One thing that drives me absolutely insane is when I call my kids to dinner and they stand next to the table and start grabbing food off their plates with their fingers. What are they, ANIMALS?! Animals who can stand upright and have opposable thumbs to grasp chicken nuggets, that is.
“SIT DOWN IN YOUR CHAIR!! We do not STAND at the table and eat with our FINGERS! What is the MATTER with you?!” I was still at the stove frantically trying to keep the rest of dinner from burning while checking the recipe on my phone. So I didn’t immediately notice the silence.
“You don’t have to yell, Mama. You can say it in a kind voice,” my 5yo son stated, quietly and reproachfully. I turned to look at him, seated nicely in his chair at this point. There was just something about his tone, something so mature-sounding and indignant about his statement, that it stopped me in my tracks.
I burst out laughing, then squatted down to his level. “Sweetie, you are absolutely right. I’m sorry I yelled. Thank you for sitting nicely in your chair and eating your dinner.” He smiled — a little smugly, I might add — and went back to his broccoli.
Here’s the thing about kids: just when you think you have them pegged, they’ll surprise you. This kid is hell on wheels, a wild child, a naked screaming banshee at regular intervals. It’s not so much parenting as animal control most nights. So it knocked me off my feet to hear this child politely request that I speak to him in a kind tone of voice. It’s not too much to ask. Just like it’s not too much to ask that people sit in their chairs and eat with utensils.
The funny thing about this exchange is that it was so out of character for both of us – his reasonable request, my capitulation – that it became a Significant Moment. In fact, it launched a new catchphrase. Now whenever things get heated, which in our house is often, Riley will say, “Kind voice!” The heated exchange is usually between him and me, and he usually shouts this — frankly, in a rather unkind voice.
And that’s what’s so funny about it. And that’s why we both immediately dissolve into giggles. Which diffuses the tension, at least, even if it doesn’t result in us speaking to each other in civil tones like normal human beings. “KIND VOICE!!” we scream in each other’s faces, laughing hysterically. Our family is so weird. And I mean that in the kindest possible way.