I thought – perhaps naively – that we’d have until the teenage years before having to face tears and tantrums over feeling like nobody understands her.
I love that SB is more vocal now. She’s so chatty, and her vocabulary is growing bigger by the day. We’ve got some impressive recognisable phrases now, including “What is it?” and “Daddy gone”, accompanied by a forlorn look at the door every time Daf goes out. She’ll point at just about anything and say “mine”, and understands so many instructions that we give her. It makes life so much easier when we can just say “Sit nicely to eat your snack”, and she does as we ask.
The problem arises when we can’t understand her. Take this afternoon, for example. We were sitting together, both wearing our slippers, when she started trying to take hers off. Okay, I thought – her feet are too warm. I took them off for her and put them aside. Immediately, she started whining to have them back. So, I tried putting them back on her feet, but all I got was more whining. We were both starting to get tense – she was getting frustrated, and I was feeling on edge because I could tell she was working her way up to a full on tantrum. I had no way of knowing what she wanted, and she had no way of telling me.
It took a while but eventually, we worked it out. She pulled at my slipper, so I took it off. She grabbed her own slipper – an infants’ size 4 crocodile slipper – and perched it on my toes. Then she stood up, slipped her feet into my adult size 6 slipper boot, and grinned. We got there, but it took at least five minutes of whining to get us there.
It’s easy to feel exasperated by it, but I understand why it upset her. Have you ever had one of those bad dreams where you’re shouting and screaming, but no-one understands a word you say – or worse, no sound comes out at all? I imagine that’s how it must feel for a toddler – trying to convey what you want with such a limited vocabulary can’t be easy.
We had similar issues teaching her ‘ta’. We’d hand her a toy or a snack, but refuse to hand it over until she said ‘ta’. She would burst into tears because she just didn’t understand. As far as she knew, we were just teasing her – handing her something, and taking it away at the last second. Things didn’t really improve until her sign language started taking off. Now, we hand the toy or snack to her, and tell her to ‘say thank you’. She’ll automatically sign “thank you”, with no fuss or fighting required.
Parenting really is a constant learning curve, there’s no denying that. Watching her learn to communicate is teaching us to be more patient, and to find other ways for her to express what she wants and needs.
As for the tantrums? Well, all we can hope for is that we have a few good years of understanding each other perfectly, before the years of screaming and door slamming and “NOBODY UNDERSTANDS ME!” really begins.