Wherein I Retain My Sanity (At the Cost of a Little Bit of Magic)

Big Brother is five and a half years old. But he doesn’t talk the way I imagine a five and a half year old boy should talk. Take the exchange we had yesterday morning, for example:

Me: Please eat your cereal properly
BB: I’d prefer to eat it like this
Me: You may eat your cereal properly, please. Drinking the milk from the bowl is impolite
BB: (thinks for a minute) No, I think you’re incorrect.

Seriously, is that the way most five year olds converse? Please tell me that’s completely normal.

But it’s not just the words he uses (all children describe their dinner as “delightful”, right?), it’s also the way he can’t just come out and say anything directly. There always has to be a story.

“When I was in Dinosaur World, my four uncles and I went to the zoo one day. But it wasn’t a zoo where they kept dinosaurs in cages, it was a zoo where dinosaurs could go and see people in cages. But it was okay because my uncles and I all dressed up as dinosaurs. I was a velociraptor, Bear was a T-Rex, Mole was a pachycephalosaurus, Kizzay was a brachiosaurus, and Silly was a pterodactyl. And when we wanted something to eat we had to go to the shop and buy some food, and they had lots of different things to eat, like chips and hamburgers and hot dogs and salad and sandwiches and bread rolls and lots of other things, and also sushi. And my uncles all had sushi for lunch.”

Long pause.

“Can I have sushi for lunch today?”

As you may remember, I’ve been sick for the last couple of weeks. My patience is not exactly at an all-time high. And the one thing guaranteed to send the remnants of a mother’s patience spiralling into oblivion is the need to remind a small child to eat their dinner over and over and over and over (and over) again.

“Eat you dinner please, Big Brother.”

“I am eating. I’m chewing. See?”

“Keep eating please.”

“Okay. But first I’m just going to build stairs with my cutlery….”

“Are you eating, Big Brother?”

“No, I’m drinking. Which is a kind of eating. Only it’s drinking. *starts laughing* Wouldn’t it be funny if eating was drinking and drinking was eating and you had to drink your food? That would be so awesomesauce.”

And so on, and so on, ad nauseam.

The other night, after at least thirty minutes of this type of conversation interspersed with brief moments of peaceful respite as he actually consumed some of the dinner I’d cooked, I’d had enough. I couldn’t take it anymore. I told Big Brother I’d be back soon, and I fled the dining room to hide for five quiet minutes in the bathroom.

Three minutes later, the door was gently pushed aside and Big Brother stood there. Watching me. With a big smile on his face.

“Mummy?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered in what may or may not have been a less enthusiastic tone of voice than usual.

“One time in Dinosaur World–”

And I interrupted him. Because my sanity could take no more long, convoluted tales of imaginary worlds and people. “Big Brother?” I said. (If I was inclined to use dialog tags other than ‘said’, I might have chosen to replace this one with the word ‘pleaded’.) “Can you just tell me what it is you want? I don’t want to hear a story, okay?”

And he looked at me, his beautiful blue eyes all wide and innocent. And his voice trembled a little as he said, “But I like stories.”

And somewhere deep inside my own story-loving heart, a little piece of magic was lost.

Do your children tell stories? Do you ever accidentally damp their enthusiasm?

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17 Comments

Filed under Life With Kids

17 responses to “Wherein I Retain My Sanity (At the Cost of a Little Bit of Magic)

  1. kaycee

    Awwww.
    I have been following your life with this BB fellow. I just have to comment sometime.
    He would have been classic for Cosby’s Kids say the Darndest things.

  2. At the risk of seeming like a fuddy-duddy, I do think it’s important for people to learn two things: 1) how to ask for things both by using stories and without, and 2) how to read body language and tone of voice to determine which will be more productive in different situations.

    This is really important in dating, for example. Also job interviews. 🙂

    • You’re right. On the other hand, if you read my previous post about Big Brother’s first crush, you’ll probably notice that he’s not quite ready for dating yet… 🙂

      I’m sure by the time he’s a bit older he’ll figure out when stories aren’t the right way to go. If only because I’ll go insane otherwise.

  3. I have no children so cannot comment on the specifics of youth.

    However, my biggest niggle (things that irritate me as opposed to things that make me actually angry) is people, especially sales people, not moving on to the next stage of the process once I have signalled I have understood. Once I have gathered the information I wanted I want to move onto the next question (mine or theirs), not go back over As they are, I suspect, used to people who did not used to argue in court for a living I suspect they are treating me like the usual listener and thus assume I am trying to minimise the appearance of stupidity instead of genuinely analysing quickly and asking for a repetition every time I need one. Thus I probably dampen adult enthusiasm.

    Based on my own experience of writing, and one of the most common pieces of generic advice on writing (that of just deleting the first paragraph) I think creative souls automatically want to tell the story that lead to the thought as part of the thinking process. I certainly find myself editing or removing the first paragraph because it is closer to: “I was walking along the road past my local butcher and I saw a man pushing a trolley which reminded me of a trip to the supermarket in Paris where they do not use trolleys. As someone who does not often use a trolley even when one is available, this make me wonder what this could mean….” than: “The French do not use trolleys in supermarkets….”

    Credit will be given for making it to the end of this text block. Extra credit will be given for having noticed that I contextualised my reasons for being niggled by people not getting to the point.

    • I love this comment, Dave. It’s great the way you’ve illustrated your point at the same time as making it. 🙂 I do the exact same thing — try to contextualise everything into a story, that is. So it’s hardly a wonder that my just-like-his-Mum son does the same thing.

      I have the same issue with sales people, though in my case it’s because I worked in retail sales for 14 years before becoming a full-time Mum, and I hate to see people butcher the sales process. It’s so beautiful when it’s done well. (Language and people are a puzzle. Find the right piece for the right person and you can help them buy exactly what they need.)

      • Thank you. I am trying to make my style work for me.

        It has just occurred to me that context was very important in business change projects; to make sure that the best balance of technology and process was found, there was as much discussion of why someone thought of a requirement as there was of what needed to happen.

  4. Wonderful examples of the beauty of a child’s mind!! I urge you to run… don’t walk!!… to your nearest bookstore (or Amazon.com…) and buy Alison Gopnik’s, The Philosophical Baby (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009). What your little Big boy is going through is the most normal development of imagination and speech, so definitely celebrate it! Gopnik’s book has some wonderful research–I love the many anecdotes that show development at different ages–so you should love it too. Her basic premise is that all babies are economists and statisticians who observe the world and react to it. She also comments about the role that imagination plays, so while you may feel your boy is stalling, he is just developing normally. I hope you let him continue to do it so as to stave off the restrictions of adulthood as long as possible… 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your comment. I can assure you I’m happy to let him continue using his imagination for as long as possible — I haven’t stopped living in stories yet, and apparently I’m all grown up. 🙂

  5. Did he really say awesomesauce? Because that, is totally awesomesauce.

    Jackson tells stories. He never stops talking. Or moving. Or driving me crazy.

  6. Jak

    I also get mildly frustrated with adults who don’t get to the point – mostly in a work environment. But I like stories to contextualise a conversation too. WIth a partner who never contextualises and also shares the seemingly irrelevant details, I often plead for not the point of the conversation, but some form of context no matter how absurd.

  7. He is fantastic! Encourage the stories and post them here 😀

  8. Not only did I like Big Brother’s story, I also like the way you told it, Jo. Keep up the good work!

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