Edgy Mama: Translating parent-speak

We all occasionally say one thing when we mean another. Parents, in particular, are masters of subtext. To help those of you who can’t always read between the lines, I’ve gathered and translated certain key sentences most of us have heard from other parents and, perhaps, that we ourselves have said.

Want to know what parents really mean? Here are comments and their translations you might hear on the playground, in school, or anywhere parents tend to gather with other parents and their progeny:

Parent: “Your son’s very physical, isn’t he?”
Translation: “Your kid is a total spaz. Has he been diagnosed with ADHD yet? Sheesh, I’m sorry. You’ve got your hands full, don’t you?”

Parent (often grandparent): “Doesn’t your baby need a hat?”
Translation: “What kind of stupid idiot are you, anyway? It’s 20 degrees outside and you’re slinging that bald baby around like a bowling ball. She’s going to get pneumonia and die, and it will be all your fault.”

Parent: “Is this a drop-off party?”
Translation: “I’ll be back in five hours. Maybe. Oops, I don’t have my cell phone with me. Damn, I need a drink. Don’t worry, she’s easy.”

Parent: “Don’t worry, she’s easy.”
Translation: “She’s allergic to butterflies, only fights with other kids and goes ballistic when she sees the color red. But she knows the word ‘No.’ OK, she knows: ‘Stop it right now or you’re going to your room for the next five hours.’ Just call me if she acts up. Oops, I don’t have my cell phone with me.”

Parent (again, often grandparent): “Your child looks tired/hungry/peaked.”
Translation: “You’re even a worse parent than I thought. You clearly don’t have a consistent bedtime routine. What are you feeding the kid, anyway? How about some vitamins for the poor thing?

Parent: “My kid has serious allergies.”
Translation: “You’re crazy if you think I’m going to let my kid spend a second in your dust-mite-infested, animal-hair-littered, nut-based-food home.”

Dad: “My kid’s gifted.”
Translation: “You thought I was this beer-guzzling redneck, but hell yeah, I’ve produced another Einstein. Bet your kid won’t be scoring 800 on his Math SAT. Because he’s not gifted. Like me. Like my kid. We will rule the universe!”

Mom: “My kid’s gifted.”
Translation: “Can you believe it? Isn’t she amazing? She knew her multiplication tables by the age of 6. I went through a hellacious pregnancy and 36 hours of labor and eight months of colic for something. Validation!”

Parent: “My girl bit your kid? Weird. She’s never done that before.”
Translation: “OK, maybe she’s bitten other kids a few times. But she’s never broken the skin. She’s had all her vaccinations, so what are you worried about? Rabies?”

Parent: “Our baby was sleeping through the night when she was two weeks old.”
Translation: “We started taking sleeping pills, and voila, the baby started sleeping through the night. Magic, that. Also, we bought a $200 supersonic sound-blocking machine that puts the baby right to sleep. OK, maybe the baby slept through the night every other night. OK, once a week. OK, the baby only woke up twice most nights until she was a year old.”

Parent: “He rarely drinks juice/watches TV/eats sugar.”
Translation: “Just ignore the two cases of organic apple juice in the kitchen. It’ll last us a year. Really. He mostly drinks water—just a quart or two of apple juice, watered down, daily.” Similar subtexty translations for the “watching TV” and “eating sugar” quotations.

Of course, sometimes parents do say exactly what they mean.

Parent: “I really want what’s best for my kids.”
Translation: “I really want what’s best for my kids.”

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5 thoughts on “Edgy Mama: Translating parent-speak

  1. supermom

    oh true, true! and thanks so much for a laugh – I SO needed one today.

  2. Rio

    Parent: He’s an independent little fellow!
    Translation: I can’t do a thing with this kid! He has thought he was in charge of the world since the moment he was conceived, tells his teachers they are wrong all the time, and believes I have less than half a clue about anything.

  3. Disgruntled parent

    Teacher, to child: I know your Mom said it was her fault she didn’t put your backpack in the car in the morning, but whose fault is it really? I am disappointed.
    Child: Says nothing, feels bad.
    Mom, to teacher: Actually, it really was my fault. She carries the coat, we carry the backpack to the car.
    Translation: Look you, please don’t contradict what I tell my child – that was like saying I’m lying. Enough with the shaming of the kids. What goes on at home, is my deal, okay?
    Teacher, to Mom: Fourth grade is when the children must learn to be responsible, and your child is one of the ones who does not use their class time wisely.
    Translation: Your kid will be responsible even if I have to tell her you don’t know what you’re talking about. Me, responsible for the dissaray in the class, all the Cs and Ds the kids are getting? Heck no. If there is a problem, it lies in your kid. Have a nice day.
    Parent: We’ll work harder on those things.
    Translation: “One of the ones?” Let’s brand them on their forearms so they can be more easily identified, that will save time. Grrrr…. darn those kids, being kids. Don’t they know they’re in the army now?

  4. zen

    Those are hilarious, EM! Each one i’ve heard before in different carnations.

    Next could you do the translation for what we say to kids and what we actually mean? Or what they hear vs. what we actually say?

  5. I remember “gifted” was always assigned to kids who in reality weren’t that bright and/or who had behavioral problems. They weren’t clinically mentally challenged, just prone to not following the rules, per se.

    When I was a Cub Scout, one of my troopmates, Timmy, was deemed gifted by The Experts. His parents were relieved that they no longer had to defend his temper tantrums at Scout meetings or his low grades at school. “He’s gifted,” they’d say, as if his behavior were a cover for evenings spent at home listening to classical music and reading Tolstoy.

    When Timmy’s behavior began to improve, our den mother, Carol, decided she was going to give Timmy a “Most Improved” award at our summer cookout. (Looking back, isn’t that really a backhanded compliment?) She had the award printed and was so excited to give it to him. Moments before the awards ceremony was to start, Timmy was caught dropping trou and peeing in the creek in front of a troopmate’s little sister. Needless to say, the award was scrapped.

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