Thursday, April 18, 2013

Code Talkers (or, Damn it! My kids have learned to read.)

Learning to read is an awesome thing. The whole world opens up to you when you can make sense of the mess that we call the English language. However, this milestone is also one of the worst evolutions in parenthood. The parental communications system breaks down dramatically once the code is broken and I believe that it's integrity can never be fully restored.

Suddenly, we cannot let our kids play with our smart phones to kill time any more. Instead of playing games, they now read our text and email messages. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard, "Mommy, your friend said that she needs a drink! Doesn't she have water where she lives?" or "Mommy, it says that your <embarrassing item> order has shipped" I would be rich!

Not only that, but also we cannot spell our way around an issue any more because they can spell, too. We have tried a few code talking strategies, but none are viable for long. First, we went through a period of working our way around conversations using a strange array of intense "you know what I mean" looks (that don't actually end up meaning much to the person trying to understand us). Then, we used a system of unusual descriptors that were only marginally better. For example, instead of "Target", we might say "the circle dot". (Well, until they figured it out.)

Currently, we are using a strategy recommended by a brilliant friend with older kids. She explained that the next phase is to spell everything backwards. Works great, for now, but I don't have much hope it will last too much longer. Plus, honestly, I'm a terrible speller. Spelling forwards is barely tolerable. Backwards spelling takes an IQ above my means.

The other snafu in the "my kids can read" equation is that we can no longer avoid the hot bed topic of graffiti. Recently, I was listening to my 6-year old reading the graffiti on the playground equipment aloud. All was going smoothly until there was a pause and a horrified gasp. She came running over to tell me that someone had written "the f-word" on the slide. Another time, "Mommy, what's a <four letter word that start a c> ?" That was a fun one, let me tell you.

Well, the plus side is know, I can't really think of a plus side on this one. Life was so much easier when my kids were kept in the dark. The blissful ignorance years are over. The years of awkward conversations are just beginning.

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