Children are insane.
Really, this column could end there, and we could all go home and take a nap. But that wouldn’t be any fun now, would it? If you need evidence of a child’s insanity, just spend a few minutes in the same room with one. Parents, for some bizarre reason, have decided it would be a great idea to create more of these insane people, and then spend 18 years in the same house with them. Which begs the question: Who’s the insane one around here?
In an effort to better understand both children and the parents that love them, we’ve compiled five commonly uttered insanities and crafted legitimate adult responses to them. These responses should be used to replace normal comebacks like, “Shut the eff up already, you little freak” and “Who are you?”
1. “Daddy, um, daddy … daddy, daddy … DADDY!”
Typically, after a lengthy barrage of “Daddys” (or “Mommy”s), any normal parent would respond with “WHAAAAAAT?” This does one of two things: 1. Scares the shit out of your poor kid or 2. Makes the child lose his or her place, which means that little brain will reset and begin again with, “Daddy, daddy, um, daddy …” The way to prevent this never-ending cycle is not to duct tape the kid’s lips together, but rather to reply in soft voice, “Daddy is listening, sweetheart. What is it you want to tell me?” The child will not hear you or even recognize you responded, but you will find a calm, centered place from which to begin trying to process the broken phrases and mangled sentences that are sure to follow.
2. “It’s miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine!”
This normally sane statement is sometimes accompanied by a hasty retreat to the child’s bedroom, hands full of something of value and owned by someone other than the child. Which makes it an insane thing for a normal person to say. Instead of rushing after the child screaming, “No it isn’t, it’s mine,” which makes you look crazy, even to an empty room, wait a few minutes, maybe even an hour or two, until the child has lost interest, then collect said items while the child is unaware. (This rule does not apply if the child is carrying poison, a knife or the corpse of a dead bird she found in the front yard.)
3. “Is [name of recently deceased pet] in heaven now?”
Speaking of dead things … maybe to a sad and deluded kid, this seems like a sane question to ask. It’s understandable, as pet death is usually the first experience children have with the Grim Reaper. But rather than offer the equally insane response, “Little Fluffy is dancing over the rainbow bridge right now, with all of your dead relatives and goldfish,” better to get matter-of-fact with the kid. Too many parents offer up the softball of pleasant afterlife scenarios, when none of us really know. And that’s the right response. “I don’t know.” How hard is that to say to a kid? “I don’t know … but I can tell you this. That little wonderful dog/cat/parrot/ferret/goldfish gave us many years of love and companionship, and for that we should be thankful.” You can continue with my favorite part — the “death comes for us all, so get used to it” part — but you’ll be fine if you can get out the first half without choking up.
4. “I will kill you!”
In keeping with the death theme, many a child has been heard to utter this or similar phrases, usually in defense of something completely indefensible to a playmate or younger sibling. Often, parents, thinking they’re teaching the kid a lesson in life appreciation, will retort, “That is a horrible thing to say to your brother. Killing is not funny. Now go and apologize.” While that may seem like a sane response, it will be lost. The child is mad, and obviously nearing homicidal rage. The saner — and more effective response — is, “How?” That’s it. “How will you kill your little brother?” The kid will either be stumped into silence or you will end up going through a list of possible murder scenarios. All of which you can shoot down by explaining the logistics of killing and the disposal of human remains, coupled with a lengthy explanation of the legal system in America and how likely it will be that the child will face the death penalty.
5. “I HATE YOU! YOU’RE THE WORST PARENT EVER!”
This is difficult for any parent to hear, but — unless the child is 18 years old — it’s normally an overblown response to some sort of disciplinary measure issued by you, the evil bastard parent. Typically, since these words usually follow an hour-and-a-half of argument, the parent will lose it, shouting something like, “Go to your room, you ingrate. I don’t want to see your face for the next three days.” Some parents even whack the crap out of a child. That’s no good for anyone.
Better to take the opposite tack. “I understand you feel like you hate me right now, but you’re angry. So am I. We’re going to take a break from each other. When we both calm down, we will talk about this.” The child won’t get the heft of the message, but the tactic helps to diffuse the situation and gives the child some room to be OK with the way he or she is feeling. Later you can explain the concepts of disrespect and hurt feelings. The child will be more open to the message, and probably apologetic, too.
If that doesn’t work, utter quietly with a bit of a sneer: “You want to see the worst parenting … EVER? Let’s take a little ride.” Load up the little shit and drive to an orange grove or other rural part of town. Drop the kid off and say, “This is an example of the worst parenting ever!” Then drive off.
Your choice on whether or not to turn around and retrieve the child.