Category Archives: Family Foibles

Car Conversations with Children


Modern life has afforded us many conveniences, but it’s also taken some things away.

Calm discussion, carried out in front of the fire or while sitting next to each other in the quiet of a salon or den, knitting or reading the evening paper…not many of us do that any more.

We try to have dinner together often, at our house (and with two parents who are mostly based at home, and kids who are homeschooled, it’s pretty feasible), but still, with all of the hectic schedules, activities, etc., we spend more time than I’d like in the car.

But you can have good conversation that bonds you to one another while driving.

Or you can have the kind of chats that I have with my kids.

Which I’ll share with you here, from time to time, for your enjoyment.

Car Conversation Joined in Progress…

Me: “I don’t know, guys.” (This is in response to my 14 yo and my 9yo wanting me to join their judo club.) “Jiu jitsu’s one thing (I practice Brazilian jiu jitsu at least twice a week, when I can), but I think I’m too old for judo.”

9yo: “You’re not too old! Karen does it!”

The 14yo and I puzzle for a moment, trying to think of who he’s talking about.

Me: “Do you mean…Kerry?” (The 41yo dad of three of their teammates).

The 14yo and 12yo girls dissolve into laughter. I shush them.
Me: “His name is Kerry.”

12yo: “Karen is a woman’s name!”

9yo: “So is Kerry!”

Me: “No, Kerry can be a man’s name…”

9yo: “It’s a woman’s name. It’s spelled C-A-R—”

Me (getting a tad impatient): “Yes,  but the man’s version can be spelled K-E-R-R-Y. Sometimes there are names that can be either male or female.” (I brighten, thinking of a beloved comedian who can illustrate this.) “Like Dana Carvey! Dana can be a man or woman’s name.”

9yo: “Anyway. He does it.”

(My apologies to my friend Kerry, who probably thought that his days of grief about having a girl’s name were done when he left elementary school.)

14yo: “Oh my gosh, my favorite episode of The Office (yes, my middle schoolers are allowed to watch a select few episodes of The Office–don’t judge, I have older kids who wore me out; I expended most of my good parenting on them) is the one where they’re taking Dwight to the hospital in Meredith’s car, and they find that bottle of maple syrup on the floor and he’s drinking it!”

I furrow my brow, trying to figure out what’s wrong with this retelling.

Me: “That’s actually supposed to be liquor, in that bottle.”

14yo: “Oh. It looks just like the bottles our maple syrup comes in.”

Me: “Yeah…” (trying to think of a different subject for discussion)…”Hey, who would be interested in seeing a ballet?”

Momentary silence.

9yo: “Not me.”

Me: “Okay, how about y–”

9yo: “That’s disgusting.”

Me: “Alright, I get it. I’m talking to someone else about it now, all I needed from you was a yes or no.”

12yo: “Instead of saying, “That’s disgusting”, you could say, “That doesn’t speak to me”.” (I realize this sounds incredibly mature and you might be tempted to be impressed with my parenting at this point, but I have to confess that she was simply co-opting a New Yorker cartoon I saw on the Internet.)

9yo rolls his eyes.

Me (to the 12yo): “So, Sissy, how about you? Would you like to go see a ballet?” She seems skeptical until I say, “I’m talking about The Nutcracker. At Christmas.” She immediately brightens.

12yo: “Oh, yeah! I’d like to see that!”

I turn to the 14yo, who is conspicuously quiet.

Me: “How about you? Would you like to go see The Nutcracker this year?”

Momentary silence.

14yo: “That doesn’t speak to me.”

There was also the time when we were rocketing down the highway, and I was attempting to give instructions about securing my cell phone to the son who was sitting next to me, while another driver almost killed us. That went something like this…

Me: “Okay, just put it there…” I gesture to the console when he starts toward my purse. “No, there—” At this precise moment, the motorist next to us SWERVES our direction, before correcting back into his lane. My primal motherly protectiveness–and wet-pants level fear–induces me to shout…“YOU STUPID *&^%$##)*!!”

I turn to see small faces looking at me with something akin to stunned amazement on them. It takes me a moment to process that they’re reacting to my profanity, which is confusing, since the sight of me swearing at fellow motorists is–unfortunately–one they’re well acquainted with. I gesture at the guy in the neighboring car.

“Did you SEE that guy almost hit us?!”

They seem to relax, and start laughing. I’m puzzled, until the 12 year old explains.

12 yo: “Oh. I thought you were talking to him.” Gestures to the brother that was trying to put away my phone.

They were oblivious to the goings on around us (as usual) and heard my instructions and exclamation as one sentence. (“Okay, just put it there–no, THERE, YOU STUPID %$#@@^&^&!!!”)

After we had a moment of uproarious laughter, the 12 yo added, with a tone of warning, “I was about to say…Gosh, Mommy!”

So sandwiched in between the near brush with death and the amazement that my children would think that it’s possible for me to suddenly begin to call them horrible names–which I would NEVER do, by the way–was a tender moment, in which the 12 yo girl would have defended her brother–the same one that she engages in almost continual battle with–against my profane verbal abuse.

Heartwarming, isn’t it?

(For a truly hilarious tale involving children and profanity, go read this post at Momastry. One of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time. I can totally relate, as someone who lives in my head–or in a retelling of one of my favorite bad TV shows–a good part of the time.)