What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate

Communication breakdowns, if I remember my college professors correctly, can happen at any of three moments in the delivery of a message. At one end is the sender, at the other the receiver and in between is interference. Lots of things can happen which cause a breakdown. On one hand, the sender may send an unclear message; or the receiver will interpret the message in a way unintended by the sender; or some form of interference in between caused the message to get distorted. Such examples are evident when you have young children.

Take, for example, our 2-year-old! Almost all the girls (2-year-old included) and the wife needed some kind of new shoe or shoes. We went shopping on Thursday to fulfill that need. The toddler needed sneakers/play shoes and possibly church shoes. (We decided the church shoes could wait a little while longer after spending far too much time already in Shoe Show!) However, the toddler wouldn’t cooperate. After many loud “no’s”, which echoed across the entire building, and some wailing the wife finally got to settle her down.

“But, honey, if you want to go to the playground you’ll need new sneakers.” The communication breakdown began with the sender!

You see, 2-year-old’s are hit-or-miss when it comes to generalized statements. Even though she immediately agreed to settle down and try on new sneaks (Doc McStuffins were selected, FYI), she concluded that meant a trip to the playground. That very day. In the rain. At 42 degrees.

One might surmise that the breakdown occurred at the reception. However, as she is our fourth beautiful daughter, we should’ve known that upon hearing the word “playground” she would assume a trip to said fun-zone as our next journey. By we should’ve known, I mean my wife should’ve known. Yup, I’m throwing my better half under the bus this time as I wasn’t the one to make the suggestion, nor was I in the vicinity of the toddler when this dialogue occurred. I was busy helping our much more cooperative 6-year-old pick out both church shoes and sneakers!

Speaking of the 6-year-old, she is an example of the breakdown occurring at reception. Tonight I took her and her 11-year-old sister to Tetelekai – a musical performance of Jesus’ passion and resurrection – at our church. It was announced that there would be two acts with a 15-minute intermission. Clearly stated, couldn’t ask for much more.

The problem was the receiver – she is not yet aware of the definition of intermission.

After Act One, when the audience applauded and the lights went up, she looks me straight in the eye and says (with a hint of sadness and disappointment), “I want to come back tomorrow night to watch the rest.” All parents must be teachers, and this was one of my teachable moments. I informed her that an intermission is just a break you take in the middle of a play or movie – sort of like Mommy and Daddy make her do with her videos to come eat lunch or say hi to a relative on the phone. Hopefully there wasn’t too much interference to prevent her from acquiring this new vocabulary word.

Speaking of interference, there’s A LOT of that in a house with 4 kids – wild and rowdy kids at that! One such moment occurred last week when the 11-year-old had the 6-year-old lay down on the floor. She told the 15-year-old she was going to levitate her little sister. Before she could perform her trick, the 6-year-old let one rip! She immediately started to laugh; because to a 6-year-old gas is, well, a gas! This is, once again, one of those teachable moments for a parent. My wife was telling her not to laugh but to say, “Excuse me,” when passing gas.

But there was interference.

In the name of Daddy!

I don’t think any of our kids heard my wife’s lesson on etiquette as I shouted from half-way up the steps, “Sweetie, you’ll have to fart a lot bigger than that if you want to levitate!”

I didn’t have to make eye contact with my lovely, beautiful, unfortunate wife to feel her look at that particular moment. No sir, there was no interference in that look – sender’s message was clear and receiver knew precisely what it meant. Now, whether or not the receiver heeds that particular message, that’s another story!

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