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.”