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The War of Communication

DSC05598From the moment they slide down the “chute o’ life,” newborn children are equipped with a very basic and primal mode of communication, usually unleashed when a doctor unceremoniously shoves a ball aspirator down their throat and sucks out a rather disgusting wad of meconium. For the next 12 months to 18 years, we as parents will engage in a ferocious bombardment of words in an effort to persuade these hapless children into abandoning their reasonably effective hard-wired communication methods for our easy to understand, yet hard to master language medium. We regard this as “the way things are,” but in reality aren’t we just trying to win a cultural battle with our newborns?

After all, from their perspective they already have a relatively effective means of conveying their plight, falling back upon the singular universal sign of “somethin’ ain’t right,” the infant wail. This piercing cry lasts for many a year, and still serves as an effective means of dragging me out of bed in dazed slumber to hand my 16 month-old daughter the pacifier from the pile she was sleeping next to.

I sometimes think it’s pretty arrogant of us adults to expect our children to adapt their standard modes of communication to our complicated and occasionally nonsensical spoken language system. It seems to me that our kids have a very good system working for them – just think, if rather than threatening speeches and insinuated nuclear buildups, upset nations simply took the airwaves and just wailed and wailed. Wouldn’t the world eventually come to their aid just to bring back some damn silence so I could get back to sleep because I have a very long day tomorrow? Or rather than making humanitarian appeals through the Red Cross or other charitable agencies in an attempt to gain world sympathy, ailing nations could just crap their diapers so the world would have to clean it up just to avoid the smell?

And this isn’t to suggest that children don’t attempt to meet us halfway and provide different ways to communicate non-verbally. At first we are delighted when they begin to point at things, only to discover that our initial enthusiasm at their newfound ability to dictate what they want wanes considerably when they fall back on the wail when we don’t retrieve whatever it was they were pointing at. And in some rare cases, I’ve heard this leads also led to a different sort of hand gesture.

In any case, our daughter was a firm believer in the infant communi-cause, a freedom fighter as it were, standing resolutely on the battlefield as her comrades around her slowly but surely succumbed to our adult language assault. Oh sure, she gave some false indications of surrender, uttering a “da-da” here and “bitty-bat” there, but I knew she was just manipulating us. And yet, with a single two-letter word hurriedly unleashed in moment of brilliant recognition a few weeks ago, my daughter took her first step across the dividing line and planted her size 4 foot firmly on the soil of adult communication.


And for us, it was a the first triumph in what will be our ultimate victory, her assimilation into the ranks of the verbal communicators. One day, I hope, she too will wage this battle with her children, a war all of us have fought and lost to to adulthood.

Except Fallout Boy – I still have no idea what they are saying most of the time.

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  • SurprisedMom

    It has started with “Up” and you never know where it's going to lead you. Congrats to your daughter for getting her point across, or up as the case may be.

  • SurprisedMom

    It has started with “Up” and you never know where it's going to lead you. Congrats to your daughter for getting her point across, or up as the case may be.