Talking Children = Liability

Dear Courtney,

The baby is starting to talk!  He has about a dozen words and several phrases; every time he uses them we get excited and celebrate–  we clap hands, smile, and nod our heads to encourage him.  We’re anxious for him say more;  words mean future “I love yous” and bed time heart-to-hearts; through those words we’ll learn more about who our little guy is, and that’s thrilling.

But as I’m sure you know, there’s a dark side to this milestone.  There’s the classic hassle of the word “no”, there are the maddening realities of “I don’t want to”,  and the incessant , nagging whine of “please”, but those are not the dark sides I’m talking about.  I’m talking about their sudden ability to repeat and report.  When kids learn to talk they become an instant liability!

Suddenly they make conversations like this necessary: “I know that’s how babies come out of mommies, but that is a private topic.   We don’t talk about that at preschool… or Target.”

Kids just don’t have any gauge for time and place– or volume.

Once,  I was working with another teacher in a 1st grade classroom.  The kids were crowded on the rug before her as she read them a book about the Great Plains.  She paused to show them a page with a picture of a golden wheat field.  Suddenly a little boy shouted, “Sometimes my Daddy smokes wheat and Mommy gets maaaaaaad!”  We both struggled to keep our composure as another kid asked, “How do you smoke wheat?”  Oi Vey.

Once kids talk they become unpredictable, shouting bombs; you never know what they’re going to say– or where!

At Christmas this past year, I took L shopping with me.  We were in the very crowed mall bathroom, the one with the line out the door and down the hall.  Lilly and I were jammed together in the tight stall when out of no where she shouted, “Mommy, remember when Daddy hit you in the kitchen.”  Three thousand women in the bathroom and it was suddenly silent; I swear toilets stopped midflush to listen.  I stared at her.  I had no idea what she was talking about (for the record J doesn’t hit me, ever, not once), she saw my horrification confusion and continued, again at the top of her lungs, “Remember, in the kitchen?  He was swinging the towel.”

And then I remembered, so I shouted back at her (and all the other women in the room), “No, Daddy didn’t hit me.  We were playing.  He was just pretending to swat me with the rolled up dish towel.  It was a game… we were being funny… we were just playing.  HE DID NOT HIT ME.”  Now she was confused because he did, in fact, hit me.  He was whipping that stupid towel, and I was laughing, jumping out of the way, and talking trash; then, on one snap, the corner of the towel did get me, and I yelped.  It is a classic example for why you shouldn’t rough-house, someone always gets hurt by mistake. But I didn’t know how to communicate this to a bathroom full of concerned ladies.  We walked out of the stall, and I swear the whole place was staring at me.   I kept waiting for someone to hand me a resource number.  My faced burned, so I just grabbed L’s hand and pulled her out; I was glad for the Purell in my purse!


All this to say, I’m glad the baby’s talking.  It delights me to see his face light up at my praise when he hold out a ball and says, “ba, ba” over and over.  But in a little, dark corner of my mind I know someday my delight will turn to mortification when he, while at his great-grandmother’s dinner table, starts jabbering on about balls– and not the ones on the field.

Courtney, you have three kids.  I’m sure you have a story or two also.  They really will say anything!


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