As a parent, one of my key jobs is to tell my children things that make them roll their eyes.
Among some of the things in the Hall of Fame of Dadisms that my kids absolutely love hearing:
- When they tell me something isn’t fair, I tell them that the world is not fair, and they should be thankful for that, because it’s not fair in their favor.
- When they inform me that they are not interested in performing a task, I tell them that’s perfect because I absolutely wanted to do it for them. I also frequently add that “Enthusiasm is not required.”
- “Spirit vs. letter!” They absolutely love to hear this when they try and get out of things on a technicality, of which my wife and I will have no part. We are a spirit of the law household. Also, a monarchy.
But of late, my most common repeated utterance is one simple word, a word that used to be a fine word. Used to serve a great purpose. It’s even mentioned twice in the title of my favorite NPR show. But, alas, my kids have ruined it for me, primarily because it starts about 80 percent of the sentences that come out of their mouths: “Wait.”
I am not sure when it started. But suddenly one day, I realized both had become beholden to starting sentences with “Wait.” And far too often, said sentence involves stating the obvious. For example, let’s say I’m walking in with a handful of grocery bags.
ME: Hey, can you grab the rest of the groceries from the car?
EITHER CHILD: Wait – did you go to the grocery store?
Or, say we’re getting ready for school in the morning, and I am going to take one of the kids to car line. I grab my keys and head to the front door:
ME: Alright, let’s go.
EITHER CHILD: Wait – you’re taking me to school today?
Once it became clear that they were stuck in this verbal record skip, I decided I would do what dads do best – respond with dad commentary. So, when they say, “Wait – did you go to the grocery store?” I will now respond, “Wait – no. I was at the Houston Astrodome. They were giving away groceries there.” Or when they say, “Wait – you’re taking me to school today?” I will say, “Wait – no. We’re going to the Houston Astrodome. It’s grocery day.”
Now, you may think that I am being petty with them, but I know that my message is getting across. And how do I know this? Because both kids have said, “Dad, stop saying ‘wait’ back to me.” My daughter tried to go down the path of “It’s a word. Get over it.” That resulted in a ridiculously long lecture from me on words and their impact over the course of history. Some of it may have even been true.
I’m really not doing it just to jab at them. That’s just an added bonus. But one of best things a parent can give their child is the gift of effective communication. And if they will take a refined approach to the English language on their journey through life, they will have an advantage. And you never know where that journey may lead you. Could even be to the Houston Astrodome. Wait — for grocery day?
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Charleston. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.