Conversation with Your Kids

If you watch closely, you’ll notice that some mothers will talk
to anyone they meet at the grocery store: clerks, cashiers,
complete strangers and, of course, other mothers.
If you watch closely, you’ll notice that some mothers will talk to anyone they meet at the grocery store: clerks, cashiers, complete strangers and, of course, other mothers.

It’s as if picking out a ripe cantaloupe has become a weekly social experience. Why does this happen? Not because we’re a particularly outgoing or glib bunch, mind you, but because most of the time we’re desperate for a decent conversation.

Oh, it’s not like we don’t have a chance to talk at home. After all, we talk to our children constantly. It builds their oral vocabulary, increases their IQ about a bazillion points, and all that. But, really, have you tried getting a conversation going on the problem of the highway infrastructure with anyone under twelve months old?

It goes something like: Mother: Say, have you heard about the new carpool lane on the interstate? I mean it‚s a good idea, in theory. But, if they think for one minute that it’s going to have any long term affect on traffic congestion, they are mistaken, I tell you.

Baby: Aaaaahhhhh, ummmmmm, uuuuuhhhhh.

Of course, one of the major perks about talking to babies is that, no matter what you say, there’s no danger of it being repeated. They’ll just lie there, cooing, captivated by your wit and intelligence, unlike most of the other people in the universe.

In fact, this is a perfect opportunity to bring up some topics like, say, your theory on why you don’t think Elvis is really dead (babies love this), your suspicions about the Thigh Master, and your take on the current seventies retro fashion situation.

Obviously, one of the downsides is that it’s tough to keep any kind of substantial conversation going.

The other, more shocking, downside is that when kids get older they go through a frightening stage where they blurt out all of the secrets that they’ve been quietly taking in. Face it, who wants to be standing in line and have their child suddenly turn around and announce to everyone standing behind them that you live in a no-good dump and your weight is roughly the same as five kaboda dragons.?

Ironically enough, at about the same time children start spilling secrets, they become quite accomplished conversationalists.

Not because they become more articulate, but because they‚ve figured out that by saying “why” they can keep just about any conversation going and going and going until it eventually goes back to the Creation of Everything in the Universe. If you don’t believe me, find a three-year-old and try it.

You: “Eat your carrots.”

Three-year-old: “Why?”

You: “Because they are part of your dinner.”

Three-year-old: Why?

You: Because they’re good for you.”

Three-year-old: Why?

You: Because they have vitamins.

Three-year-old: Why?

You: Because they’re created that way, that’s why!”

During one particularly intense discussion on snails several years ago, we made it all the way back to the Creation of Everything in the Universe in three questions. A record.

Still and all, it’s not the kind of conversation that can intellectually sustain you, if you know what I mean.

The good news is that all this begins to change by the time your child starts school. Once this happens you’ll have all sorts of meaningful discussions about dioramas and appropriate items to bring for sharing day.

But don’t be fooled. The thing about talking with kids is that something during the teenage years, you‚ll say something like, “Say, did you know that the radiation adsorbed in a person’s head while using a cell phone is enough to heat a small appliance?” And then they’ll respond with an all-too familiar, “Aaaaahhhhh, ummmmmm, uuuuuhhhhh.”

But don’t worry; there are still all your old friends back at the grocery store. You can tell them all about it.

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