As sure as we are that a baby’s endearing babbling is typical of the early stages of speech development, we can also be certain of another phase during which our growing children execute an entirely different set of repetitive communication strategies.
Although we can credit older kids with employing more refined, sophisticated and seemingly purposeful idioms, their repertoire might not be considered as delightful as a baby’s innocent and contented discovery of a voice, and the resulting reactions from parents.
Here are just a few of the phrases that are commonly used by my 13 and 10-year-old kids.
In a minute
This all-time kids’ favourite is the one I hear most often. Almost every instruction I give or suggestion I make – come for dinner, walk the dog, clean your room – is met by this overused response. Their expressions are vacant, and it’s as though each request activates a switch that produces an automatic response from the depths of their distracted beings. Regardless of what I ask, or the timing I imply, according to my kids, “now” is not ever the right time. It’s always…in a minute.
When I notice my 13-year-old son working more diligently than usual on his homework in the evening, and then hastily return to his books the next morning, I’ll ask, as nonchalantly as I can, “Is that homework due today?”
His reply, spoken as casually as possible: “Not really.” I suspect great control is exercised to avoid eye contact, and that once I look away, he dares look up to see if his non-committal answer was satisfactory, or if he’s heading for a inquisition followed by a lecture about leaving schoolwork until the last minute.
Mom, it’s fine
This one is delivered with firmness, certainty and a touch of regret when one of my kids shares information that prompts a reaction more extreme than he or she expected. It is, however, becoming less common, as we are wordlessly training each other to cope with my over-reactions. I have gradually gained control of my gasp(!) reflex when the kids disclose a concerning situation, for fear that they will discontinue these admissions – which to them are really just stories, but to me are narrowly avoided trips to the ER – and they have had plenty of practice perfecting their calming, “Mom, it’s fine,” response.
It was an accident
This is the typical reaction after a fork, pencil or other such sharp object is brandished near a sibling’s face and before you know it, somebody loses an eye.
OK, so it’s never happened in my house, nor have I actually heard of it ever happening, but it seems to so often be the potential outcome cited when suggesting that certain behaviours should not be engaged in.
When my kids are being reckless and somebody does nearly lose an eye, the careless offender will insist, “It was an accident,” apparently feeling this phrase handily absolves him or herself of any responsibility.
This is generally used when one child is particularly rude to the other, and a parent intervenes with either a verbal admonishment or punitive glare. The offending child quickly attempts to cover with the so very useful, “Just kidding!”
In response to: did you empty the dishwasher, hang up your coat, feed the dog, unpack Friday’s lunch bag, now that we’re making lunches for Monday?
And in closing, I offer my own versatile reply. When considering if this stage in speech development will continue or if my kids will gradually progress to other new and wonderful techniques…
originally published in the Waterloo Region Record