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A World Before Language


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Having a newborn in the house was difficult both times around for us. Mr. Dude was noticeably more difficult than Theo. They both didn’t sleep well to varying degrees. The fussiness levels changed from night to night.

One of the things that got me through those first several months each go-around was an understanding that I didn’t completely understand what my sons were going through. Sure, I was a baby once but, like most, don’t remember the language barrier or complete wonder/confusion of the new world that surrounded me.

I’ve been to countries where I was a complete outsider. I didn’t speak or understand those around me. I didn’t know what the cultural norms were or comprehend the complexities of the society I was in for a few weeks.

Experiences like that were the most interesting, and yet infuriating, things I’ve experienced in my life.

I’ve been sick and unable to make my body move as I wanted it to.

I’ve been hungry but had to wait on someone else to provide me food. Maybe it was as a kid. Maybe it was after ordering at a restaurant. Maybe it was while on a group outing and I didn’t bring any snacks.

I’ve been exhausted and just wanted to sleep but was prevented from doing so because of others’ lack of understanding or compassion.

I’ve had to rely on others in these moments and others have not been the most helpful in taking care of me. Almost all of these instances were caused by poor or non-existent communication.

Hollywood makes babies talk all the time. There are jokes, negotiations, and even outright action-packed adventures. It isn’t that way in real life. Small kids can’t talk or share their feelings very well. That’s got to be frustrating as Hell and explains why my sons sometimes act up or act out.

Theo can now communicate some small ideas through body language, voice inflection or hand signs. Simple things like “Up,” “Nurse,” or “More.” These small advances in communication have helped immensely when it comes to the peace and calm in our home.

It doesn’t go away by age four. Let me tell you.

Wes sometimes has what he and my wife called “big feelings.” He is still learning how to deal with disappointment and frustration, and communicate his wants and needs to us. Mr. Dude can make himself a small range of snacks or help us in the kitchen when we cook.

He doesn’t yet understand how his hunger or sleep patterns are linked with his emotions. Sometimes I have to step back and look at the time. Oh, it’s 3:45 p.m.? His grumpy mood or trouble listening is likely because he needs a snack before we have dinner in about an hour.

This is a process I fully expect to continue for years to come. There are some areas of my life where I’m still learning how to communicate wants/needs/expectations. And I’m in my mid-30s!

Luckily, my wife and sons are a family I’m more than thankful to continue working with and learning from as we move into the future together.


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