“Sweet Pea, do you know yet if the school is doing Pizza Fridays this year?”


There are so many ways to mess kids up …. Some obvious ways include letting them grow up thinking that Froot Loops and potato chips count as fruits and veggies, howling insults at them all the way through tee-ball or minor hockey and shedding guilt-inducing fake tears whenever their behaviour is less-than-stellar. Oh, and telling them that Rover didn’t die – he just went to a nice farm where there’s lots of room to run, plenty of squirrels to chase, and an endless supply of rawhide. Another way to crush them would be to say what we really want to say …. All those things we mutter under our breath when they’re leaning on our last nerve – we can’t just say those awful things out loud to our kids. So, we speak in code. I found myself thinking about this code a few days ago when it was way past bedtime and Fiona and Bridget were duking it out for the title of Most Annoying Child in Canada, If Not The Entire Flippin’ World. I said, in a creamy voice, “you guys need your rest – you are going to be so tired tomorrow, and you won’t have a good day”. This is a line of the code. What it really means is “the pitter-patter of little feet is going to make me run screaming into the night if it doesn’t settle into its bed and leave me to my near-homicidal thoughts”. Here are some other coded phrases I use – and what they are masking.

“Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Good one!” Every now and then, our girls crack a joke that is actually funny. You know, about 7% of the time. The rest of their jokes range from the merely lacking-in-humour to the impossible-to-understand. They are good at making each other laugh, but that’s about it. However, I don’t want their little spirits to wither like a balloon from last week’s party – so I laugh. Even when I’m thinking “um, ok”. And I don’t tell them they’re at their funniest when they’re being dead serious – that’s when the real laughter happens. Hopefully, they can’t tell the difference yet.

Speaking of laughing, something else I never say – but always think: “Ok, it was funny the first time. Maybe even the second time. Now, stop doing it before I give in to the temptation to have you appraised by a black marketeer.”

One-word answers …. If one of the girls asks a question and I respond with “yes”, “no” or “maybe”, and there’s no elaboration, what I’m really saying is “no more questions, please”. This is especially true of “uh-huh” and “mmm”. I am making a grocery list and I just wrote “butter” three times. Go away.

“Oh, sure, maybe we’ll do that sometime ….” Translation: you’ve pulled this one out of the wild blue yonder, and I’m thrown off. This string of words can mean anything from “yes, let’s think about this and maybe even do it” to “your cray-cray proposal has the same chance as a snowball in hell”. Either way, I need to think it through.

In the same vein, there’s “maybe”. It can mean anything from “never” to “yes, sometime when I’m not so tired or we’re not so busy” to an honest “maybe”. Sometimes, it’s mumbled meaninglessly while I’m driving or cooking or cleaning the bathroom, in an effort to head off an exhausting exploration of everything that could possibly be associated with the topic that has just been raised. Maybe your hamster would enjoy wearing a hat. Maybe your teacher’s actually crazy. Maybe we could go to a movie Sunday afternoon. Maybe you can have a sleepover with your friend. Maybe we could buy you a cellphone when you’re fourteen. However, none of that can happen right now, because I’m flossing. So let’s just sit on this one for a while ….

“That’s a great idea!” This one’s usually accompanied by an ear-to-ear smile and frantic nodding. It may or may not be a great idea. Whatever. I want you to get completely immersed in making the idea happen, so I can finish this chapter or bubble bath or phone call.

“Wow – what a lovely drawing!” This one’s tricky. Sometimes Fiona or Bridget creates a truly lovely drawing, and I’m telling the truth. About half of the time, though, it’s not a lovely drawing. It took them five minutes or less to make it, and it looks it. But what kind of asshole would criticize a picture held up proudly for inspection and praise? Not this asshole.

“You’re a big girl now! You can do this.” In other words, I’m tired of doing this for you, and change happens now.

“It’s good for you! Have some – you might find that you actually like it.” It’s probably good for you. You might like it, but you probably won’t. Truth is, I bought the ingredients, threw them together after a day that’s already been twelve hours long, and I will lose my shiz if I have to scrape it off your plate into the garbage can. It may or may not be good for you, but it will cut me to my quick if you don’t eat at least a few bites.

“That’s nice.” Whatever it is, it isn’t nice. If it were nice, I’d have found a different word for it. Oh, your friend wears $100 sweaters? That’s nice. So-and-so gets cookies after dinner every day? That’s nice. That kid who bullied you all the way through the second grade offered you a lick of his lollipop? That’s nice. Your school’s selling chocolate bars / candles / gift wrap and there’s a prize for the kid who sells the most? That’s nice. Mrs. Has-No-Life-and-Therefore-Volunteers-For-Everything showed up to tie shoes just before P.E., and gave her kid a big hug before she left to resume placing consumer complaints and watching daytime television? That’s nice. None of this is even remotely nice. I just don’t want to smother the girls with my cynicism before they’re able to make these sorts of judgements for themselves.

“Is your school doing Pizza Fridays this year? Because I havn’t seen the form, and I know how much you guys like your Pizza Fridays ….” In other words, we’re not even one month into the school year, and I’m already trying to weasel out of packing lunches.* Three cheers for the code!

* The Pizza Fridays form arrived yesterday. I nearly cried in relief and gratitude.