Monday, July 10, 2006

a communicator's revenge

I have banned the word 'sorry' from our house.

This is a new edict, as of this morning, when for the umpteenth time the Eldest hollered, "sorry!" and sped away at top speed from the scene of his crime. Looking at his blithely retreating figure, it occurred to me that "sorry" meant anything but.

There is no get-out-of-jail card here, you young scoundrel. This is language, and thou shalt use it in a thoughtful, aware fashion. Sadly for you, I am a vengeful Mama, and I will hatch a plan to educate you, willy nilly. Probably more nilly than willy, but I can deal with that.

To fully grasp the challenge I was taking on, I began compiling a short list of other such place-holders. Here's what I came up with:

  • No, I won't play squshy-mushy. [a.k.a. dog-pile, translated as 'I know you don't approve, but other grown-ups don't mind, so I won't do it if you are watching.']
  • Food is not ever yucky. [translated as 'This food suits my fancy. For now.']
  • I am being gentle with our baby. [Translated as, 'I know you are watching and saw me transgress and are about to ask me what I'm doing...']
  • I love you. [variously translated as 'I love you,' 'please don't be mad at me' and in some rare situations as a precursor to 'can I have that?']

Bereft of 'sorry,' the Eldest floundered. I invited him to use other words, a tactic we use when we don't understand his meaning in other circumstances. He looked horrified. I enjoyed his horror for a little while, then relented, and discussed with him the various puzzle pieces that made up a simple 'sorry.' He looked skeptical. Over lunch, I was relentless on the subject (heh). 'O baby,' I said, 'I'm regretful about sticking the spoon of bananas in your eyebrow. I myself would not enjoy an bananaed eyebrow, and I will try to be more careful during the rest of your meal.'

Needless to say, there is now banana puree in some rather creative spots on the infant, and as for the Eldest, well, time will tell. But he's just knocked his bowl of rhubarb-strawberry compote off the table, and here's his effort:

I won't say I'm sorry, but I won't do it again (and that's an apology), and I know I shouldn't have done it.

Not bad, kid. Not bad a'tall.

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