Parent-Speak

Posted on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 9:00 am

I often hear parents lamenting the fact that they simply don’t understand their kids.  All the confusing text-talk and the crazy emotional roller coaster on which children seem to want to take everyone around them.  It can be exhausting.  But, what about for kids?  Ever stop to think about them?  How about the minefield of confusion through which they walk?  Well, time to pull back the curtain a little…this one’s for the kids.

First, let’s examine the universal, “what are you doing?”  Usually, so mundane a question is only asked when the child is  (or children are, sure) doing something so outlandish, so beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior that no answer would be acceptable.  Like a kid could say, “Well, on paper, it looked like my hamster could, in fact, eat a watermelon whole,” and everything would be honkey-dorey.  Parents don’t really mean, “What are you doing?,” they mean “STOP!”  Remember that, kids.

In the same vein is that classic, “What were you thinking?”  Kids, please listen: The WORST thing you can do here is actually tell your mom or dad what you were actually thinking.  Your best bet is to quietly (but audibly) say something about poor choices and your true regret at having been part of so heinous an act.

“I think they’re closed.”  One of the biggest crocks of hooey any parent has ever peddled to a child.  Chuck-E-Cheese, closed, on a Saturday?  Call your folks (yeah, usually your dad) on that one, kids.  And, hey, the lake simply does not close.  Don’t fall for that!

When you grow up, you will not suddenly like the way something tastes.  Sorry, grown-ups, I’m laying it out on that one.  I didn’t like okra when I was four, and I like it less now.  I can stomach raw spinach in a salad, but you give me cooked spinach and we have to stop being friends.  But, that kinda stuff’s (greens and cruciferous vegetables) good for you, kids, so eat it and find a green vegetable you like (or can at least tolerate) and make your parents happy, alright?

There’s plenty of other stuff, too, when you think about it.  Nobody thinks you’re going to jump off a bridge just because everybody else does.  Not everything around you is going to put your eye out if your not careful (a red playground ball, for instance).  You will not immediately catch your death of a cold for going outside long enough to check the car for your bookbag in December without a hat.  Not every childhood stunt could result in a broken neck.  And the fact that their are starving kids in other lands is something to consider as we are a nation that’s fairly wasteful with our resources, but it doesn’t make brussel sprouts taste any better.

Look, kids, I know that injustice abounds in your world.  When you go to bed…your parents stay up, watch TV, eat ice cream, surf the Internet, and generally do a lot of the things they spent most of the day telling you not to do.  That’s one of the few perks of being a grown up.  After all, they’re the same ones who have to pay bills and get the oil changed.  There’s always a catch.  One thing you have to remember is that your folks were kids once, too (I know you know this, I’m just saying), and they lived on the wrong side of the parent-talk minefield, too.  They made it through, which is pretty much what gives them permission to start using that very same kind of veiled double-talk now.

Clarity of communication has never really been a strong suit for mankind.  Even as language developed, we started developing little codes (we call them metaphors, similes, idioms) and finding the best way to say what we mean without actually saying what we mean.  You’re being tossed into that mess, kids! Congratulations!

Regardless of how you say it, the wagon’s rolling onward.  Thanks for riding shotgun, and, no drinks on the seat, they spill and leave a mess.  What were you thinking?

Submitted by Chuck Moss

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