Monday, November 22, 2010

Messages You Hear May Vary

As a parent, I spend much of my time interpreting both what is and is not said from each child.  Asking "How was your day?" seems like an unloaded question, but the answers both drawn out and brief reveal as much information about what did and did not happen while a person was at school as a piece of DNA at a crime scene.   What separates the rookie on the beat from the Sean Connery of the Untouchables, is the capacity for interpretation.

When child one enters the car, I ask the standard mark 1 question.  I get a one word answer "Fine." as he flounces to the back row.  Automatically alarms go off in my brain.   Child has a bad grade.  Child had an incident at the playground.  Child had a bad day.    Mental note to pull over in the parking lot before leaving so as to discern "What's up."  Turns out it is a pair of ripped pants in the knee. No biggie.

Child number two bounds into the car and before I can say "Hi" begins telling me a minute by minute breakdown of her day.  Most of this data dump is routine, "After math, we had snack..." but having heard this on countless days before, the omission of a class signals a reason for concern.  "How was your science test?"  I ask.   "Oh.....I forgot about that class." she says with a slight grin. "What's for snack?" Second mental note to send an email to the teacher about the exam. 

Child number three gets in, complains loudly that he doesn't get his first choice of seat since one person is already sitting there and promptly begins eating his lunch in the car.  "Why didn't you eat in school?"  "Do you know what I like?  Cheeseburgers!" is the response as he continues wolfing down his food.    It takes a few minutes to figure out his class won a free lunch from the local Chee Burger Chee Burger to explain why he's now just getting to his yogurt, baloney wrap and apple.  

Enter the fourth child who has just finished car patrol.   She gets in the front seat.   "Don't ask me about my day.  I don't want to talk about it."  she announces.  "Okay."   I put on some music and secure that everyone is buckled in before we leave.   We get two blocks from school and the silence is pregnant as we wait for the train to pass.   She keeps looking over at me, expecting a grilling.   I'm trying to be the uber vigilant driver who cares only about the road after all, she said "Don't ask." so I'm assuming, she won't tell until we get home.   But the train is long and it gets to be too much for her.

  ...."Mom..."   "Yes?"   "Mommmm?"   "Yes."   "Mom!"   "Yes honey, I'm right here, what is it?"  "Well today we had a class and it was about....that thing....."  Everyone is suddenly glued to the conversation.  

The urgent plea on her face is obvious.  I crank up the All Christmas songs before Advent Even Begins station and let Andy Williams and his "Most Wonderful Time of the Year..." do the rest.  

"We talked about those....THINGS." she says meaningfully and touches with a single delicate finger on each side, her shoulder bones.  "And having SUPPLIES!" I am racking my brain.  She moves ever so meekly to touch her purse.   "And about punctuation."  she adds.   Maybe it's the three in the afternoon stupids but this time, I'm just not getting it.   " know....end of sentence?"   The train passes.

We start moving towards home again as comprehension dawns, "Periods." my brain suddenly register.  And I know that discussions about grammar will forever hold a double entendra; and that somewhere in the Bureau of Parenting, the Real Department of Homeland Security, I've just turned in one of my last rookie badges and advanced to the role of Veteran in the realm of teenagers.   I've broken the code or created one anyway.

Coming up next, "Do You Hear What I Say?" Teaching children that what is said by Mom does not come with an asterisk allowing for escape clauses from stated mandates.  No waivers available upon complaint.     

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!