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Conversation Breakdown {The Two-Year-Old Version}.

The first time I wrote this post, Sara rejected it like any good English teacher would. The post lacked focus and a thesis. I’d argue that my blogging style {which is whimsical, out of focus, and thought-jumpy} is as much my signature as is her choice to forget how to press the shift key. However, she’s the boss and she wins, so three…two…one…focus!

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Lionel talks. A LOT. I have no idea what’s normal conversation or word knowledge for a two-year-old, but I have this feeling that Lionel’s vocabulary is relatively impressive. My feelings are backed up by the comments and compliments that are often received from friends, family and complete strangers. Lionel knows a lot of words. What’s even better is that Lionel, in my opinion, knows the context of how most of these words are supposed to be used; however, I don’t believe he understands all the words that’s he’s using.

I have taken child development and child psychology courses throughout my many years of study, and there’s sufficient proof that talking and reading to your child is a great way to develop their language and communication skills. However, I don’t remember reading about what parents could/should/shouldn’t do when communication breaks down between an adult and a two-year-old. Conversation breakdowns with a child are confusing for me to navigate, and I think it’s equally confusing and frustrating for Lionel as well.

Last week {when I was originally writing this post}, I told the story of having breakfast with Lionel. One day last week, I was standing in the kitchen, trying to encourage Lionel to tell me what he wanted to eat for breakfast. To set the stage: each morning, I pick Lionel out of bed because he’s about as good as his parents at jumping out of bed (we like to hit the snooze). I then place him in his seat at the table and promptly say “Good morning!” I then ask about his dreams (the kid dreams like his mama – vivid and random), and then I ask him about breakfast. It’s part of our routine.

However, the question about breakfast turned into a battle that morning. On this day, I offered Lionel the typical choices – Frosted Flakes, jelly toast, or peanut butter toast. He responds “no” to all of them. I asked him again to tell me what he wants. He then picks one of the choices that I presented, and I’m pretty sure he chose the last option that I offered: toast.

But, when I start to grab for the bread to make toast, he shrieks, “NO toast!”

I then calmly rolled through the choices again. As I did, I noticed that as I continued to offer food options, my voice was getting tense, despite my best efforts. The clock stared at me:  I was running late, Lionel still needed to eat, and Sara was still sleeping.

Then, he said, “Watch Elmo.”

Our communication had broken down, so he returned to his favorite, frequent comfort statement. He knows he likes Elmo, and he’ll be satisfied if he gets the iPad to watch Elmo. This told me that breakfast had become stressful for Lionel.

I quit asking him questions for a moment as I tried to process the interaction. Our breakfast conversation wasn’t a negative exchange of words by any means, but it wasn’t a positive experience. I had a conversation with a two-year-old child who knows how to hold a conversation, but it became clear in that moment that he didn’t understand every word or phrase that he was using. That was frustrating, both to him and to me.

I denied Lionel’s request for Elmo and disengaged for another second while I set us both up with some cereal.

I then watched as he happily ate his entire bowl of cereal, not a complaint in sight.

Parenting a two-year-old is ever-changing and really interesting. I love talking with Lionel, and talking through conversations with him. But, I think there’s times when what originates as a positive interaction can turn into a negative one. For instance, when I get home from work at night and I ask him about his day, I have all night for him to process the words that he needs to communicate to me. In the morning, I have about 90 seconds. Despite his wealth of understanding, I can’t have the same conversation at the crack of dawn with Lionel that I could have Sara or with friends. It just doesn’t work – yet.

So, with one additional week’s perspective on the interactions that I’ve been having with Lionel, I’m realizing this: if I have time for Lionel to make decisions, I let him make the decisions. But, if we’re pressed for time, I make the decisions for him, like many parents do. And since following this general idea, our interactions have gone more smoothly.

With his expansive vocabulary and voice inflection, it is really easy to forget that Lionel is just two years old. He says some of the funniest and goofiest things, and he is consistently surprising me with what he knows and understands. But, he’s still just two, and he’s still learning.

Or maybe he just stinks at waking up like his parents do.

When Bad News Turns Into a Good Thing.

{A note from Sara: It’s no secret to many people in our lives that we’re eager to welcome another child into our family. Lionel has blessed us immensely, and we anticipate the moment when we become parents for the second time. Like many couples, our efforts to bring another child into our world have not yet been realized, which is frustrating and confusing and difficult to endure at times, particularly because our efforts to try for Lionel were so quickly rewarded. While we haven’t been trying long – we’re going into month no. 5 – it feels like an eternity at times, particularly for me (Sara). In response to a particularly difficult month of trying, Jord wrote the post below. We’re sharing this here in hopes that Jord’s optimism sparks hope in some of you – and in us as well.}

Newborn-Lionel

As I reflect on the times that I call my life, I get a second (and sometimes a third, fourth, fifth, even a hundredth) look at the events that have occurred. Some days, these reflections are a real burden on myself and certainly on my wife, as I will, at times, rise on my soapbox and talk myself, my wife, or whomever into the fact that we could have done something else, something better, something sooner.

I’m learning, particularly within the past few years, that the roller coaster of life is not the type that is breaking records or that has a high thrill rating, even though we may believe it to be so, particularly when we’re feeling at our lowest of lows or our highest emotions. Instead, I’m learning that life’s amusement park ride is actually more of a mild kiddie roller coaster that does go up and down, fast and slow, and has tiny bouts of anticipation, anxiety and thrill. In other words – the ride is very mild.

To each of us, individually, however, this kiddie-coaster is all we know, and as we endure yet another sharp turn or a slightly bigger drop, everything seems excruciatingly (or excitingly) immense and difficult to handle. In short, it is not easy to ride our own roller coaster all the time.

I think that sometimes we get bored or dissatisfied with our own ride, that we see other people’s rides and we want to have what they have (What?! They turn left when I turn right? I need to turn left!). Sometimes we get on this path where we think we want to turn left, and then God forces us to turn right, or perhaps not turn at all. We’ve gone left before, and we’ve enjoyed that process and want to feel that again, but this time, things don’t work out, and so for another period of time, we’re headed in the opposite direction of where we want to be going. Despite our best efforts, our greatest wants, and perhaps even our most passionate prayers, we’re forced in a direction that we would not have picked if the situation were anywhere close to “ideal.”

Perhaps, as a lesson, we get pushed into these directions to get the second chance to appreciate what we perhaps missed the first time(s) we rode this roller coaster. Perhaps we missed some of those times because we were busy, or because we were doing it for the first time and couldn’t possibly understand the beauty of what we had, of that first experience. In other words, I’m learning to love what I have, to be patient for what I want, and to tell myself that “it’s going to be okay” when things don’t go my way.

Even if regret stings and hurts when you reflect on what you don’t have right now, be it a material thing, another child, a fancy car or a feeling of security, remind yourself that even though you could have done something more or appreciated something more, when the time is right, things will happen as they should happen. Life’s little happenings are rarely ever perfect, rarely ever timely, but in that, perhaps life actually is perfect and timely. Who knows what lays ahead in our lives – nobody can really know. But with a little faith, it’s possible to know that things will come together soon enough.

And now, a letter to my wife:

Sara,

This post started as a post about me and quickly turned into a note that I meant for you. I know that it truly is hard for you when it feels like failure each time you get that painful reminder that our second child, our second pregnancy is not here yet. Sometimes these short months of waiting and wishing for another child become a blessing of reminders to reflect on the incredible journey we’ve been on with Lionel for the past 21 months since he’s arrived. May the reminders of those blessings never end, no matter how much they can hurt from time to time. I have faith that eventually, you and I will have our greatest dreams realized.

Love,
Jordan

In Sickness and Health: The Parenting Version.

So when you’re watching Netflix, whether it be a documentary or perhaps a fictional medieval drama movie/show, sometimes the writers choose to hit on the topic of children getting sick and dying.

Woah Jord, morbid.

Yeah, it happened. Before modern medicine, children had a rough go of it in terms of survival. Thank God that these aren’t those times. This wonderful President’s Day awarded Sara and I with a precious three-day weekend that didn’t cost vacation time. We had plans.

Perhaps a date night, go see a movie (or even two!?). Perhaps just a night alone. I think we would have both settled for doing our own thing and squaring away a few projects that have been backlogged.

Nope.

Lionel contracted RSV. Bless this child who has a knack for catching every disease he’s presented with. They say that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. And since Lionel’s still kicking like a champ, he’s likely to grow up to a big strong man. But for now, RSV sucked our weekend dry.

And I’m not even mad or upset.

It has been quite a blessing to be so close to Lionel the whole weekend, especially after being gone last weekend. Sara and I traded him back and forth for intense cuddle sessions while the other either relaxed or tackled a project.

Sara’s projects will come with more posts. But I hung my computer monitor in my “man-nook,” cleaned the space up some, and did a bit of organization. I also shoveled twice (snow!) and tried my best to tackle some of the chores that we normally do on the weekends.

So it wasn’t all lost. But so much was gained. Lionel was struggling, since RSV is a virus that attacks on all levels. Ears, throat, eyes, nose, boom. This disease is especially dangerous in infants, and to adults, it’s no worse than the common cold. Lionel is fighting ear infections, another battle with a pink eye type episode, fevers, a mean cough, a runny nose and overall lethargy.

But in his weak state, he’s been a real trooper. Some day he’ll grow up, and he won’t ever need us in the way he needed us this weekend (and for the rest of the week – he can’t go to daycare for a few days).

While the weekend was lost, plans forgotten, I still found a deep appreciation for what it means to be a father. He found comfort when he was close to Sara or I.  In the few moments in between cuddles, he reached for either one of us with a deep sense of need. It was powerful.

There’s a real appreciation for life that we, today, in our great country get to overlook and undervalue. Viruses, diseases, and bacteria in the past used to be incredibly debilitating and life-threatening. Those threats still exist, but due to medical advancements, education and so many other things that I’m probably not aware of, all I lost so far is a few days here or there.

I can’t express my appreciation for it all in appropriate words. Being a dad is incredibly fulfilling; the fulfillment I feel does not cease to end. The sacrifices always seem so minor compared to the benefits, and that was proven true once again this weekend.

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A Glimpse into Fatherhood

So the other night, I lost a bit of sleep due to my child. This should not come as a shock to you, or garner any sympathy, as being a parent, this is the territory I live in. Right now, however, as you know, we’re living in a bedroom of Sara’s parents house, and as baby L’s routine is all but destroyed, he’s been sleeping in bed with us during this transition.

During the process of teething, as some of you know, a torrential downpour of snot is a symptom (at least in L’s case). As you can imagine, the ability to for a child to breathe is absolutely necessary. If you have seen a child fall asleep, you know there’s little rhyme or reason to the position they finally collapse in, and sometimes, this leads to the nose being plugged.

I believe as adults, we typically wake up and blow our nose, roll over and let it fall out, or just start snoring. L does the snoring, but he has developed this little hiccup, let’s say, where he wakes up in the middle of the night, whines for a few minutes, and eventually falls back asleep. Typically I can sleep through this, or if I do wake up, I fall back asleep as quickly as he does. However, on this night, I could not fall back asleep. I laid awake and listened to him struggle for no less than an hour, despite the fact that I was working hard to suck out his boogers and such in the dark (as hard as it sounds). It was a no-win situation.

As I laid awake trying to think of ways I could prop him up so that he could sleep while allowing his nose to drain (I was seconds away from the car seat), a thought occurred to me: I was not upset, I was not unhappy and I was not worried about myself; all I wanted to do was help L to sleep better.

It is a really fun feeling when you realize that all of the icky stuff of being a parent is not all that icky. It is actually quite fun and rewarding. As baby L grows and gains confidence in walking and talking, I’m realizing that he will soon be a full-blown toddler and not the little baby who fit between my forearm. I am starting to feel those feelings that I believe Sara got frequently every time L reached some milestone.

More children at this point is something I want to have. I am patient, and in no real hurry, but I am finally open to it again after a tough birth experience. The time will come when baby #2 (hopefully) comes along – we planned the first one to fit Sara’s school schedule as best we could, and I feel like we can try to do that again in the future. {For clarity’s sake, Sara is not pregnant right now.}

I am a bit behind in Sara in coming to this conclusion. If she had her way, we’d have babies on the way sooner than humanly possible, as she frequently reminds me of her desire to add to our family and to have another dosage of that baby stage, as her first “baby” was rolling over, growing teeth, babbling, crawling, standing, eating big people food, etc. (She wanted a new one at each stage, and since they all progress essentially at the same pace, we could have had a dozen kids before L could construct a sentence.)

Obviously, we need to get into this house first, make it our own, get L back on a schedule, and make promises to our dog Wyatt that the moving is over, but I’m more than confident now in my ability to cope as a parent, and that is a happy feeling.

I still do really need a nap, though.

{Photo by Creative Kindling}

happy father’s day.

Daddy-Lionel

happy, happy dad’s day to our wonderful daddy, who is the best breakfast-feeder, baby wrestler, giggly face around.

we couldn’t love you more!

– sara, baby L and wyatt the dog