I used to love playing the telephone game. My extremely unscientific poll of friends and family reveals this pastime to be a pivotal part of growing up in the ’70s. Or maybe it was more of a girl thing, I don’t know. Either way, there were more than a few occasions when you would have found me and my friends sitting in a circle, sending a message around with whispers. Having the refined sense of humor of nine-year-old girls we typically found the results downright comical.
“My favorite color is purple” became “I faded color in syrup”.
“John Travolta is so cute” morphed into “Long potato zipper soup”.
“Joanie loves Chachi” ended up as…well, usually as “Joanie loves Chachi”. That one was hard to mess up.
But now it seems like our grown-up lives have become one long telephone game.
Even though I’m certain this revelation isn’t unique to adoptive parents I’m putting it out there anyway…drumroll please…sometimes the words that come out of our mouths in what we are certain is an extremely clear manner are somehow entirely misunderstood by our very capable children.
Shocker, I know.
For reasons surpassing all understanding, “Please put away your clean clothes and pack your lunch” registers as “Please sit on your ass until I’ve said that three more times, then pack your lunch and sit back down, completely ignoring the clothes part.”
“Have you done your chores?” breaks through the fog as “Are you feeling bored?” and “Time for bed” is nothing more than a twangy wah-wah-wah.
And these are the simple ones! The day to day questions or requests from parent to child, pretty straightforward really, the sort of thing you’d think would be a no brainer. But still, half the time they’re lost in translation.
It seems like we’ve always got “long potato zipper soup” around here.
That’s why we have such an open door policy on conversation in our family. If these guys are blanking out on a request to pick up shoes, what are the odds they fully internalize our talk about sex and love and birth parents and identity? Yep, that’s what we figured, too.
(Not for nothing, but if anyone discovers a solution for the day to day stuff I beg of you, please, PLEASE pass it along. We’d crowdsource a monument in your honor.)
So we sit and we talk and we process our feelings, and then the kids go off and tuck their own interpretation of everything into their heads. Sometimes – again, not surprisingly – messages get a bit twisted up along the way leaving T-man and Bear with a remarkably off kilter version of our conversation.
Which is why we visit and revisit these talks. Because sometimes the things my kids take away are exactly what we’d hoped, sometimes they take away a piece of it, and sometimes they turn their piece upside down so later on it doesn’t quite fit right.
Which means we talk and talk and talk some more, and when the kids sigh we just keep plugging on through. Because what other choice is there?
None that I can see.