04/22/2013 11:35 am ET Updated Jun 22, 2013

When It Comes To Toddlers, Parents Just Don't Understand

The other day my youngest boy, age 3, showed me treasures pilfered from the box of my husband's childhood things, which included an entire set of California Raisin figures from Hardees. He took me aside and earnestly explained, "This one is the avatar and this one is the ice cream."

There it is. One of those perplexing parenting moments when you try to determine which one of you is more out of it, you or your kid. (Psst! In my case, basically always ME.)

One raisin was holding a microphone that could certainly be mistaken for an ice cream cone. But AVATAR? I was befuddled until I realized that AVATAR sounds an awful lot like guitar. Like the one the other raisin was holding.

I have to imagine that a huge part of a child's frustration in the early years come from the fact that communication is so often a one-way street. The only way they can express themselves is through crying. They can't understand what we are saying, and then when they start to understand US, we still can't understand THEM.

You'd think that wouldn't be the case, right? I birthed their giant round heads. I nursed them. I'm the one around them 24 hours a day. So surely, I'd be the one to understand them when they are speaking, right? But no. It's gotten to the point that I am proud of myself for figuring out what my littles are saying to me because all too often, it's someone else that reveals to me the hidden meaning behind their adorable gobbledy-gook.

Sometime in January, my youngest stood in front of our toilet, squinted, and said matter-of-factly, "It's not a Christmas Party." Well, no. It's not. Interesting observation. I have never known our toilet to be a Christmas party. I imagined opening it to hear the festive sounds of a Burl Ives record, canapés arranged lovingly around the seat, a sprig of holly hanging from the lid. The most festive toilet in town.

When I reported this baffling observation to Facebook, my mother said "Are you sure he didn't say "It's not a Christmas POTTY?' "


I just taken off the Santa Claus toilet seat cover to be washed and put away for next year. He was just making a note of it!

I was reminded of his 8-year-old brother, who spoke with maddening proficiency at a very young age. He was barely over a year old before he started answering every question with "Key cars."

"Hey buddy! Why are you doing that?"

"Key cars."

I was completely baffled that my baby was contemplating vandalism when my friend Jill told me that he was saying, obviously, "BECAUSE."

Perhaps the strangest, most terrifying tale of all comes from my oldest son. He came home from Sunday School and told me, very solemnly, that if you opened up a squirrel and looked inside, you could see a message from God.


I bent down to his level, trembling slightly. My church is not exactly the snake-handling, live-chicken eating type. My son once earnestly called out to God using a Buzz Lightyear voice modifier because he thought it might reach space more easily. I could see him luring a squirrel at the park, taking out a Swiss Army knife and plunging it in, then attempting to read the entrails.

"Look, I'll show you," he said.

He pulled out his craft, a piece of paper glued to two popsicle sticks, rolled up, with a string tied around it.

I opened it. It said, "Jesus Loves You."

A scroll.