Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Kid Talk

My coteacher recently told me it was such a relief to see my interacting with my own children and realize that I wasn’t the fountain of endless patience I apparently appear to be in the classroom. What can I say? The requirements to suitably teach and supervise 15 three and four year olds for nine short months are a whole different ball game than what is required to parent the same two children for years on end.

Some of the things I’ve heard myself say ABOUT kids are surprising enough, such as when I answered something my brother asked with, “Yes. Last time they were hitting each other with fly swatters, I told them they had to wash their hands afterwards. Does that answer your question?

In my family we apparently teach speaking in riddles as a necessary if not entirely innate form of communication. I can remember Cassie’s concerted efforts to learn sarcasm at age two or three, having now perfected the art by age 11. She had the tone and vocabulary down well before fully discovering the extent of its possible uses. I thoroughly enjoyed watching her practice the inflection of a totally inappropriately placed, “Yeah RIGHT!!!”

This was a teachable moment for my seven year old nephew Leo, who was, I believe, banging a glass table with a paper cup at the time:

Erin, “That’s a little noisy.” Leo continues banging the cup long enough to prompt my brother to say, “When she says, ‘That’s a little noisy’, she really means, ‘STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT RIGHT NOW!!!’” It’s always helpful to know whether one is tiptoeing through the tulips or stomping through land mines.

I’ve heard many, many parents express astonishment and even dismay that they hear their parents voices coming out of their own mouths…”You’re going to break your neck!” or “You’re bored? You need something to do?!?! I’LL give you something to DO!!! It’s helpful if the children know in advance that “something to DO” (as opposed to “something to do” with no emphasis on the “do”) always, always means chores.

My parents always had a few up their sleeve that I’ve come to find out weren’t quite as typical, such as, “If it still hurts in a week, tell me again. That one comes in very handy.

But more surprising to me have always been the comments I never heard my parents say and amazed me even as they were coming out of my own mouth, such as, “Don’t spit on the cat while I’m on the phone! Suddenly it’s ok to spit on the cat when I’m not on the phone?!?

Although you will never find this particular comment in ANY parenting book, it sure did the trick at the time: “If you don’t stop right now, I’m not going to let you turn seven tomorrow and you’ll have to stay six!!!!! A later conversation revealed that although my son ceased the annoying behavior, it wasn’t necessarily that he believed my threat. After all, he explained, I had already bought the birthday cake. Still, I guess he wasn’t taking any chances.

These words are written up on my 9 year old's calendar. You'll notice, he spelled the vital word (summer) correctly: "Last day of shcool. Summer draek."

He needs a draek I think. We all do.


  1. As a mother-to-be for the first time, I heartily enjoy getting a glimpse of what's in store for me!

    My "mom voice" is coming along nicely I must say as I had to run a graduation rehearsal with 14 year olds yesterday. I think a phrase I used was "I know you it's hard for you to act like gentlemen, but please put some effort into it for the next half an hour."

    Thanks for the good chuckle!!

    And yes, it certainly does mean you can spit on the cat when you're not on the phone.

  2. ROFL at the 'spitting on the cat' one! I've often used "Are you bleeding? Puking? No? Then you're fine." on our kids. The bewildered look on their face can be priceless.

    Thanks for the laugh!

  3. You know, I just used the bleeding & puking one yesterday!!! As in, "You know when it's an emergency, right?" (blank look on my son's face) "It's an emergency if there's puke or blood."

  4. As a mother of four, I can truly relate to everything you posted! I'm laughing because when my now 18 yr old was about 8 he was in a wrestling tournament. As he was wrestling, he started to hyperventilate(sp?)he was in a situation that he had never been in... losing!. At the break in between periods he comes running over to me crying. I looked him square in the eye and shouted "Are you crying? There's no crying in wrestling! Get out there and pin this kid!" The coach couldn't believe that I said that and to be honest, I couldn't believe it at the time either.
    Thanks for the memories!

  5. re the flex ruler/ u shape it into what ever curvy shape u like.. trace along the edge of the back of some patt paper, with pencil.. or even using a sharp exacto, and voila... perfect curved paper to use on layouts.. love this.. hope that helps!

  6. Har! Love the "spitting on the cat" one. And I can relate to the sarcasm ... my daughter has had this perfected for years now. Just wait till your daughter is 16...

  7. Some say we all turn into our mothers/parents one day. That prospect can be frightening, indeed. But still, your advice to not spit on the cat is sound. I think I'll put that on my list of things not to do. :-)

    Oh, do go see D. Sedaris if you can! He's amazing. Love to listen to him read occasionally on "This American Life." What a treat! :-)

  8. As a father of zero I can still strangely relate to this post. Having read it (twice), I know why I have decided to not have children.

    I think being a teacher is the greatest form of contraception in the world....

  9. I love the "cat spitting" comment. LOL!

  10. I already see myself imitating my mother. I don't have spawn yet. But it still happens..

    Hilarious post btw :)

    One of my professors insists that this is a good way to handle arguments with children (it works on my brothers..)

    "go to your room, and stay there until you come out smiling!"

    It inevetably leads to three or four attempts at faking a smile, which gets everybody giggly because fake smiles are funny, which leads to everyone returning to high spirits.