Sunday, February 22, 2015

This is a Test.....and other things a three-year-old doesn't understand

Mornings are rough in our house. They begin very early and they are fast and furious.  It is an exhausting to begin they day.  By 8:00 a.m. I have been up for almost 4 hours and have driven 65 miles and have manged hostage negotiations with a three-year-old.

I know it doesn't sound like it, but I'm not complaining. Mostly I feel sad. It's such a frustrating situation to have a really good job that is really far from where we live. I don't mind, but it's really hard on our girls to have such early mornings and so much time in the car.  I try to tell myself if we lived in Manhattan or Chicago  it would be the same way. Except we would live 20 miles from our work and school but sit in traffic for an hour.  I'm sure this is not as uncommon as I have made myself believe.  But when you flip on the lights and your three year old says "Mama, I'm not done sleeping yet." you really start to feel like a jerk.

Once we have corralled everyone and bribed them to cooperate, and squeezed them into their clothes, brushed hair, brush teeth, put on hats, mittens, coats and shoes....and then retrieved everyone's snacks and stuffed animals and boots and we make it to the car,  it really inst so bad.

The drive itself in the morning isn't so bad.  But what makes me completely insane, and drives me to the point of snapping is that Annabelle's daddy has lovingly tucked her into the car snuggled her into warm clothes, often with a blanket, her favorite book and stuffed animal AND because we leave before dawn, it's dark outside and this same child who said she wasn't done sleeping  and cried because she didn't want to leave her bed  now will not go to sleep for the 35 minute darkened car ride.  I would pay someone to drive me to and from work so I could sleep.  No, Annabelle would rather talk.  Now who should feel like a jerk?  That's right, Annabelle. Except she doesn't.

 Annabelle has reached an age where she asks a a lot of questions.  Everyone knows that three-year -olds ask questions, this is not a newsflash.   I even anticipated eventually reaching a point in Annabelle's development where I wished she did not speak.  We spend months and months wishing our babies would learn to talk and then the rest of their lives wishing they would stop.

I am not even really bothered by the relentless asking of the question "why."  I want her to be curious.  I want her to question everything.  I try very hard, no matter how ridiculous the question is to never say "Stop asking questions."  Though I have cracked a couple of times.  It really isn't the questions I struggle with, but the fact that she expects answers. And there are things that I simply cannot explain to a three-year-old.  And if I'm being honest, half the time I don't even know the answers to the questions she's asking.  So this post is public service to all other parents of young children to prepare them and allow them time to Google Search "How do I explain _____ to my three year old."

Things Three Year Olds Do Not Understand (aka things I do not understand and therfore cannot explain):

1.  This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.  While driving to school and work this week the radio performed it's monthly (weekly) test of the Emergency Broadcast System. As soon as Annabelle heard the loud beeeeeeeeeeep the questions began.  When she asked what it was, I told her.   I said it was a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.  "What is it?"  and I tried to explain the radio made a noise in case there was an emergency. Then I was asked to define and classify the different emergencies.  And I wasn't really sure.  Does that noise occur if there there is a tornado?  Does it happen if there is an alien invasion? Zombies? I didn't knew, and she knew I didn't know. 

2.  Non-recorded television programming.  Like it or not, we live in an age where children's television programming is available to us every day, all day.  I sometimes wish it was like it was when I was a child, there were very select times of days when there was television programming available to children.  When it's done, it's done.  And those of you without children, and those parents who are kidding themselves may simply say "Why don't you just say no?" Do not misunderstand me, I do say no.  Often.  And my children to do not watch tv all day and all night. Right now, for example, I am sitting at the computer typing and Annabelle is playing a matching game at the counter and Georgia is....Georgia is...somewhere probably doing something. I'm not really sure.
who needs tv?

Yes, there are guidelines and limits. But Annabelle is very aware that she has the capability to watch the same Sofia the First episode over and over again for one month straight. And this technology is nice when you are trying to get something accomplished in a pinch. But when you decide to watch regular tv that is live and not recorded and saved, your three-year-old will become puzzled and disoriented when her television watching is interrupted by commercials.  So now we are in the position to not only have to explain what commercials are and why they are interrupting her show, but now we also must attempt to explain DVR programming vs. live television.  And not matter how many times I say "just be be patient, your show will come back on in a minute," she still asks every.single.time.  I've often thought we need to be rid of cable for good and limit ourselves only to the tv available and then I remember how much I love television and that I refuse to deny myself last enjoyment I can have.

This same concept also applies to the radio.  It's the same thing. Annabelle's favorite song is "Roar" by Katy Perry and we have to listen to it every day.  When we were listening it to it the day before going to visit my parents Annabelle very seriously asked me "Do Nana and Poppy have a radio?"  and I told her they do.  "Do they have the Lion Song on it?"  and I told her I wasn't sure, but we could probably listen to it at Nana and Poppy's house on my phone.  She wasn't satisfied with the answer and relentlessly questioned me for the rest of the drive to school. Technology at our fingertips is a blessing and a curse.

3.  Ash Wednesday.  Oh my. I am not sure who I did a larger dis-service to during this conversation, my daughter, or Jesus.  I came home from Ash Wednesday service and Annabelle asked me what was on my head.  I told her it was ashes.  "But what is it?"  I said it was ashes, "But what it is it?"  I was searching my brain trying to remember what they are the ashes of.  And then I was tying to sort out Ash Wednesday in my own mind and how I could siphon the details in a way that she can understand.   Stuff. It's some stuff.  I told her.   "How did it get there?" she asked me,  and I tried to explain that our pastor did it and showed her how.  "Can I wipe it off?"  and this is why I don't bring Annabelle to church with me.  "Why do you have it on there?"  And then I said it's something we do to show we love Jesus and... and then I trailed off. I have a grasp of Lent and why we do what we do, but certainly didn't have a handle on it enough to explain to anyone, let alone my daughter.  "It will come off when I take a shower." I'm hoping next year Sunday School will just take care of answering these questions for me.  I am not qualified.

4. Praying.  While we are on the subject of Christianity, praying seems to be confusing to Annabelle. Maybe trying to explain Ash Wednesday was too advanced.  Maybe before 40 days in the wilderness we should have started with something more simple like PRAYING.  A while ago I taught Annabelle to pray at dinner time in an effort to be thankful for our food.  I'm not sure if God is directly responsible for hot dogs and macaroni and cheese or not.  She loves it when we pray.  It quickly became our mealtime habit.  The problem is somehow the message of what we were actually trying to accomplish has been lost.  It has become a game.  She likes to decide who gets to go first, if we say it all together and she is the first one to tell you if you didn't say it loud enough or with enough feeling.  She has no clue what we're doing. And she always claps when we're done. It always reminds me of that scene from Christmas Vacation  "The BLESSING!"   And it probably doesn't help that the only other exposure she has to praying is my saying "Dear God, why do you ask so many questions?"

5.  Whispering. For the love of all that is sacred and holy, why  does this child not understand how to whisper?  She knows what whispering is.  I've heard her do it.  Sometimes if she is watching tv she will even ask me to whisper when I am being too loud and disruptive.   But when it is 8:00 at night, and Georgia is sound asleep in her crib and we tiptoe in to their room to put Annabelle to bed and I say "remember, we have to whisper because Baby Georgia is sleeping."  well that seems to be some sort of preschooler code for "Talk louder now, please."  And the more I plead with her to whisper, the louder she becomes.  Amazingly Georgia always sleeps through Annabelle's bedtime routine of me hissing at her to be quiet and Annabelle shouting demands for books, beverages, and toys to be brought to her bed.  

with Annabelle in the house poor  Georgia
is left to fend for herself.  We used to put
sweet little outfits on Annabelle when she was
 this age.  Georgia is not dressed  correctly and has
been given a calculator to play with. When
she is cold (probably because she is missing a sock)
 she goes and finds her hat and puts it on because
 we clearly do not have time.
6.  Internet outages.  Few of you will be able to relate to this as I believe most if you reading this have high speed internet provided to you by a reliable provider, one backed by hundreds of thousands of users and hundreds and thousands of dollars.  You cannot relate to my struggle that high speed internet is simply not available in rural areas.   So I am forced to pay a lot of money for marginal service that is not available when it is windy, snowy, rainy, or cloudy.  When it is an ambient temperature of 65 degrees with a slight breeze and we do have service, it is slow and our data is capped so we cannot stream Netflix movies, download endless hours of iTunes, download books to e-readers, and not take advantage of the endless pornography we keep hearing so much about.  We can do little more than post to my blog and check the weather.  If we ever move from here, our crappy internet will be the reason.  But I seem to be slowly veering away from my point.  Explaining the internet outage to Annabelle.

It is frustrating enough for me when I want to look up a recipe I will never make on Pinterest and I just see the circle spinning and spinning until a Google-frowny face, or worse, a Google Dinosaur emerges to tell me the page will not load, or the page is not available.  Imagine trying to explain this to Annabelle!  She sits down to play her letters game, the same one she plays at preschool, and the page will not load. I always know this has happened without having to see it when I hear her fingers clicking away on the mouse and her little body making loud huffing noises.  I know this sound because I make it daily when I cannot use the internet.  "Sorry Annabelle, it's not working today."  Only to see her face scrunch up and whine "But whhhy. I want to play the letters game." and again I tell her, "it just won't work now, we'll have to try later. We need to do something else right now."  and again  "but whhhhy??"  and then I lose my patience.  Not so much with Annabelle, but with the fact that it is 2015 and we basically have dial up.  Even while I'm writing this I'm getting mad because Blogger autosaves my draft every few minutes and it keeps producing an error saying it's unable to save...TO CHECK THE CONNECTION.

Trying to explain the internet to a three-year-old is tricky.  She is only aware of the internet in the context that it makes her letters game go (or does not make her letters game go) and that's about where her knowledge ends.  It's about where my knowledge ends as well.  As soon as someone can make me understand THE CLOUD maybe I will feel better about explaining the world wide web to my daughter.  Is it even still called the world wide web?  So I keep telling Annabelle no and that her game is broken.  Bryan has suggested to me that telling her louder each time will not make her understand.  I have suggested to Bryan that he mind his own business.

I know my whining about our extraordinarily crappy web service makes me sound like and overindulged spoiled yuppie living in the country, but you are all throwing stones!  You can upload and download to your heart's content all the livelong day. Bryan likes to point out how good I have it at any given moment.   This occurs mostly in  the winter when I say "it's a little chilly in here," to which he immediately replies "It's four degrees outside and you're barefoot. You don't know what cold is."  Yesterday the power went out for a few hours and I began to whine and he just shook his head and said "You should just be amazed that we even have electricity."  Should I?  I didn't think in 2015 electricity should impress me.  But if it were up to Bryan we'd be living in the woods eating coyotes and wearing their pelts for warmth.

I will pay a cash reward to anyone who can solve my ISP troubles.  

a rare occasion where she fell asleep on
the way home from school.  This was
obviously not sleeping so much as it was
passing out after her Valentine party at
preschool where it was reported to me
she consumed a donut, an ice cream
sundae and  Valentine candy.
7.  Time.  It will come as no surprise that a three-year-old does not have a clue about time. I don't just mean in the sense that if you say you're going to do something fun they expect it to happen immediately,everyone should know that about children by now. Whenever we are going to go visit my parents we begin counting it down by sleeps, and usually no more than three sleeps away from the weekend and that still presents a problem each morning.

But what is more frustrating than that, is that she seems to have no concept of past, present or future.  We drive by the church twice a day.  Once at about 6:00 a.m. and again around 4:30 pm.  And each time we drive by it, day or night whether it is Monday or Friday Annabelle will inevitably tell me she wants to go to church tomorrow.  I then say "that's great, but tomorrow is Wednesday. We go to church on Sunday (usually. sometimes we stay home in our pajamas because it's too cold or I'm reading a good book)."  and then she looks and me and says "What do you say?" Lather. Rinse. Repeat.  Though when it actually is time to go to church her enthusiasm wanes and she begs to stay home.

It also evident she has not mastered the space-time continuum when we drive by the lake on the way home from daycare and she'll always shout "Mama! We went to the beach yesterday!"  And it is the middle of  February.

Injuries, illness,  and naughtiness seem to remain fresh in her brain as well.  She frequently brings up the time when she threw up on the stairs as something that happened yesterday.  She has also mentioned a time or two went she's been yelled at several months ago as something that happened 'last night.'  And after our visit to Nana and Poppy's house a week ago Annabelle tells me each day that she can't wait to go back to Nana and Poppy's house next year.

 Annabelle is very smart.  But she is what I would call "booksmart."  She knows the calendar. She can recite every day of the week and all the months in the year, and tell you what month it is and what year it is.  What she cannot do is tell you what day it is today, or what  planet she lives on.

She seems to measure time by when the baby is sleeping.  Annabelle knows there are certain things she cannot do unless Baby Georgia is immobilized or asleep.  So any time she wants to do something she always says "Can I have an apple after baby goes to bed?" and I'll tell her sure because I am so tired of explaining when the baby sleeps and that she can have an apple even if the baby is awake.  So then Annabelle goes to find her sister and starts to prepare her for bed, despite the fact that it is not bedtime.

And while we are on the subject let's talk about Baby Georgia. Baby Georgia is growing in the shadow of her sister.  She has learned to yell, hit, and climb on furniture to reach the remote all by watching her big sister.  She has been left alone to raise herself.  It's amazing to me that Annabelle is pretty self-sufficient and can dress herself, brush her own hair and teeth, wash her hands and face, get her own snacks....but still manages to be a substantial time investment.  So Georgia often just blends into the background, Like now, for example.  As I sit here writing, Georgia is trying to get her toy off of the counter because she knows I will not get up and do it.  
I wasn't quick enough with the camera, but Georgia was standing on that
can of black beans in an effort to reach her toy that was on the counter.
Why do we have black beans just rolling around on the floor? Because
Georgia went and retrieved them from the cabinet with the exclusive
purpose of standing on them.  If she moves just a little to the left she
can reach my wine opener.
Don't worry, when she's done getting her toy and opening my wine she can just open that can she was standing on and fix her own lunch.  She'll be just fine and soon the questions will begin.

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