All my Children Hear is Blah! Blah! Blah!

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As a mother I reckon at least 75% of what I say to my children is either ignored or greeted by an expression of complete bewilderment that I could say something so utterly pointless or incomprehensible. In fact, I’m fairly confident that if I were to stop speaking altogether my children would probably not notice unless I failed to answer one of their requests (which are in themselves pretty academic given that my answer is usually ignored unless it the one my child wanted).

Most worrying of all, I have started to answer my own questions out loud.

Me: “Did you enjoy school today?”
Me: “Yes Mum, thanks for asking. I had a lovely day.”

There is probably only so long I can continue in this vein without risking at best being dismissed as the “Mutter Nutter” by the children or at worst being sectioned.

Let’s take the things that I say which are ignored or “not heard”. Firstly, I must tell my boys to “stop fighting” at least 15 times a day. Do they ever stop fighting? Do they even look up and register that they’ve heard my command? No, of course not. Why do I bother? Asking them to stop fighting is like asking the Kardashians to all get on – it’s not going to happen in my lifetime.

How about “please could you brush your teeth”? A not unreasonable request I feel but it is either totally ignored or met with a reaction you might expect if I had asked them to stick rusty pins in their eyes. As much as I try to convince my children of the advantages of oral hygiene, they remain unmoved. The boys shrug when I tell them that in the future girls won’t come anywhere near them and my daughter who thinks all kissing between men and women is utterly gross is rather relieved that not brushing her teeth will excuse her in the future from such a grotesque activity.

Then there’s “please could you calm down and help me” in the supermarket. In my experience supermarkets do the most bizarre things to our children. A relatively calm, well-behaved individual becomes a monster once faced with strip lighting, shopping trolleys and aisles. The little darlings who trotted in obediently at my side (OK that’s an exaggeration and just one of my insane mother fantasies where I smile benignly at the beautifully behaved children at my side whilst people, from all sides, congratulate me on my offspring’s exemplary conduct and my exceptional mothering skills….and, snap fingers, you’re back in the room…) suddenly have to run and jump and scream and knock old ladies over. Of course, the more I ask them to behave, the more boisterous they become. Then I become “shouty” and “stressy” (to use my daughter’s descriptors) and threaten things I can never carry out – usually along the lines of you are never ever watching any TV again. Inspiring mothering skills, well done me.

Perhaps my most ignored utterance is “could you please turn that off” – referring to one of a million devices which seem to multiply on a monthly basis. My pathetically weak demand is of course ignored and I can often be seen wrestling iPads, smartphones etc off my children in desperation for some real rather than virtual interaction. Once I get their attention, however, I usually manage to blow it by boring them senseless with tales of my childhood when we entertained ourselves, didn’t have any of these devices and only had three TV channels. Again, a total waste of breath. The children look at me with expressions of deep pity and no understanding of how child cruelty on such a grand scale was ever allowed to occur. One of my sons cannot quite believe that we did not have remote controls for the TV and that we actually had to heave ourselves off the sofa and walk the four steps over to the TV to change channels or switch it off. He shakes his head, a look of incredulity on his face – astounded that anyone could suffer such depths of deprivation.

The expression of greatest bewilderment however is reserved for when I go down the self-indulgent path of telling my children that before they were around, I had a job (and a life?) – I worked, I earned money, I even wore clothes other than my tracky bums. Yes, kids, hard to believe I know but I actually worked in a professional capacity before I accepted this long-term, badly paid, long–hours-with-no-time off position as a mother to three extremely demanding bosses.

I’ll end with an observation. The only time I get an immediate response to something I ask is exactly when I do not want an immediate response. For my children, like all children, saying “thank you” is not an instinctive thing. Often I find myself after doing something special saying to the children, “It would be so nice if you could say “thank you” to me after such a treat without being prompted”. To which, of course, they immediately respond in unison with no sincerity at all, “Thank you, Mum”. Not the point at all.

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Down with the kids…

imagesI am finding it increasingly difficult to understand a word my children say. I feel I am probably not alone in this and so here it is – my guide to navigating the minefield of conversation with your children:

– “Basically”: Well, basically, this word adds basically no value at all to any conversation and basically does not refer in any way to the fundamentals of anything at all in the true sense of the word – put basically it is basically a conversation filler and no self-respecting kid’s sentence is basically complete without it.
– “Like”: This is of the same ilk as “basically” – to be clear it does not mean a comparison is intended nor is it used in a verbal sense. It is totally (totes) meaningless as in “she was like talking to me when she like basically fell off her chair”. You will note the combined use of “like basically” often separated by the “conjunction” “er” as in “she like er basically fell of her chair”. On no account should these linguistical gymnastics be attempted by anyone over 20 as you run the very real risk of being laughed at very hard by your children – totes humiliating. By the way I am not going to comment on the use of “totes” suffice to say that it is one of the most irritating aberrations of the English Language and has a similar effect on me as nails down a blackboard. In fact this habit of adding an ‘s’ to perfectly good words is something I find particularly offensive.
– “Banter”: My elder son’s language is peppered liberally with this word at the moment. Everything is “banter”. Well everything that is except the time he spends with me apparently. “Banter” is so pervasive at his school that in fact one child has self-styled himself as the “Archbishop of Banterbury”. “Banter” seems very much to be lads-speak and is often accompanied with lots of “mate” and general back-slapping and jostling.
– “Ledge”: This has absolutely nothing to with any sort of shelf but is, of course, short for “legendary”. Along with “totes” and “awks” this is yet another example of abbreviating words which does make you wonder whether our children struggle with pronouncing any words of more than one syllable. As above, everyone is a “ledge” except for me who is apparently “the worst mother in the world, ever”.
– “Innit”: A corruption of “isn’t it” which is most often used rhetorically at the end of sentences and seems to serve no purpose whatsoever other than to annoy the adult who is engaging in conversation with a child.
– “Sick”: Think total opposite and you’ve understood the meaning of this word. For the medically-minded be aware that a child will never use this word in any sort of health context.  Like “ledge” this word is unlikely to be used in referring to an adult or parent.
– “Cheeky Nando’s”: I have to confess that I find this one of the most baffling of expressions and even my son could only come up with “er like er basically” when asked to define it. As someone who has always found Nando’s to be nothing more than a glorified version of KFC, it is hard for me to understand the attraction of a “cheeky Nando’s” but I guess it’s all part of banter.

There are two other peculiarities of kids’ speech worthy of mention: the pseudo-Australian rising of the voice at the end of every sentence as if asking a question when no question is intended and the complete disregard for the letter “t” in any word – e.g. “butter” becomes “bu…er” and “gutted” becomes “gu…id”.

So there you have it – simples. A word of warning though – it is not at all cool to try and join in with your children in this language usage. If you casually drop the word “banter” into your conversation you will either be met by silence/tumbleweed moment or utter ridicule. LOL (that’s “laugh out loud” by the way not “lots of love”).