Here’s how I see it:
Newborns are like hamsters. You handle them carefully while making reassuring sounds that let them know you’re not going to eat them.
Babies and toddlers are like little foreigners who shit themselves. You speak slowly to them while explaining all of your customs: “Yes Ben-Ben, this is a fork. A fooooooork. A fork goes in your num-num carrots. Caaaaaaarrots. Not daddy’s eye.”
And children of all ages are like coma patients. Even if they don’t acknowledge you, they hear you. This is a very good thing to know.
Note to Jeff: they hear you.
No, it’s sometimes not good.
You think you’re better than me?!
They’ll look like they’re a million miles away and they won’t flinch no matter how loud you get. But they hear you. Their eyes are FIXED on the screens*, but their ears are wide open. So the more you talk, the more they take in. And it can be frustrating, not being acknowledged, so you start to say things that are curt, abrasive, angry even. Just know, they’re getting it all.
Most of it will come back to you when you least expect it. You’ll hear echoes of your impatience as they scold their stuffed animals. They’ll say the same things you thought they didn’t hear to their siblings during disagreements. Long after the temporary frustration has passed, you’ll be treated to your less-than-eloquent words as your little ones repeat them verbatim.
Sure, it’s fun as hell to swear right at a little baby’s face when they’re too small to understand that you’re calling them “little bastards” in a sing-song voice. It’s safe up until a point. But don’t get too comfortable. Because the age where they comprehend sneaks up on you. Then their sponge brains soak it all up. And their gap-toothed mouths spit it all back out.
And then you’re the little bastard.
*Yes, our kids are on screens from morning ‘til night. I understand that there are parents who have developed phobias about such things. Like toomuchscreenaphobia or something. There’s also learningslowerthanchinaphobia, and ohmygodmykidhasafreeminutephobia. We, on the other hand, are givenoshitsaphiles.