Ever since our two boys L and C arrived on the scene, I have rarely managed to talk to my wife like we used to B.C. (Before Children). Back in those days, our conversations were spontaneous and fun. Most importantly, they went back and forth in a coherent sequential string.
Enter the Children!
Now that they are 6 and 4, going on to 16 and 14, my wife and I can’t for the life of us converse in a normal human way when these little ones are around.
To begin with, there is no eye contact. This is because our attention is constantly diverted by the boys’ needs, be it gluing together their cardbard ninja swords or breaking up their no-holds-barred ninja fights. Even during those brief moments when our eyes do meet, I know hers are preoccupied trying to see through mine, so that she can keep a watch on the mischief the kids are up to behind my back.
Our conversations are also, of course, forever interrupted by incessant questions and requests from the two boys. They could be happily playing on the iPad or climbing the play gym but as soon as my wife and I start talking, the boys would suddenly turn into investigative journalists or Curious Georges. It has gotten to a stage where, if I ever want my too-cool-for-their-daddy boys to tell me about their day, I just have start talking first to my too-tired-for-her-husband wife.
Then there’s the conversation itself. It’s not so much a to-and-fro dialogue but more a jumbled exercise due to the million distractions emanating from L and C. To give an example, a typical interaction would be as follows. And keep in mind, all this is typically going on with pots and pans clanking, TV blaring, and the boys shouting, often for no apparent good reason:
My wife: “Did you remember to pay this month’s daycare fees for C“?
C: “MUMMY, L’s not sharing his Legos with me“!
Me: “I paid it last week“.
L: “But he’s wrecking my castle, mum! Can you tell him to stop! By the way, can you help me paint the door on this castle“?
My wife: “I’ll talk to him“!
Me: “OK, and bring the receipt so he sees it“.
My wife: “What“?
Me: “When you talk to the daycare guy, bring the receipt“.
My wife: “Sorry Daddy, I was talking to L. What were you saying“?
Me: “I’ll help you paint it when I finish washing up here“.
My wife: “Paint what“?
C: “I am not wrecking his castle. I’m just trying to help L“!
My wife: “Listen C, can you be quiet for a minute? I’m trying to talk to daddy“!
Me: “No I said I PAID already“!
My wife: “Paid? I thought you said you were going to PAINT something“!
L: “No, I want mummy to help me paint it“.
Me: “I was talking to L“!
My wife: “Wait a sec, who’s painting what now“?
Me: “CAN EVERYONE SHUT UP SO I KNOW WHO’S TALKING TO WHO, WHO’S PAINTING WHAT AND WHO’S PAYING WHICH“?
L and C: “Ahh ha, you’re in trouble daddy. You just said ‘shut up’“.
I have also noticed that, sometime in the past couple of years, I have ceased to have a name but, instead, is simply known as Daddy. Not just to my kids but also to my wife! Daddy, can you brush the boys’ teeth? Daddy, can you wash the car? Daddy, can you get some takeway because I forgot to cook, Ask your Daddy dear.
I don’t mind it, of course, except I sometimes get the feeling that my wife gets away with requesting things from me that I normally wouldn’t entertain, simply by addressing me as Daddy. It is as if such a label instantly prohibits any protests because the request is for the greater good!
“Honey, can you please mow the lawn“? “No, I’m watching football, woman! Anyway, I’m really tired from the my run this morning“.
But if she says: “Daddy, can you please mow the lawn “, then it’s off the couch, on with the gloves, and the lawn is mowed to perfection in no time.
What is most tragic, however, is the fact that I have to now watch what I say in front of the kids, even when I’m just conversing with my wife. That means no more French and no more vocabulary revolving around human anatomy, thus, essentially robbing me of the one attribute I had of expressing myself clearly. It is little wonder that my wife sometimes complains that she can’t understand my mumbling!
In all fairness to the kids, though, we do have time to talk like adults when they are finally asleep. Unfortunately, by that time, both of us are so fatigued that we just want to poison our heads with mindless TV and web-surfing. Because it’s either that, or:
“So Daddy, did you say you paid this month’s daycare fees for C … or not“?
Keep on pounding.