Of the many skills you need to be a parent — driving stamina of a long-distance trucker, lie-detecting ability, training of a second-year med student, just for starters — who would’ve guessed learning a foreign language would come into play.
Oh, I’m not talking about toddler talk. You basically have to have translators for that entire stage. No one knows what the heck those little dudes are saying, and any parents who act like they do are totally lying. (“Oh, how cute! Brentley just said he wants to go see the gibbons at the zoo and then have a double-scoop of ice cream.” Uh, no he didn’t. He said, “Uuuuuuuuhhh. Pppppppblllt.”)
Really, all you can do through that marble-mouthed phase is run through the four basic necessities — food, water, potty, sleep — and hope you nail it before something bad happens to the carpet.
Even years into spelling and vocabulary tests when you think you’re speaking the same language as your kids, you’re not. And I’m not referring to those words that it’s difficult to convey the meaning of, like touché, which No. 3 is mangling on a regular basis. (Me: “Seriously, your shoes have been in the middle of the living room floor for THREE DAYS.” No. 3: “Touché.”)
I remember teaching them different words and their meanings, and the kids seemed to get it. Somewhere along the line, though, things got garbled.
I thought we had an understanding that “napkin” referred to that little paper square next to the plate. But the food smears on my upholstered dining room chairs indicate otherwise. (That my husband and I are dumb for having fabric-covered furniture is beside the point. We also once intentionally carpeted beneath the dining room table. We’re idiots.)
Another time, No. 3 kept badgering me for something and I told him “maybe.”
“Woo hoo!” he yelled.
Thinking he didn’t hear me, I repeated it slower and louder. “I... said... ‘maaaaybeeeee.’”
“Oh, I know, but you didn’t say no.”
See, there it is — touché!
Kids. They hear what they want to hear. And it’s not just mine — it appears to be some sort of universal affliction that kids and ’rents don’t speak the same language.
At a recent gathering, a gaggle of teenage girls started “planning” — trust me, that word gets quotes when attempted by anyone under 21 or by my husband — a sleepover. There was much giggling and texting before one girl announced that it would “probably” be at her house.
“Well, we haven’t had a sleepover at our house in a really long time, and my mom said she had to think about it.”
Poor kid. She didn’t understand. In Momese, that’s a big ol’ fat “no.”
Now, if I could just figure out how to say “clean your room” in Kiddish….