Waiting Week: Lost in Translation


My kids are always seeking validation.

I don’t hold it against them, though, because I’m always seeking validation, too. Usually from my wife. Right, honey? Right?

But when my secondborn was about two years old, I would essentially have to play a guessing game with her to figure out the exact form of validation she was looking for. She would tell me something over and over and over, while I searched for the exact word combination to let her know I understood what she was telling me. Sometimes it took forever.

“Yes! Yes, I see! I see you! Yes, I see you! I see what you’re doing! Yes, I see what you’re doing! Yes, I do see you!”

It was like playing an old text-based game where I knew what I wanted; I just couldn’t figure out how the programmer worded it:

“Get box.”

I don’t know how to do that.

“Pick up box.”

I don’t know how to do that.

“Acquire box.”

I don’t know how to do that.

“Get locked box.”

I don’t see a “locked box” in this room.

It was frustrating as a kid with a Commodore 64, and it’s frustrating now as an adult with three children. And it doesn’t at all call to mind my own preoccupation with words and precision in using them when my wife and I fight. Right, readers? Right? Right?


Thanks Week: Wait Till the Morning Comes


I think, “Maybe tonight will be a good night.”

I think, “Maybe tonight no one will wake up crying, and no one will have an upset stomach, and the baby will stay asleep, and we can all get some rest.”

I think, “I can’t remember the last time we all slept through the night.”

Having a baby means interrupted sleep patterns, of course, but this is something more. Lately, anyway, it seems like there are always nightmares, always sore throats, always problems. Among all of us.

My 4-year-old has been complaining of an upset stomach for a while now. For a couple of months. There are no other symptoms—nothing unusual going in or coming out, no fevers. We’re thinking it’s anxiety—causing the discomfort in her and thereby prompting it in me. She’d prefer to live on Trader Joe’s O’s and boxed mac and cheese, but, of course, we feed her more foods and healthier foods, which she picks at. I think she’s hungry a lot, too.

Late Thanksgiving night—or early the next morning, at 4:30, actually—I woke up feeling terrible. Like, hunch over the toilet terrible. The kids all woke up fine—aside from the usual complaints—at 6. We puttered around with my parents, then drove to my wife’s parents’ house for a second Thanksgiving dinner with her siblings and such. I was feeling fine by the afternoon, and my 4-year-old actually ate food. Plus, we loaded her up with buttered rolls—heavy on the butter—thinking it would fill her up.

She admitted that her stomach didn’t hurt as much. “That’s because you’re putting food in it,” I said, popping a few more pomegranate seeds into her mouth, since she decided she likes those, too.

The kids went to bed with no issues. No health issues, anyway. The adults actually all watched a movie together: Safety Not Guaranteed, which could be my life motto. Then, while walking past the room where the girls were sleeping, I heard an odd sound. My wife and I thought it was the family dog hacking, but it turned out to be my 4-year-old in her sleep. She woke up, sobbing, with this braying cough unlike anything I’ve yet heard out of any of my children.

I’ll admit that I looked at my wife and said, “I can’t take this anymore.” I meant the sicknesses. The late-night questions with no answers: Why is she making that noise? Why won’t she tell us what hurts when we ask? Why does it seem like someone in our family is always suffering from some ailment or another? What should we do now?

My wife sat with our barking daughter in a steamy bathroom while I started writing this post. Writing helps me organize my brain. Words are a way of taking some of the chaos of the world and containing it, constraining it, making it do what I want. When I put a word down, it stays where I put it. It means what I want it to mean. Let there be light, and all. Words have power. In the beginning was the word

The two of them eventually came out, and my girl asked—in a raspy voice, her breathing clear but ragged—if she could watch the Burninator, so I put on a string of Homestar shorts and the two of us fell asleep, her on a couch, me on the floor below her.

When I talked to her—bright-eyed, clear-chested, smiling her—about everything this morning, she said she had had no trouble breathing in, but breathing out last night was hard. It made a weird sound. Her throat hurt last night; it’s fine now. For the first time in weeks upon weeks, when I ask her how her tummy’s doing, she says good.

I’ll probably revisit this post during an upcoming Worry Wednesday, but for now I’m thankful that the sun came up, and my kids are now running around, playing, helping with chores, beautiful.


Reality Week: The things we say

Reality Week: The things we say

As I’ve noted elsewhere on this blog, my wife and I went into marriage with—we believe—expectations that acknowledged romance while making room (quite a bit of room, actually) for challenges. But a relationship isn’t all highs and lows, swinging between candle-lit dinners out and fights ending in tears. In fact, the bulk of it is spent in between those poles, even if the extremes make for more indelible memories.

So we get conversations about me buying new jeans at Ross, to replace the ones with a large hole that clearly shows off my underwear, which I nevertheless wore to church yesterday (true story); questions about scheduling trips to the mechanic and dentist on the same day; and triumphant announcements regarding fruit-fly-breeding-ground discoveries.

Children certainly contribute to the proliferation of these middle-of-the-road talks. My wife wouldn’t have been searching for the source of the fruit flies if we hadn’t packed a peach into a snack bag for my oldest daughter, then gone about our lives for a full week assuming it had been eaten and the snack bag put away.

(Children certainly contribute to the proliferation of fruit flies, too.)

These everyday words are necessary. I now own a pair of jeans that doesn’t display my choice of boxers (they had “love” written all over them, literally) to the congregation. Logistics have been worked out so that my wife won’t develop a cavity and the van’s airbag light will (hopefully) stop flashing at us. And we won’t have so many fruit flies around anymore.

These are the words our days are made of.

But there’s something more there, despite these words’ mundanity—or maybe even because of it. Choosing to spend each day with someone—knowing that most of those days will be filled with dishes and debates on bedtime and minor negotiations and all the rest—is an act of love itself. Which can make even the typical extraordinary.

Well, “extraordinary” may be a bit strong, but you get what I’m saying. My wife’s “I figured out where the fruit flies are coming from” is just like Westley’s “As you wish.”

What’s the word around your home?