It struck me, the other day, when I was standing in the kitchen being yelled at, that the one thing I have never heard an adult say is, “Stop treating me like a child!” I don’t know: maybe there’s a group of adults out there that say this all of the time, but as for myself, I have never had one say it to me. I have, however, had plenty of children say it, which leads me to offer up the following piece of advice: if you find yourself saying “Don’t treat me like a child!” on a fairly regular basis, you might want to take a moment to glance down and check. You may, in fact, be a child.
I’m just sayin’.
Things I’ve also encountered from children as opposed to adults is having someone interrupt me to tell me I’m not listening, having someone yell at me to “stop yelling!” and having someone tell me they’re tired of being ignored as they walk away from me.
Sometimes, when I’m dealing with my teenage daughter, Clementine, I feel like I’m trapped in a game of “No means yes, yes means no: do you want me to hit you again?” Or worse yet, a game of, “I know you are, but what am I?” As in, when I say, “I’d like you to be a little more respectful of my things,” and she replies, “Well, I’d like you to be more respectful of my things!” And all I can think to say is, “Gee I’m sorry—did my antique bathtub get in the way of your blue hair dye again?”
Then there are the times when I’m having a “discussion” with her and I feel like I’ve been dropped into the midst of somebody else’s drama. Like I’m the only actor in a David Mamet play who didn’t get the memo about the script changes. Or I’m the only character in a Quentin Tarantino film who doesn’t realize that they’re about to get shot in the back of the head. In other words, having a discussion with her means that, no matter what, I will have no idea what the discussion is actually about.
I’ve been tempted to get a white board, just so I can keep track of things, because, from where I sit, one topic seems to segue into another like so many conversational pin balls: “Wait a minute: I thought we were discussing a new curfew; why are we now talking about the “A” you got on your French test? Unless, this is a test. Hang on: are you speaking French right now? I’m so confused.” Unfortunately, I don’t think that even the white board would help; it would probably just end up looking like a verbal reconstruction of chaos theory.
It’s like we’re each pulling phrases out of a hat and reading them at random. “I’d like to talk about school,” I say, and she replies, “They cut down another ten thousand acres of rain forest today.”
Um, okay—are you saying that the butterfly whose wing-flapping was supposed to bring home your math homework never had the chance to be born?
“You never listen.”
I wish I never listened. Like my husband. Safe in Guy Land, he is content to wave hello and good-bye to her out the window every few days—it is only me who insists on the details. And gets stuck playing the dim-witted tourist mistaken for an international spy.
“You came home twenty minutes past curfew last night.”
“Twenty percent of Mensa members never graduated from high school.”
“And this means . . .?”
“You never listen.”