Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lost in Translation

written by Judy Merrill Larsen

I admit, as my sons were growing up, I had some well-worn responses I'd use to avoid conflict. Especially when they were under the age of 10, saying, "We'll see" and "Let me think about it" rather than "No! Do I look like I've completely lost my friggin' mind?" could often buy me some time during which they'd forget about their ridiculous requests. Requests like:

~Next Halloween can I shave off all my hair and paint myself green?
~Can we have rabbits/lizards/goats/horseys/more puppies/turtles/an ant farm?
~Would it be okay if sometime I ate only bacon for an entire week? And green olives?
~Should I tell grandma that we had strawberry shortcake for dinner and you counted it as dairy and vegetable?

I mean, kids are kids, right? And they ask questions at the rate of about one per nanosecond. And, even though my sons are smart as whips (natch), it took them years to ascertain that I was saying "No, no and damn no!" So, I avoided lots of tantrums. They also knew that, if they kept repeating the request, always at louder volume each time (like that would change my mind), I'd be forced to say, "Look, if you insist on an answer right this minute, I'll have to say 'no'."

That showed them.

(And, yes, I know they had their own "euphemisms." I know that when #1 Son was older and muttered "whatever" when walking out of the room after I'd just explained why he couldn't/had to do something in detail to him, he didn't mean "whatever." I do believe he meant a particular two-word phrase that still can't be said on network television. But I digress.)

And then we evolved. As they got older and went out into the world, they got savvier. So I came up with new lines. They weren't so much asking for my permission but my approval. I started saying, "Well, see what you can work out" or "Come up with the details and we'll talk." And I'd turn and smile, knowing I was safe. Because of course I was still saying "No. Absolutely not. Do you think I've taken complete leave of my senses?" And I knew they'd never get a handle on all the nitty-gritty details so their pie-in-the-sky plans would never come to fruition.

Except they did.

Last fall, #1 Son asked if I'd mind if he and some buddies took two weeks and hiked the Appalachian Trail after graduation. "Get me the details," I said. He did. He even e-mailed me the itinerary. He'll be home sometime later this week.

Last month, #2 Son said he didn't really like the car we'd handed down to him and would it be okay of he traded it in and bought something else. "See what you can work out, " I said. He did. He's now the proud owner of a 1995 Jeep. He got a better trade-in value than I'd seen on Kelley's Blue Book.

They sure showed me.

(Oh, and on the off chance they see this, can I just point out that when they leave the house for the evening and I call after them, "Make good choices" that's not a euphemism. I mean it. Please, take me at my word.)


Threeundertwo said...

My kids have already figured out that my "maybe" means "yes, but later." My "no" comes out as "Let me think about that."

Love your site.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

These kids are way smarter than we think, aren't they? So glad to have you here as a regular visitor!

MargyWrites said...

Strawberry shortcake only counts as dairy if you use real whipped cream. And whip it yourself. Which I'm not very good at- something about having that bowl chilled just so. Accompishing such a feat would make you appear to be Channeling Martha, not Erma...but I'm just sayin'.

"Make good choices" is a good final shout out to a son leaving for the evening. Much more seemly than the phrase a friend of my Mom's used on such occasions- she would call sweetly, "Keep your pants zipped!"

Great post, Judy.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Margy--Good point. And, to make it worse, I love Cool Whip. Love, love, love it. Nothing dairy there, I'm sure.

And I don't want to even think about their zippers, okay?

Anonymous said...

I just want to say--4:59 AM you posted this?????
I have found that even my 8 year old grand-daughter has begun to figure out that "maybe later" doesn't really mean later but more like never!
I love your posts!

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Cathie-I'd love to have everyone think I was so devoted I posted in the middle of the night, but no, due to the magic of "posting options", I can write this any old time and have it posted whenever I tell it.

Thanks for your kind words and for stopping by!

Barb McKone said...

My well-worn response, when asked something (usually by the daughter, as you well know) I didn't/don't know how to answer, (usually about sex or some other scary subject) has always been- "You know, I need to think about that, and we'll talk about it later." I feel it makes me sound more thoughtful than wimpy. I could be wrong. I agree with you, Judy- you can't beat the tried and true- "Make good choices!" And it works at every age!

Elissa said...

I have used all the phrases you ladies have posted - and my girls are only almost 10 (this Sunday!!!) and 7. Well, I never told them to keep their pants zipped...

Probably my classic line is "maybe later." I think they have figured out that about half the time that means no.

Another often used line when faced with an unreal/difficult question is "why do you ask so many questions" followed by a giggle. I am amazed at the number of questions they STILL ask on a daily basis. How is it that EVERYTHING said by us parents is followed by a "why" or "but" - or even "what if.."

Think I need new lines...

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

When i was teaching and was stumped by a question, I'd always say, "Hey, that's a great question. What do you think?" but as a mom I'm not sure I really want them answering that!

Lorri said...

Yeah, that "Get me the details" thing works every time for my oldest daughter. She's a random-spatial thinker, so details are not her forte!
But my other daughter is the "gotcha" on this one. She will research for hours, make pro/con lists, create a PowerPoint presentation and prepare to argue every possible point. By the time she's finished I need a shovel to dig out from under the minutia!
...And the worst part is that she NEVER forgets!

This was my first visit to the blog. What a hoot! Thanks for sharing, Judy.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Hey Lorri-

Great to have you here!