Engage the Brain Before the Mouth
“You’re getting a treat this afternoon ....”
“Yay! What is it Mum?!”
Damn! As the words escaped my mouth I had a powerful compulsion to grab them and stuff them back in.
I was about to tell my son we were spending the afternoon at his best friend’s house. However, that visit actually hinged on whether or not his overtired, rather volatile sister had a lunchtime nap.
This did not lend itself well to a five year old with his hopes sky high.
So, I attempted to cover up (otherwise known as lying): “Your dad was so proud when I told him how good you were at swimming he’s bringing you home a Caromello Koala!”
“No, mum. I’m asking. What’s the treat?”
As expected, the cover-up wasn’t faring well. You see my son asks approximately 379 questions per each piece of new information he receives.
I try to be patient. He is a little learning sponge; inquisitive, thoughtful and enthusiastic. ... BUT, you have no idea how many deep breaths are required to remain composed as I battle my way through his cascade of questions about everything from the human skeletal system to the inner workings of City Rail to why the doorknobs upstairs at Nan and Pop’s house are brown and those downstairs are white.
It’s not always easy to honour his curiosity with sage-like enlightenment. I think to myself: NO I DON’T KNOW WHETHER THERE USED TO BE A THIRD PLATFORM AT ST PETERS STATION OR HOW PEOPLE GOT TO IT OR WHERE PEOPLE TRAVELLED TO ON THE TRAINS THAT STOPPED THERE. I DON’T EVEN REMOTELY KNOW WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT AND THAT IS ELIPSED ONLY BY HOW LITTLE I F*#KING CARE!
But I don’t say that. Instead I work hard at keeping my tone even and I make up answers I hope will satisfy him or at least arouse less curiosity.
See, sometimes I do engage the brain before the mouth.
Another time I’ve realised it’s good to think before I speak is when I’m denying my children something. This gets trickier as they get older.
When my toddler daughter wants to grab something inviting like a cup of scalding, hot coffee or the pendant hanging around my neck, it’s easy to point to something shiny (or whip on a Dora DVD) to create a diversion, avoid saying no and dodge a potential tanty. Crisis averted!
However, now that my son’s older and more aware, I’ve really started to get a feel for a child’s awesome nagging potential. “Mum can I have a chocolate biscuit?” “No.” “But Mum!” “No” “Why not?” “Because you won’t eat your dinner.” “But I wiiiiillll!” “No.” “Why not?” “Because I said so!” “Why” etc. etc.
No no no is just tiresome. Instead, I use the old favourite “we’ll see”. “Mum can I get a motorised golf buggy?” “We’ll see.” “Oh ok.” Works a treat. (In fact, it’s got to a point sometimes if I do slip up and say “no”, my boy will correct me, “Mum, you’re supposed to say ‘we’ll see’. That means no.”)
Remember that time Jill Biden was on Oprah around the time of the Obama inauguration she and let it slip that her husband Joe was offered a choice between named Vice President or Secretary of State (i.e. Hillary’s job)? That’s one perfect example of why it’s a good idea to learn early on to filter thoughts before they reach your lips.
Afterall, a closed mouth gathers no foot (nor does it spill top-secret government information).
Since it’s a skill I’ve yet to master, is it any wonder my children aren’t too discrete either? It’s a sure bet if I tell my kids not to tell their father we had Maccas for lunch it will be the first thing he hears when he walks in the door. Better yet, he is likely to receive a call made especially to tell him of our midday menu.
Christmas is nearly here and I need to keep it from my kids what present we are giving their dad if it is to remain a surprise. They know no subtly in the gift-giving department (although it can sometimes work in my favour in reverse, as I’m pretty sure this year when my son blurted out I was getting a couple of DVDs for my birthday, the look on my face alone was enough to send my husband scurrying back to the shops. Hello new jewellery!).
And it’s for this very reason, the kids will only discover the presents we are giving various family and friends as they are opened on Christmas Day (much like my father when I unwrap my gift from my parents: “Thanks so much Dad!” “You’re welcome! For what?”).
As for me, what do I want for Christmas? Well, for starters:
Twelve drummers drumming ... (it into our heads how we can make alternative fuel sources a reality),
Eleven pink blouses with black piping (Dolce & Gabana),
Ten days. Lord Howe Island. Sleeping.
Nine ladies dancing (on a fabulous girls night out),
Eight maids a-cleaning my home on heavy rotation,
Seven metre swimming pool,
World peace allaying (my fears for my children’s futures),
FIVE PLATINUM RINGS,
Four pub crawls, chauffeured
Three French mens (suggestions: rugby player Frederic Michalak, Jean-Paul Gaultier and any heir to a champagne empire)
Two children’s love,
And a Pulitzer in a pear tree!
PS. Now tell me yours. I won’t tell anyone. Promise.