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The Zoo Keeper

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Layla Watkins

I have decided that whoever coined this phrase must have had kids - kids who can talk, and talk a lot. As a new mom, I remember reading all the experts' books outlining how to quickly and effectively determine what my baby needed. One even referred to it as the "EASY" method. Easy? Well, we won't go there…. But since I knew absolutely nothing about kids, I trusted the so-called experts to teach me all I needed to know about communicating with my baby.

Always the ambitious learner, I delved into Lesson #1: The "Infant Vocabulary." Identifying an infant's needs was reportedly quite simple if you just listened carefully to the cries. "Waaaaa" meant "I'm hungry," not to be confused with "Waaa - ahh" which meant, "I'm tired." Then there was "Aaah," "Ah Ah Waaaaa," and of course the always meaningful "Waaah-ah-ah-WAAAAAA." So there I was, my baby girl wailing away at canine decibels while I, flustered and panicked, flipped through page after page of my books, desperately searching for the solution to my baby's woes. Let's just say I never made it to Lesson #2.

The Watkins Family: Kira, Layal, Gavin & Wayne

I remember thinking, "Oh Dear God, please let this child learn to talk! It'll be so much easier then!" Ah, sweet naiveté.

What I didn't realize at the time, was that when my kids learned to talk and could tell me what they wanted, they would do just that. They would also, in no uncertain terms, tell me what they didn't want. Language gave them the ability to voice their opinions, and of course they have an opinion on everything. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against differing opinions. I've just always felt that if you have an opinion, you should be able to back it up with rational logic. Unfortunately, therein lies the problem - the concepts of "rational" and "logical" do not exist in a preschooler's brain.

For example, it's 5 p.m. and I'm trying to figure out what to make for dinner. It's been an exhausting day, so I'm thinking of something fairly easy and palatable to my 3-year old son and 4-year old daughter - after all, I do not have the energy to do battle over acceptable cuisine. So, I opt for the always popular grilled cheese and tomato soup. I run my plan by the bosses and receive a resounding "Yay! Our favorite!"

Great! We're on our way. Their enthusiasm is slightly contagious so I decide to fancy up the grilled cheese by cutting them into quartered triangles. As an added bonus I throw some Goldfish into the soup. Eagerly awaiting their appreciation and approval, I call them for dinner. Into the kitchen they run, broad smiles and hungry bellies leading the way. And then it happens: The vocabulary I had so looked forward to, instantly and eloquently shows me the error of my ways.

"WHAT is this?"

"Yuck! I don't want Goldfish in my soup!"

"What did you do to the grilled cheese? I wanted it BIG!"

"This is disgusting!"

Bewildered, I lamely reply, "But you love Goldfish in your soup, and now you have four grilled cheese instead of just two."

"But I wanted to put the Goldfish in by myself! You ruined it!"

"I wanted them BIG! They taste yucky this way! I'm not eating this yucky dinner!"

"Me neither!"

Great. I try to do something nice and this is the thanks I get? At least when they didn't talk they couldn't be so rude expressing their lack of appreciation! No longer concerned with pleasing my ingrate offspring, I bite back comments about the poor, starving children in Africa and instead reply, "That's fine. You don't have to eat it, but it's a long time 'til breakfast." Fortunately for all of us, they understand what I mean and know that I mean it (OK, sometimes language does come in handy) and they decide to choke down the horrible concoction I tried to pass off as dinner.

Crisis averted, we proceed upstairs for baths where I am promptly informed that I put way too much water in the tub. I then learn that I have not only selected the wrong jammies/undies combination (apparently you cannot wear pink panties with purple jammies), but I have also put the trucks away facing the wrong direction. To add insult to injury, I messed up prayers by blessing Aunt Crystal and Uncle Matt before Uncle Steve and Aunt Jeanne. I did manage to sing the right bedtime songs, but I sang them in the wrong order. Funny, I used to be my own worst critic….

"Oh, Dear God, why did you let them learn to talk?" Then I got my answer.

My daughter says, "Mommy! I almost forgot! I drew you a picture at school today!" She jumps out of bed, grabs her book bag, and pulls out her latest artistic creation. "Look, Mommy! It's me and you! We're holding hands and smiling. These are the snowmen we built and this is our hot chocolate. I put a green hat on you because it's your favorite color! Do you like it?"

After the day we had, this simple drawing moved me to tears. All I could do was hug her and answer "Yes, sweetheart, I love it. It's beautiful, thank you."

You know, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Read other article by Layla Watkins