parent speak

As a bit of a cunning linguist (ha), I am constantly paying attention to the words used in daily conversations. It’s not just what I’m paid to do, it’s a thing I do and cannot recall ever not doing since becoming a quasi-adult.

I often get called out on it in positive ways-“you have such a way with words” “you are so clear and concise” “you could convince me of anything”.

Sometimes I get called out in not-so-positive ways-“drunk, philosopher Mel visited and everything was a ‘thing'” “you always have to be right”, etc.

Lately, though, I’ve been called out on being…confusing?…when it comes to talk of the sprogs. This usually comes from romantic interests and in the form of “you know, you talk about them, but never in the way most parents do” or “you never mention their names”.

And I don’t. Deliberately. On purpose. Rarely do I refer to them by name. This is in part due to being a social media whore. Both of the sprogs are now on twitter and Facebook and we’re learning to navigate that landscape together, but I’ve always had a vested interest in keeping their selves out of my social media whoredom, protecting their identities, and still talking about all of the kooky, enraging, head-scratch-inducing things that they do because sharing space with and being the primary caregiver to two growing humans is about 183% of what I do.

Last weekend I worked a bar shift at which I was recognized more for being the mother of my loin fruits than the weird Kardashian infamy I’ve somehow established in this town. Even my co-bartender commented on it-“more people know your kids than me!”-and he’s a reputable musician about town. ‘Surreal’ only scratches the surface of that experience. It was eye-opening. The ankle-biters I share space with have begun to establish their own reputations…and they’re GOOD reputations. And now I kinda get why the son got so bent out of shape about being blanked by his friend’s family because they believed he brought and left pot at a party (another tale for another time). He has a reputation to uphold. Whoa.

Which leads to the second part of me being called out; rarely do I refer to them as mine. This is also deliberate. Not because I don’t want to be associated with them, but because I don’t ever want them to be anyone’s but their own. I joke with them when they do stupid shit like opening cans with their teeth-“those teeth are mine until you’re 18!”-or when they’re running off to rugby/football games-“your ass had better not come home broken because it’s mine until you’re 18!”, but I don’t believe a word of it. Pretty sure they don’t either as they still open cans with their teeth and come home from playing with busted asses.

This is not to say that I’m not a fiercely protective mama. I have blacklisted people, some of them ranked as Really Good Friends, for being disrespectful of the sprogs. It’s rare for me to intervene because they are strong people and have all the words they require to fight their own battles, but sometimes I gotta have their backs, ya know?

Still, I don’t own them. They are their own owners. The language I use when I speak of them aligns with that belief that I feel to the core of my being. It doesn’t change me feeling incredibly proud to be their mum when they win awards, get good grades, stand up for themselves, or just wake up being the amazing, gorgeous people they are. Nor does it change me feeling deeply ashamed when they fuck up-because they do, and will continue to have their fuck ups, just as I will-but I own those feelings. I do not own them.

I can only hope that they get that. Sometimes my language does speak of ownership. With them, I find my self saying things like “that’s my baby” be it out of pride or eye rolling. Usually, our language around each other doesn’t matter because our relationships are built on actions-not arguing when asked to take out the trash, getting take-out for each other, and mutual foot rubs over talks of how infuriating romantic interests can be.

I went into parenthood like a deer caught in headlights and still feel that way every single day, but sharing space with and caring and being responsible for the upbringing of two human beings never ceases to be an adventure and, in some ways, very harrowing work. My goal has always been to raise sprogs who are themselves and own their selves. So far, it seems I’ve done ok.


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