Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Seen and Heard?

I have read a glut of parenting books and articles and one thing they all have in common is that they encourage parents to talk to their kids. What I want to know is: why?

If you are a grown person and you try to talk to a child only one thing will happen, you will have an overwhelming desire to impale yourself on a sharp object. Trust me, a 20-minute conversation with a 5-year-old will get you thinking about your own demise and praying it will be soon. I have actually been in the throes of a deep conversation with my son about bazooka's and spit and found myself fantisizing about dropping a toaster in my own bath water. I don't want to be gruesome, but there is only so much time one can spend conversing about poop that resembles a brown golf ball before you want to take your own life. I speak the truth.

Even the most innocent conversation with a child can turn ugly in a second.

Them: "Ellie lost a tooth at school today."

Me: "Well good for her! That is great!"

Them: "It is not good, it is sad. because I didn't lose a tooth."

Me: "Oh honey, your teeth will come out when they are ready."

Them: "I gave it time. Everyone in my class has lost a tooth except me. I am the only one who has not lost a tooth!"

Me: "Don't worry sweetheart, it will happen soon, I promise."

Them: "Well it better, cuz I really need the money!"

Even when I try to talk to my children about serious issues, like avoiding kidnappers and staying off of drugs, my admonitions are met with some resistance.

Me: "So boys, what would you do if someone you didn't know told you to get in their car?"

Them: "Here we go again . . . *sigh*"

Me: "Because I don't want you to go near anyone's car, especially someone you don't know. What should you do?"

Them: "Mom, did you watch some news story about somebody getting kidnapped in Topeka or something? Have you been watching 'America's Most Wanted' again?"

Me: "That is not relevant. And besides it was about someone getting taken in Akron. Regardless, this is serious. This could save your life! Now think, what would you do?"

Them: "Uh, is the answer the same as the last 50 times you asked me?"

Me: "Ok, let's try this a different way. What would you do if someone came up to you in a park and asked you to help them look for a lost dog?"

Them: "Well, if it was in the park, then I would say no. But, if it was in our neighborhood I would go ahead and go with them and asked to be paid in Kool-Aid, because you never let us have Kool-Aid and it is delicious. And then, I would punch them in the stomach."

Me: "What?! No! That is not what you are supposed to do!"

Them: "Ok, then I would grab a missile launcher and shoot them in the eye and then I would turn into a Transformer and fly into space and I would get my Autobot friends and we would destroy the evil people! And then I would find the lost dog and take him home and name him Turtle."

Me: "What . . . ?! No, no, no! That is not what I have told you to do! But before we continue, just for my own peace of mind, why 'Turtle'?"

Them: "I just think it would be a good name for a dog."

One of the articles I read recently on the web at PTA.org by Meline Kevorkian (yes, that is her real name) said that there is "power in choice" and "When you are talking to your children, give them a choice whenever possible. Allow them to feel you are talking with them and asking them rather than at them and telling them." The article made it sound so easy. So I decided to give it a try, and you know what, I don't think my kids read that article because there seems to be a slight disconnect somewhere.

Me: "What do you want to get your cousin for her birthday?"

Them: "I don't know."

Me: "Do you want to get her this?"

Them: "I don't care."

Me: "Well you can browse and select something you want to give her. Would you like to pick something?"

Them: "Not really."

Me: "Would you like me to pick out a few things and you can narrow it down?"

Them: "Whatever."

Me: "Ok, what about these three things, which do you think she would like best?"

Them: "It doesn't matter."

Me: "This one is pink and that is her favorite color, but this one is metallic and kind of funky and this one has sparkles which is also a plus. What do you think?"

Them: "Either way."

Me: "So pink, funky, or sparkles?"

Them: "Mom, who cares?! Let's just get the one you are holding, go pay for it and go home."

Me: "Good idea, thanks for helping me. I sure appreciated your input. So . . . what do you want to have for dinner?"

I don't like to beat around the bush so I am just going to say it, those parenting experts are wrong. Mostly because of how they define talking. When they put things in print like "talk to your children, but mostly listen" they are implying there is something to listen to that sounds more like actual words and less like evolutionary gutteral mumbling. I once had a child therapist tell the group of us in a parenting class to "ask questions and be open to hearing what your child has to say." I am open, but last time I checked the dictionary "hmmmpf" accompanied by a shoulder shrug is not real speech.

Me: "So how was school today?"

Them: "Fine."

Me: "Did anything interesting happen?"

Them: "No."

Me: "How are your friends doing?"

Them: "Good."

Me: "Did you have a math test today?"

Them: "Yes."

Me: "How did it go?"

Them: "Ok."

Me: "Anything you want to tell me or talk to me about?"

Them: "Nope."

Me: "Are you doing drugs?"

Them: "No."

Me: "Have you been abducted by aliens?"

Them: "No."

Me: "Did you change your underwear this morning?"

Them: "Yes."

Me: "Do you know that I love you?"

Them: "Yes mom. (eye roll) And I love you too."

Me: "Good, I am glad we had this talk."

Regardless of how discouraging it can be though, I say keep on trying. Maybe the 'talking to your kids' thing isn't such a bad idea after all. Eventually someday you might see a glimmer of hope like I did. Of course it could just be the sun glinting off your bumper as they drive away in your car. . . Either way, if it turns out they really don't want to talk, you can always text them.


  1. Oh, good. I thought I must be doing something wrong. I'm not alone. Those books and articles don't have things that work in them. Got it! Have you had a conversation with my seven year old lately? I'm not sure what planet she's from, but it's not this one.