes. Yes. That’s very wonderful, isn’t it?” Whatever, whatever. Please leave me be. I’m reading a book. You are a babbling child who is almost certainly making a mess out of chocolate cereal at my dining room table. What do I have to say to appease you?
Or… what do I have to say to silence you?
Or… best yet… what do I have to say to make you go away?
Because you are bothering me and I want to be left alone.
What are we really saying when we say the words we are saying.
Sometimes I don’t understand what my daughter says because she’s three.
Sometimes I’m thankful my daughter can’t fully understand what I’m saying because she’s only three. Thank you, Bryce, for not understanding that I’m pushing you off.
“Daddy. Darezah aimbow in our-owse.”
Alright. So this problem is not going away. I’m actually going to have to engage. I shut my book and I set it down and I stand up and I walk around the corner and I see Bryce sitting at the table with, wouldn’t you know it, a mess of chocolate cereal in front of her. Wonderful. Guess whose cleaning that up?
“What is it, Little Ohm?” This is a character from a movie I saw once and for some reason I started administering the name to Bryce.
“Look. Darezah aimbow,” and she points. And I look. And I see nothing. I see nothing and I just think to myself, of course.
“What are you saying?”
“Darezah aimbow. Dare.”
“There’s a rainbow?”
“In our house?”
“Where is this rainbow?”
“Dare.” She points. I still see nothing.
I sit down next to her at the table. I lower myself several feet. I squint. I lower myself further. I try to relax my eyes. Still nothing.
“Are you a freaking psychic medium?”
I squat down lower. I bring my eyes to her level. I tilt my head like hers. And I follow her finger and I see… a rainbow.
In our house.
And it is a simple thing. But it is also a beautiful thing.
“There is a rainbow. Look at that.” I sit in silence and stare at the thing for a moment. “It’s quite beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Yah. Vewy pwetty.”
“Yes. It is vewy pwetty, isn’t it?” And then the two of us just sit and watch it. We just… enjoy it together. Like a piece of art in a gallery. We just sit and watch the rainbow, the silence periodically broken by the sound of dry, crunching cereal next to me.
“I wuv you, Daddy.”
It’s out of nowhere. Out of the blue. It has no greater purpose. No shadow intent. She isn’t trying to get something out of me. She isn’t trying to do anything. It is a cup that is filled with cold and refreshing water. The perfect amount. At the perfect time.
Where do I fit in this picture? How did I help create a being like this? They arrive here perfect and then we just start to slowly mess them up.
“May I have a hug, Bruce?”
“Oh, yes. Yes, Daddy.”
She puts down her spoon, delicately and intentionally balancing it inside the bowl, steps forward and hugs me. And she holds it. And she squeezes. And I can feel her smiling. When she pulls back she gives me a kiss on the cheek and says, “I love you, Daddy.”
Oh, it’s funny what a little perspective will do to your life. It’s funny that if we stop looking at things the way we see them and start looking at them the way someone else sees them, we actually get to experience life in a richer capacity.
If we open our ears and hearts to others, we get to see the world in a multitude of ways.
We can be both here and there. We can see things as adults. We can see things as children. And if we join together and sit down, we can somehow see the world as both. It’s like the 3-D glasses. You get to see through two lenses at once. And everything pops. Everything is brighter. More intense. More saturated.
I glance back at the rainbow and see that it’s fading – almost a gray color now. And I think about how fleeting all things are. The sun, nearly 100 thousand miles away, cast its light in just this way, to reflect just perfectly through that window, that someone built in that way. All of that coupled with my daughter standing in this room at this time (making a mess from her chocolate cereal), facing the proper direction as she was the exact height at this time of her life to see this miniature spectrum.
And she saw it in this tiny little window of time where it was available to her. Just a few moments in the late afternoon.
This special thing happened.
And then it was gone.
And we couldn’t get it back. So hopefully we enjoyed it.
“You want some cereal, Daddy?”
I nod. “Yes, please.” And she feeds me one small piece of chocolate cereal at a time. She drops a marshmallow on the floor, says, “Oops,” and then picks it up. It’s now covered in dust and hair. She balances it back on the spoon and says, “Here.”
I reach out, dust it off and bite.
The rainbow in our house is gone.
And then the cereal was gone.
And then Bryce left the table.
And then years passed.
And then Bryce left the house.
And then it was just me sitting in a chair with a book, remembering the time that I got to share a rainbow with her. Hoping that I enjoyed it.
Because this memory is all I have left.
Subscribe for more. Every Wednesdays there’s more Bald.