Why Do We Teach Kids To Talk?
Parents get pretty revved up about hearing baby's first words, and understandably so – it's a momentous milestone. We spend loads of time encouraging our little ones to talk, showing them how to enunciate clearly and teaching them the proper designations for everything that surrounds them. Proudly we tally the number of words our kids have, paying special attention to those two and three-word phrases, expectantly keeping our eye on the biggest prize of all – complete sentences.
Are we demented? Clueless? Thick?
Man, are we ever going about it all wrong. Instead of encouraging our kids to be fluent we should be doing everything we can to discourage them from speaking.
For as long as possible.
Because new talkers are social liabilities. Ticking f-bombs. Apology magnets.
As if the public anxiety weren't bad enough, suddenly even in private we have to scrutinize every word we utter and actually think about what we want to say before we say it. No more opinionated comments, controversial conversations or curse words.
Do you know how hard it is to not do that? I'm East Coast born and raised, so asking me to have this kind of verbal forethought is like asking me to have a personality transplant. Reigning in the cursing alone is like promising to be a vegetarian for the rest of my life –it's wildly unrealistic. Seriously – have you ever driven in Seattle traffic? Between the gridlock and all the passive aggressive politeness it takes every ounce of composure I have to try to keep it PG. Fine, PG-13.
But, the consequence for not cleaning up your act is that your kids parrot everything you say. If you talk smack about Aunt Harriet, then you can bet your kid's going to rat you out as soon as she walks through the door by proclaiming "Mommy hates when you visit".
And… if you curse in front of your kid thinking it's harmless, then don't be surprised when the next day at pre-school she greets her teacher and classmates with a cheerful "Hi Fuckers!"
Forget about your privacy, too. Gone are the days. You might as well just sign up to do a reality television series because everyone's gonna know what happens behind your closed doors. Anything that goes into your mouth or outta your ass is fair game. People will know what gives you gas, how much you drink and how you prefer to sleep at night. Seems fair enough when you stop and think about it, considering we share these exact same details about our toddlers with perfect strangers.
Payback comes swiftly.
Combine this new ability to talk and over-share with their ability to think, and suddenly the situation becomes much more calamitous. Because now they can form questions about all of their first time observations. And I promise you, nothing good can come of your toddler interrogating you in public about shit they have never seen before.
For example, your son will ask secretary at his pre-school who bravely wears skinny jeans "Mommy, why is her butt in the front?" And you will have to gracefully apologize because you want her to like you.
When you're out for a lazy Sunday stroll at the lake, he will inquire loudly enough for anyone within the vicinity to hear "Mommy why does that man only have one leg?" And you will have to make this disabled man sound like a super hero without demeaning him because everyone is waiting to hear your response.
When your androgynous friend comes to dinner, your child will wonder aloud "Mommy how come you keep saying SHE if HE is a boy?" And you will have to uncork another bottle of wine since you don't know how to navigate your way through that landmine in one piece.
The really terrible thing is that you can often see the embarrassment coming. Yet you can't do anything to stop it.
You'll be in a grocery store and your child's eyes will land on the person you are praying they will not notice. Try as you might to deflect their attention, it won't work. That damn lollipop won't be sweet enough to overpower their curiosity. It will be the one time they don't want a juice box. And yes, your dear child does want to talk – just not on the iPhone which you will desperately be trying to shove in their hands.
Here are some of the other embarrassing comments and questions my kids have publicly blurted out:
- "Mommy, I found another hair in my food!" – at our friend's house during dinner
- "What are all those lines on your face?" – to one of our more senior nanny candidates
- "Do you have a baby in your tummy?" – to my dad
- "Your breath is stinky!" – to me in a room full of people after I'd had coffee
- "She has a big tushy." – in front of a random woman at the grocery store
- "Why does he have chocolate all over his skin?" – in front of my black friend at the gym
- "Your house smells disgusting!" – at a play date
- "Because my mom will just throw it out" – to my sons Hebrew School teacher when she asked why he wasn't taking his project home
See what I mean? So, how about we stop encouraging kids to speak already? They will soon enough.