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2015-05-11

Colloquialisms and Kids

Colloquialisms kids won’t understand:

It means a lot
Driving me nuts
It'll be a blast!
Throw it at the wall and see what sticks



Sometimes, when I talk to my kids, I get the impression that it's way too much about me. I'm always explaining myself, trying to muddle my slang-filled adult-speak into something easy to understand, because my kids don't seem to read my mind quite like the adults in my life (but Lucy's getting better at it, and fast—this 6yo is growing).

This leads me to believe that I must appear quite conceited—as if my world is more important to me than theirs. However, as we all know, our kids' lives take precedence over ours. It’s what we stepped in; it’s the bed we've made; it’s the 20 years set aside, it’s the life you once had— slipping away.

There it goes! Bye bye!

Losing who you were is not a bad thing, but it’s important to remember who you were, how you felt as your younger self. Leave yourself traces of it—a diary, a note here or there, songs you write. Don’t allow yourself to relate to yourself in terms of other people’s work—(though it adds well to the whole picture)—you are your own thing, your own style—and the world deserves to hear your voice and see your YouTube image or your Instagram #shittyfoodporn. Moreover, you deserve to be able to look back on your life and smile, and cringe, and all that comes with the picture you’ve left yourself of yourself—through traces—of what happened in your life, and your take on it vs. that of others.’

You spend your whole life thinking about yourself—you're a kid, then an adolescent, a pre-teen, a teenager, a 20yo (your parents are taking care of you the whole time, leaving you time to think of other things and concentrate solely on your development), and then you strike out on your own (still with only you to worry about), and then you have kids. Questions derived from innocence, such as, “How do I fit in in this world?” are drowned in new, daily minutia—sand poured into a glass full of rocks. The importance scales shift, dramatically.

So, here we are. Parents, what's the primary thing you have to do with kids? Clean after them. To teach them to do it themselves takes them, if we’re being honest, until they move out of the house. Do you remember being clean as an 18-year-old? Did your dirty clothes always make it into the hamper? Did you ever vacuum your room?

Then—what’s the other thing you have to do with kids? Teach them. God help us if you didn’t learn when you were in school, because you’re now in the teacher’s chair, and you have to deliver. This is not a solely moral imperative—this is to make your life easier, as a parent.

Of course, societal responsibility, raise thinkers not destroyers, produce > consume, etc. You just want the people you live with to clean up after themselves, right? It's a fringe benefit that they learn to clean the world they inhabit as adults, but that's far away from you.

The result of all this teaching is that you’re explaining yourself, constantly, with a frequency that is not only irritating to hear, but to speak. You find yourself having to hold back anger you never had to truly face until right then, so naturally you were unprepared. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions for you, and it’s a cloudy, half-filled void for the mind of a kid, with so much information pouring in that they're constantly overwhelmed.

When they start remembering stuff, that’s when the fun, and the shame kick in. Fun happens when, in one way out of many, the kid remembers to clean up after herself in some way, and you feel relief at not having to tell them to do it / do it yourself, and then you can reciprocate with hugs! Shame happens when your child remembers a time that you did something bad, and they bring it up.

I make it a practice to apologize to my kids whenever I fuck up. Since I’m open about my failures and mistakes, I’m giving them the impression that it’s an okay subject to discuss. This is intentional. But where an adult would recognize how difficult that is to hear, a kid, who really wants to talk and be heard, has little other recourse for discussion than to repeat what she’s heard from these all-knowing adults.

Regret and shame are strong emotions. For anyone to mention your past mistakes, whether or not they throw in any kind of positive reinforcement, it brings back those bad feelings that came after you committed the act and saw its effects on the people involved. It reinforces a notion that you’re a bad person, that you should feel ashamed at yourself even in times of self-confidence. When adults bring up their peers' past mistakes flippantly, especially in front of guests (yes I’ve seen adults do this, without warning, at dinner parties), it’s a most petty thing to do. When kids do this, conversely, it comes from a place of, “I want to talk and be heard!” Very different—the innocence is on display.

In these cases, I've learned to give Lucy lots of respect. I want to show her that I realize that I'm not perfect, and that she's right to feel mad at me, and even afraid of me in some cases. If someone's a dick to you, you remember it, right? They didn't mean to be, most likely. The difference is—do they repeat it over and over, or do they appear to be learning the lesson and changing their behavior? If not, forgiveness should not happen, and fear naturally will be the main emotion of the people around the dick. But, say they didn't mean to be a dick. Say a dad got mad at his kid because they did something for the seventh time, even though he told them not to about 8 times. It's not uncommon for parents to yell in these situations.

Sometimes we just suck as parents. Like Louie C.K. said, "Whoops, there's permanent damage, let's move on, I guess."




With my second kid, I feel like I yell less because I learned everything the first time with Lucy. Poor girl, she had to deal with me as a new dad, coming to terms with myself and my new life as a dad. Beatrix has it easier, in terms of how I (probably Megan too, if you ask her, I bet she'd agree) deal with her, vis a vis my MOODS!

To steer back to kids and colloquialisms, I'll close with this central idea: you have to keep your speech towards kids simple. Otherwise, you’re leaving your kid wondering what the hell you meant when you said that. ‘What do they want me to do again?’ Being a kid must be terribly confusing.

There is an argument to be made for "talking up" to your audience, meaning, do you descend to their level, or do you use all the smarty-pants words that come to you naturally? Sometimes it's not seen as smart to appear smart, and that's not smart to me. But I don't live in a poor place. But I did. Oh, I did. 16 years. We weren't poor, but not rich, and I had plenty of poorer friends, because they accepted me more than the popular kids.

ANYWAY

I know a couple people who are going to become parents and I think, wow, what extraneous parts of their personalities are about to be shaved off? Parenting is like boot camp for your personality. The years of increased household work make you stronger, and you parents tend to shed feelings of, “I just don’t want to be at work today,” thinking instead, “Wow, I get to be at work, among the company of adults, and I don’t have to do everything myself!”