Thursday, January 10, 2013

Kids Don't Understand Sarcasm

Like many of you, I believe my kids are smarter than your kids. 

I am not.

Who knew they didn’t understand sarcasm?

We gathered at my mother’s apartment the other night eating dinner.  She has a small table for the boys, but it’s not really big enough for both of them at once.  Both boys can easily reach each other’s plate.  So, throughout the meal, J really just grazed from one plate to the other.

G didn't really have a problem with this until J started eating his cheese. “Dad, J is eating my cheese.”
Now, what I said and what I meant are two different things.  What I meant was, “Well G, there isn't much you can do about it.  Try using your words, so he will stop.  Otherwise, just understand he is little, and he isn't trying to be mean.

What I said, very sarcastically, was “Well G, just slap him in the face, see if that helps.”

Another, in a long line, of parenting mistakes. 

Moments after the words left my mouth, I heard the distinct sound of an open hand hitting a face.  Wish I had seen it.  His uncle said you could see the whole thought process working through his mind.  “Hmm, maybe that will work, and I won’t get in trouble because dad told me to do it.”


The only good part was that it didn't work.  J is a trooper and barely flinched.  He just went on eating G’s cheese.  I quickly decided the lesson was that hitting rarely gets you the outcome you desire.

A few nights later we were eating dinner at my sister’s house.  J had been having a terrible couple of days.  The reason I crashed my sister’s dinner in the first place was so I didn't have to parent J alone.  I survived the first day of J the Destroyer, but didn't have enough energy for a repeat performance. 

During dinner, I lost my temper with him.  I don’t really remember what I said, but it was probably along the lines of, “J if you don’t stop being a jerk, you can get down from the table.”

G, who not two nights before thought physical violence was justified to protect his precious, precious cheese, decided to chime in.

“Dad, you need to be nice to J, he just little.”

“Well, I’m sorry but I’m just frustrated.”

“Dad, he’s little, and he doesn't mean to do it.  He’s my brother, and it’s my job to look out for him.”

“G this behavior has been going on for two straight days…When is it going to stop?”

“I don’t know dad.  You just have to be patient.”

I've had the inverse of this conversation, it seems like, a hundred times with G. There is nothing like a three year old putting you in your place to make you feel very, very small.  How can children be so smart, so socially aware, and, yet, not understand sarcasm?  I've read that with younger kids, you have to be ready for vast leaps forwards and backwards at any time.

The only common thread to these stories, unfortunately, is bad parenting.  I have said this many times before, but we are all bad parents.  Kids are smart. They will look through all those mistakes, and eventually come out as adults.  I just wish I had known that they don’t understand sarcasm, but oh well.  They are little; you just have to be patient. 

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