By TMoM Team Member Laura Simon
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m starting to think my kids and I speak a different versions of the English language. I’m not talking about the slang, although that’s every bit as maddening as my parents said it was. (Sorry, Mom.) Actually, I think that words literally have different meanings for kids.
Case in point: the tiny minions wait until I’m neck-deep in a project and ask if they can have ice cream for dinner. Even in my compromised mental state, I know that’s a bad idea. But I don’t want to have an argument until I solve the other problem at hand, so I say, “We’ll see.”
My childrens’ reaction? Whooping. Hollering. Squealing with delight, the kind of delight you experience when someone says you most assuredly CAN have ice cream for dinner.
When did “we’ll see” turn into “absolutely, yes”?
But it doesn’t end there. Yesterday, I told my eight-year-old he could go outside after he finished his math practice. At least, that’s what I think I said.
Apparently, he heard, “Throw yourself off the chair onto the floor, writhing in pain while moaning about how unfair and unbearable life is. Claim that you never, ever get to go outside…in fact, you haven’t seen “outside” in at least a year. When it is clear that mom is looking to sell you on Ebay, suddenly snap out of your grief and complete the worksheet without difficulty.” I mean, I think just following directions would have been better for everyone.
“Put on your gym shoes” translates loosely to “sit down on the floor and wail for 20 minutes that your shoes are gone forever while failing to notice the shoes in the basket just two feet behind you.”
“Let’s take a break from school and play outside for a little bit” can be interpreted as, “We’re never going to do schoolwork again as long as I live.” Just ask the kid insisting that Mom is a liar and can’t be trusted ever again.
“Be nice to your sister” translates to “wait until mom leaves the room, whack her across the face because she deserves it, and then pretend not to know why she’s crying.”
And, “Can you please be quiet for five minutes while I finish this” actually means, “Sit on top of my left elbow and talk about Minecraft nonsense from now until eternity.”
I realize this makes my kids look TERRIBLE, and they aren’t. They’re generally kind, loving and empathetic. In every other situation, I’m told they listen quite well.
So why can’t they understand a word I’m saying?
I’ve actually started making them repeat back to me what I just said. It’s a parenting strategy I’ve seen in multiple books, and it worked like magic when I taught high school. But here, it just seems to amplify the language barrier that already exists.
“Eli, please go upstairs and put on some actual clothes. (I pause.) What did I just ask you to do?”
Eli looks panicked, thinks hard for a moment about all the things I routinely ask him to do, and then responds, “Um…practice the piano?”
Folks, it’s like this all day long. And I’m starting to lose my mind.
But just when I’m reaching my boiling point, my five-year-old wanders up, sits on my left elbow, violates every rule of personal space when she leans in to my left year, and whispers, “Mommy, I have something to tell you. (Dramatic pause.) I love you.”
It works every time. I guess they understand the important stuff.
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