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Use Your Words

Oy. I have always hated the phrase “Use your words!”, but sometimes it is appropriate. I’ve spent some time in the past year or two thinking about how people sometimes suffer from a lapse in creativity when it comes to talking about their kids and after a recent discussion with some friends I felt like I was able to frame it out a little more clearly for myself. Parents (and possibly people in general?) sometimes fail to adequately describe their feelings about parenting and their offspring and that can cause them to come across as boring, coarse or worse, boastful.

Some time ago I remember hearing someone discussing how almost vulgar they found it when parents discussed their children’s potty-training successes and failures on facebook and how they felt nobody needed or wanted to know about such things.

My first suggestion would for that individual be to trim down their facebook friends to only the childless if you are that discriminating about what you want to read on facebook because, let’s be serious, it’s FACEBOOK.  Also, there are a lot more annoying and offensive things to be read on the internet than unsolicited information about someone’s kid’s poop. But beyond that, I really started to think about that particular topic because I have blogged about potty-training and I’m not sure if I’ve ever put anything potty-related on facebook but it wouldn’t be completely out of the realm of possibility. I wondered if that was truly inappropriate or if a majority of people, especially childless people, feel that way about that kind of subject material? I have no desire to offend people if their request to avoid certain subject matter is reasonable.

My conclusion was this: some seemingly mundane, unimportant, or even kind of gross details of child-rearing are actually really meaningful but because we fail to properly express what we are thinking or feeling, we can fail to really communicate their significance.

There are a lot of people who do not get why “my two year old has been using the potty for two days with no accidents!!!!” is worthy of being expressed anywhere on the internet or in polite company. I totally get that people might see that as inappropriate and vulgar or just totally boring, particularly if they’ve had little exposure to kids.

Here’s the thing: Parents don’t celebrate milestones because their world has become so small they have nothing better to do or think about than the little people who consume their lives. We do so because each little milestone is a huge step in the process of becoming an independent person! The reason potty-training is such a big deal is because when you have a had to take care of every physical need of an infant or small child for several years, the fact that they can now eliminate waste without assistance is a HUGE DEAL! It is also one of the last steps a small child takes to become a much more independent person, not relying so much on mom or dad for their most basic hygiene.

Maybe I, as a parent, have not clearly expressed why certain things feel like such a big step and that is why I have been misunderstood. I feel like I should take responsibility for that. What if I chose to say “I am so proud that my two year old is becoming such an independent little person, able to care for her/himself and many of her needs! This a an enormous step in her/his development and maturity and it is really significant to me!”.

Ok, that is a bit more formal and stiff than I would normally post on facebook, but I think the point is, we can do better than just saying “Suzie pooped in the potty!”. We can try to explain why that is such a big deal to us as parents. Maybe not everyone who is disgusted by potty talk would react differently, but I think some people might.

I think the same thing goes for what I like to call the Christmas letter crowd. Many people get annoyed by Christmas letter updates that seem to be nothing more than bragging about one’s extremely intelligent, fabulous and talented children. I honestly think there are very few people who sit down to write their Christmas letter and think “How can I make everyone see that my kids are smarter and more accomplished than theirs are?”. I believe most people sit down to think over the last year and they are not able to clearly define what they are excited about or what qualities they are proud to see developing in their children and end up writing a laundry list of activities their offspring have participated in, rather than why they feel excited or satisfied with the outcome of those activities.

What if we learned to say “I am really proud of Johnny for the dedication he has shown to his piano lessons in the last year! It was really difficult for him to spend the time he could have been using for X to practice piano but he worked really hard and learned so much and it is great to see that he is learning to put his best effort at something and being rewarded with a lot of improvement!”. Instead of bragging that our five year old is reading Tolstoy, why can’t we just express our true and honest delight that our child is excited about reading and because we also love to read, it is thrilling to see that our child is discovering the very same things we love about reading!

I guess I’m trying to learn to better express myself because it is really important to me that I am understood. I disklike thinking that I am being misinterpreted and so I usually try to explain myself as clearly as possible and choose my words carefully. That said, you can’t make everyone happy all the time, and some sentiments can’t be expressed in the amount of characters allotted a facebook status. Truly, some people need to get over themselves and embrace the fact that not everyone sees the world the same way they do. But I am going to try to explore my ability to express why some things are important to me when it seems appropriate. I, too, need to get over myself and realize that not everyone understands why I consider certain things significant or noteworthy and if we all learned to be a little more creative or thorough in articulating our thoughts, maybe we would be better understood.

2 Responses

  1. Lori Says:

    I have spent the last 40 minutes trying to find the lyrics to a Nancy White song from her album Momnipotent called “Mama’s have a secret.”. I wanted to find it because it relates to your desire to have others understand your parenting world. It goes something like this but I am going by memory here:
    “Mama’s have a secret
    Daddy’s do too
    It’s a little secret
    they wouldn’t tell you
    because if you don’t have
    a child so naughty and sweet
    they don’t want you to know
    that your life is incomplete”
    It continues in that vein, is a great little song from a fabulous album and I will be darned if I can’t find the lyrics to it anywhere on the web and I can’t find my copy of the cassette (yes, it is that old 1990)
    I think you would love this album.
    As for being articulate, there are few better than you but sometimes words are not enough. Some people get it and some people don’t. I have spent years thinking if I only explain my point of view clearly people will understand but there are a few people who will never ever get it. Now that I am old I try not to waste my breath on these people. Frankly, I would just like to hand them a red card and get them out of my way.

  2. Rana Says:

    Great post!

    I find myself talking a lot about poop these days because we are knee deep in it. I certainly don’t want to offend anyone but you are correct it is about proclaiming a child’s ability to gain independence and not about the bowel movements.

    There will always be people who don’t want to hear about other people’s lives including their kids…I just don’t understand why they are on Facebook then.