Dramatic Re-Enactments

Regardless of whether it’s a real injury, like getting hit on the ankle by a rogue snow globe, or something less severe like bumping into a pillow, Arlo (2.5) insists that we gather ’round and pay close attention as he re-creates the incident. It’s crucial that we understand precisely what happened — no detail can go over-looked. Without a vocabulary big enough to explain it, he’s forced to act it out, which makes us all feel like we’re living an episode of Lassie.

We try to verbally confirm that we understand his body language. One of us will nervously offer, “Oh, you scraped your knuckles on that brick?” and then hold our breath in hopes that we nailed it, because if we’re wrong, he’ll make another, more aggressive and angered attempt at getting his point across. He’s from the “When someone doesn’t understand you, say it again but louder and gesticulate more” school of communication. To his defense, he has no other choice. We tried a Ouija board, but forgot he can’t spell.

This circle of confusion usually causes him to sustain further injuries. By the second or third take, he’s no longer crying about the original incident, but instead, re-enacting the pain and frustration stemming from the prior re-enactment. It doesn’t end until Lindsay or I uncover some  minor detail we’d previously overlooked. It’s similar to that moment when you’re playing Pictionary and you suddenly understand everything and blurt out the correct answer with supreme confidence:

“Oh, you scraped your knuckle on the brick AND stepped on a Cheerio! I didn’t see what you were doing with your foot! Sorry.”

Once he’s convinced we understand what happened, he smiles, nods, says “Yeah yeah yeah,” and continues as if nothing happened.

Maybe that’s why little kids get so frustrated:  their whole life is a game of charades and their parents aren’t very good at guessing.

I'm a contributing writer to Parents Magazine, GQ, Psychology Today and some others. My book, "This is Ridiculous. This is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists" is available here http://bit.ly/1exfm34. Look for two more books in 2015: "Must. Push. Buttons (Bloomsbury Kids), and an as-of-yet untitled memoir I’ve appeared on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” and “Nick Mom’s Night Out." I live in New Jersey with my wife and two sons and enjoy making them laugh more than anyone else.

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