Posted by: Ingrid | February 16, 2011

Lost in Translation

Sometimes in the middle of being a stay at home mom I forget what an amazing thing I am doing.  I forget, in the tedium of peanut butter smeared hair, toys under the couch, and a toddler who will. not. sit. still. that I am priviledged to every day shape and teach this little person in my care who is growing and changing exponentially as the days go by.

One of the things I realize I just do and take for granted is the whole communication issue.  When I was ten, my family hosted an exchange student from Japan for a few months.  Yuri was very sweet, very obliging, and first introduced me to the music of Madonna and weird packaged Japanese veggie chips.  There was always a communication barrier though, no matter how good her English was.  That experience, as well as travel to other countries, has reinforced just how exhausting being with someone who does not speak your language can be.

I started thinking about that the other day because it occured to me that in eighteen months I have not once heard Isaac utter a complete sentence.  He doesn’t ask for food.  He doesn’t tell me he needs a diaper change or a nap.  He can’t ask me to stop playing with the blocks because he would rather read a book.  He can’t tell me he’s cold and he’s never told me that he would rather have his peanut butter on an apple rather than a graham cracker.

Communication with a baby and young toddler is this amazing conglomeration of  intuition and learning to read grunts, non-verbal cues, the intensity of a cry, and the focus on an object.  To date, while I’m sure Isaac has been frustrated at times (I know I have!), we have somehow managed to get along okay, day after day without much thought given to the matter.  I have just spent eighteen months caring intensively for a person who has been unable to communicate ANYTHING in English.  And I really think we have come out okay, overall.

I feel like I deserve a medal.  At the least, I feel like all of us moms dealing with very small children should take a step back and appreciate yet another facet in our diverse and complex job description, that of a highly sophisticated linguistic expert and interpreter.



  1. Aww… I love this post! So true. My toddler is a month younger than issac so I always love reading what you write because I feel like I am in a similar phase. Just think how sweet it will be to first hear them say I love you mommy! Unlike racing, there are no medals with raising kids but I think a happy, independent, Christian adult would be a great reward!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this! I totally agree that we, as moms, usually take what we do every day without thinking about it for granted. Sofie is actually talking now, usually in complete sentences but every now and then we still run into things she can’t quite communicate in words. It’s amazing how quickly we go straight back into non-verbal cue mode. One of the strangest things to me about becoming a mom was bringing home my daughter who I knew was mine and who had lived inside me for nine months but I didn’t know much about, aside from the fact that she was a baby girl who we named Sofia. It was like bringing home a stranger at first- we didn’t know this kid. After a while though, we all got to know each other, we learned to read each other. Lately, it’s been so fun hearing Sofie express her thoughts in words. Knowing that just a few months ago, the funny things she says were just ideas trapped in her little mind just amazes me.
    I’m glad you are sharing your amazing moments of motherhood (and life) with the rest of us!

  3. Mom: “Say please, Isaac.”

    Isaac: “Bah!”

    Mom: “Good boy.”

    Isaac: “Bah Bah”

    Mom: “Oh, did you say, ‘Mama.'”

    Isaac: “Bah Bah.”

    Mom: “Isaac, say: “Maamaa.”

    Isaac: “Daddy!”


    You’re a great mom and a wonderful wife!

  4. This is a great post 🙂 Thankyou. very encouraging. I think that is why it is so draining and hard sometimes. It’s also hard being the main interpreter, more than Dad even, I know what my 8 month olds squeals, eye focus and hand gestures mean, and yes, it is hard! I want to step back more and see how precious this time is.

    Our little people are next generation’s scientists, authors, thinkers, (God willing!) Christians, pastors and mentors. I pray our time at home helps build their character to be what God wants them to be!

    Especially Love Clint’s update!

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