Thursday, October 13, 2011

Approach with Caution

Typically I try to speak to Child 1.0 in language that he will continue to understand past babyhood.  I was never a babytalker who used terms that made no fucking sense.  Everyone uses that ridiculous ass voice to talk to babies but avid babytalkers use that voice and say things like, "Does dee wittle baby want a wittle yum yummy?"  Niiiice.  It's a match made in babyland hell and I go batty when I hear it especially when the baby is 48 months old.  I've read a lot of shit from the literary/educator perspective about how important it is to talk to your baby and that babies do pick up on language faster when you use that crazy pitch in your voice but that using proper vocabulary is equally important.  That's not to say that Child 1.0 doesn't say that he has to go "pee-pee" (because if my three year old said he had to urinate---well, I just wouldn't be fine with it...).  So it's safe to say I've been a pretty straight shooter with Child 1.0, aside from my annoying ass voice.  I've always wanted him to know the real words of things, and that evolved into me wanting him to know how shit really goes down.  That's not to say that I lay the burdens of life on him (START SAVING FOR TAXES!), but I try and make things as easily understandable, within reason, as I can.   

Recently, Adam and I were flipping through a magazine and he saw an ad that displayed this gorgeous aquarium.  He told me that he wanted some fish (because having a puppy and a sister on the way ain't enough).  I reminded him that last year we had an aquarium that had lots of fish, but now it's put away until he is old enough to clean out the tank by himself (because that shit STINKS).  He asked me, "What happened to the fish?"


I tried to see how easy I could make this.  First, I reminded him that the tank is down in the garage and we'd get more fish another time.  Nope, that wasn't good enough.  "But where are the fish?"  "Well, they were done living here and went somewhere else."  All truth. 

"Did you give them to Nana?" "Err, um.  No.  I put them in the toilet and flushed them down in the water."  There.  Fine.  I said it.  I waited for a tortured reaction...

"So they're dead."


I stared at him blankly for a minute.  How much of that did he understand?  How much of death does he get?  How much of death can you get when you are three?  I have used the word dead before in conversations with him (like why I'm throwing all my plants away, why the leaves fall from the trees, what happened to that guy on the last episode of Dexter), but it was never a conversation that we had.  It was never really defined to him.  It was clear that he knew the fish weren't at someone's house or back at the pet store, but it really unnerved me that he knew that they were dead.  Is my son's youth gone?!?!!

I had no choice but to try and talk to him about it.  I asked him to tell me how he knew that the fish were, um, as he said it, dead.  Luckily, he is NOT three-going-on-fourteen because he said, "The fishes can't swim in the POOP!!!" <insert his uproarious laughter> (On second thought, maybe that answer IS him going on to fourteen...)

I went with it.  It damn sure wasn't the time to talk about death within the same month that we talked about god.  Too heavy.  I'm too hormonal.  He's too young.  That night I wondered if he is so ahead of his age because I never used baby terms with him.  I reflected on my own skillz (or lack thereof) and wondered what his response might have been had I actually told him that the "wittle fishies went to go play with Nemo" or something.  I rely heavily on the thought that I want him to be extremely imaginative and love playing with toys (see: ACTUAL TOYS---not video games, electronic devices, etc.) because he will have plenty of time to do that other shit later (see also: why we don't watch tv---different story).  But the best thing I did?  I quit beating myself up over it.  He is, without a doubt, a toddler.  Just because he can sing and name all the Beatles songs and loves Spirit of the Radio, he is still a toddler...just one that thinks that the fish actually lived to see the poop in the toilet pipes.

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