I can’t hear you.
Can you…hear… me?
Wait. Yes. There. No. Hello?
I’ll call back.
Calling over WiFi is great. Living abroad, it’s a cheap and easy link to home. But man is it annoying when there is a lag. If you both cotton on fast enough and work with it, it’s managable, but otherwise it’s frustrating and the weekly chat with dad about the weather can typically wait.
Talking with a toddler is a bit like living in a land where all your conversations experience a delay.
Like many parents, we model good manners. Way before any level of comprehension, we used please and thank you with our son. At two and a half, there are still frequent calls of want water! Gentle reminders often illicit a please. Still, it feels like he’s being slow on the uptake. Then last week, out of the blue, I pinched a bit of my kid’s snack. “Mama!” he said agast, “you have to say please!”
It happens all the time. Fifteen minutes after discussing what we’re having for dinner with the only responses being: Look, a fire engine! A stick! Where’s grandad? From nowhere I’ll get a can I have cheese with my sausages?
For almost 9 months we discussed how he used to be in my tummy and be small like his sister would be. Two weeks ago, mid sausages with a random pile of grated cheese (because why argue with such a request?), he announced, “I used to go in your tummy. I was small. I’m a big boy.” He declared it as if he had personally just discovered how humans reproduce and grow; we were stupid for not having realised before.
It’s well known that it’s important to talk to kids. I am in favour of setting boundaries and trying to explain them, even if the child is somewhat too young to understand. I try to chat with my son about the big and the small stuff everyday, try to help him understand where there are rules, and celebrate his successes. But sometimes it’s like talking to a brick wall.
Then I cottoned on to the lag. I realised the need to start talking about issues way before they come up. I decided to keep talking long after he appears to be listening. I repeat myself again and again and again. Of course, when I am telling my dad for the fifth time what the weather is like, I eventually give up and call back later. I can’t hang up on my son. And oh boy, do I feel frustration when there seems to be a really weak connection.
Life with my son is steps forward, backwards, sideways, rightways and wrongways. We leap forward and see him explaining to us why he must stop before crossing the road. We plummet backwards when out of nowhere he tugs his hand away and makes a run for it. We grit out teeth in frustration when he will not accept that one cannot shout randomly on the tram. We laugh when he tells us off for standing on a chair to reach the flour from the top of the cupboard.
But mainly we are doing our best to work with the delay on the line, trusting our messages will eventually get through.