Of all the annoying things that come with having children (and there are quite a few), perhaps the most annoying of all is the imbalance of power when it comes to communication: they have almost all of it, and we have none. Examples of this are numerous, but one that immediately jumps to mind is the way that no matter how loudly you speak, or how clearly you enunciate, they always respond by squinting up at you like a freshly unearthed mole and saying, “huh?” This means that you end up having to repeat everything you say again, and again, and again. (And again.)
At one time I believed that our children only did this to annoy us. Lately, however, I have come to the conclusion that it’s more complicated than that: our children are not making us repeat ourselves just because they are trying to annoy us, but rather because they are trying to ignore us.
I think that there are two reasons for this. One is that ignoring us makes it easier for them to maintain that squinty mole look, and the other is that they are under the impression that if they ignore us for long enough we will just go away. (In their defense, they’re usually right.) Sometimes, however, there are times when we can’t go away, and then their mole tactics come out in force. Here’s how it usually works (from their perspective, at least):
You: Blah blah blah.
Them: (squinting) Huh?
You: Did you give your teacher the field trip permission slip like I asked you to?
You: Blah blah?
Them: (squinting) Huh?
You: And the money?
This usually goes on for as long as you have the patience to continue, which they’re hoping won’t be very long. (In their defense, they’re usually right.)
Or at least, they used to be. Recently, however, I discovered something that I believe will revolutionize the parent/child communication imbalance forever, for once putting us in control. And the best part of it is that it doesn’t require any specialized tools or training, but rather utilizes something that many parents already have on hand—nay, something that many parents already have an excess of: the Annoying Little Brother, or ALB.
Think of the ALB as one of those radio repeaters that rebroadcasts a station’s signal over vast distances: just like a repeater lifts a station’s signal over mountains and down canyons, an ALB conveys your signal past earbuds and through bedroom doors. Better still, an ALB does this all for free, since by doing so they can become an even greater annoyance to their older sibling.
Here’s how it works: simply tell your ALB that every time his older sibling says “huh?” he is allowed to re-ask them the same question over and over again until they answer. That’s all. Soon you’ll find that your ALB won’t even wait to be asked: he’ll gladly start rebroadcasting on his own.
In fact, this might be the only real drawback to an ALB—sometimes they get so good at their jobs that they no longer wait for the need to repeat, but just do it automatically, so that every conversation starts to sound like a bad transatlantic phone call.
Still, that’s a small price to pay for the chance to gain the upper hand in the communication wars. (And, in our defense: they deserve it.)