Baby, Talk!

I can’t seem to get it right. Living with two small children and caring for them all day on my own have had its impact. It certainly has impacted the way I communicate. Before kids, I tended to speak softly, almost liltingly as if I had all day to say what had to be said. After kids, I developed an ability to shout out orders that would make any marine shake in his boots. Consider a recent episode in our foyer.

“We’re leaving for the library soon. Get on your shoes, please,” I said politely to my four-year-old daughter, hoping some of it would rub off on her rather whiny tenor.

She pretended not to listen and kept dressing her doll.

“Sophia, get your shoes on now, please,” I repeated, this time more firmly. The doll had her underpants and hat on, but no dress. Sophia continued to rummage through her doll suitcase for just the right thing to put on it.

“Get your shoes on now, OR WE AREN’T GOING!!!” I barked. Sophia sighed, got up, and went for her patten leathers.

Belting out commands is not the only thing I have perfected since becoming a mother. I have also managed to lose the ability to speak appropriately to adults. The other day I treated the vegetable farmer like a two-year-old because I couldn’t switch gears fast enough. I had just admonished my two-year-old son not to eat rocks. When it was my turn to be served, I approached the stand and said with exaggerated patience,

“I want a pound of carrots, now!!!” The farmer glanced down at me from his wooden pallet and seemed to wonder if I were talking to him. He eventually lifted up a pile of green-topped vegetables and placed them on his scale.

Eating dirt is not the only thing my two-year-old son likes to do. He likes to jump, a lot. But even here, I haven’t found a way to effectively tell him not to do it on various pieces of furniture in our house.

“Dump, dump, Mama!” he squeals as he hurls himself from the footboard onto our mattresses every morning. It has become a ritual of sorts, so I’ve just stopped making the bed. There is no use when dump-dump just has to happen. But when it comes to safety, I have my limits.

Jackson managed to push a chair over to the dresser and climb on top of it. With my heart in my throat, I approached him with caution.

“I realize you think you are invincible, and who am I to thwart that belief? But there’s a certain level of safety that we need to maintain in the house. So, no, you cannot jump from the dresser to the bed.”

My two-year-old blinked at me, smiled widely, and did it anyway. Perhaps I should talk to him in easier terms and with fewer words. Or maybe I should stop speaking altogether and just start eating rocks.

Christine Louise Hohlbaum, author of Diary of a Mother: Parenting Stories and Other Stuff, is an American living near Munich, Germany with her husband and two children. Visit her web site at:

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