My six-year-old son was talking in Burrito again. It’s a language he created. More or less, he repeats the word, “burrito” over and over again, but with influxes in volume and tone. He ends the word a little higher when asking a question. Or he says the word down low, his face looking somber, to show disappointment. And he repeats the word quickly, at a high pitch when trying to show anger. He thinks this is hilarious.
I do not.
In fact, I find it really irritating. It was 8AM on a Saturday, and that was part of the problem. I’d just gotten up. I wasn’t in the mood to speak to Tristan in Burrito, but that didn’t matter. He was in his Skylanders underwear, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, tugging at my pants, and pointing at something he wanted, probably the candy on the top of the fridge, and saying, “burrito” over and over and over.
“Tristan,” I said. “I’m not in the mood for this. I just got up. Tell me what you want. In English please.”
“Burrito,” he said.
“Cool,” I said. “Then you get nothing.”
He didn’t give up. He tugged harder on my pants, almost pulling them off, repeating that stupid word, and pointing, as though I would eventually figure it out. But I didn’t figure it out, nor did I want to figure it out. It just all seemed so asinine at the time. The boy can speak. In fact, he can speak well. He can read. He can communicate his thoughts and desires when he wants to. As someone who has studied English for several years, I find this to be a valuable life skill. I want my kids to be able to express themselves fluently, and clearly. I want them to be able to express their desires and frustrations, because I think it promotes personal change and introspection. I had no idea how speaking in Burrito was going to help him think at a higher level.
The strange thing is, outside of him speaking in Burrito, which is strange by itself, is that he thinks the word “burrito” is f-ing hilarious. He won’t eat a burrito, mind you. He won’t eat anything other than ramen noodles, dinosaur-shaped meat, and mac-n-cheese. He also enjoys Lucky Charms, but he really only eats the marshmallows, so I don’t fully count that as part of his regular diet.
The most he knows about burritos is that they have been offered to him. He always looks at the burrito with terror, like it is a long dark cave. He then promptly turns it down. So I don’t fully understand where he picked up this burrito language.
I just know that it drives me nuts, and I often wonder how long it will last. How long will he speak in burrito? How long will he find this nonsensical language to be hilarious? Is he going to be that kid in high school who answers the question: What is the capital of New Mexico? with the answer, Burrito?
Will he think he is being funny, while in fact he is being offensive?
I looked down at him standing on the kitchen floor, still repeating the word burrito, and pointing, and all I wanted to do was put my hands over his mouth, not out of anger, but out of fear, because frankly, he looked a lot like I did at his age, stocky and blue-eyed, with an obnoxious dimpled grin. But most importantly, he didn’t only remind me of the way I looked at six-years-old, but also the way I acted, and the irritating things I did in the name of humor.
I crouched down, looked him square in the eyes, and said, “Tristan. I don’t want to hear the word burrito again for the rest of the day. Just tell me what you want, in English, and I will get it for you. No matter what it is. This is a free pass. Before you say anything, realize what you have here. You could ask for a box of cookies, and I would get it for you. And you could eat all of it. $100, it’s yours. All you have to do is ask in a language I can understand. Ok? Do you get what I’m saying right now?”
“Burrito,” he said.
He followed the word with a sly smile, his face seemed to say, I don’t care what you have to offer, I’m here for my own amusement and that is priceless!
I sent him to his room.
And in that moment, I wondered if speaking in Burrito was a punishable offense. Was I overstepping my bounds as a father?
All I could think about were all the times I got mocked, pushed, and slapped around for being a weirdo. I thought about all the girls that had given me a smile that seemed to say, You’re cute. And then I spoiled the deal by making a funny face, or a fart sound with my armpit. And I wondered if he was, somehow, following in my footsteps. And I wondered if putting him in his room was going to change the poor genes I’d obviously given him.