If you want to see how thoroughly assholey my kids (and I) can be, get in the car with us. It’s in the car that you will see their idiosyncratic personalities on full display. There will be demands for snacks, better music, and more A/C– all followed by screams that the snacks were all wrong, the music still sucks and the windows should be rolled down immediately. And all of that will happen before we pull out of the garage.
Want to amp up the hellishness? Add a phone call to the mix. (Our slick-ass mini-van allows us to take hands-free calls through the speakers.) The second I say hello, both of my kids burst into spontaneous hysteria, desperate for me to pull over and pick up their spilled Goldfish crumb or stop the car so they can look at a picture of Goofy on a billboard.
You can imagine my shock when my kids made nary a peep the other day when Jeff was on the phone in the car. You could have heard Pirates Booty drop. We hadn’t even asked them to be quiet (because we long ago stopped asking for stuff we can’t have).
Right before we had gotten into the car, Jeff listened to a voicemail from his cousin that sounded ominous. Something was definitely up and it didn’t sound good. Because he does less driving with the children than I do, Jeff made the
stupid suggestion that he call her back in the car. M’kay I said, thinking that was the worst idea since I decided to go running in a decades-old running bra that did indeed break when I was 2 miles from home.
But somehow the kids knew.
They were quiet from Jeff’s initial hello until he said goodbye. I kept turning around to be sure they were still there. They looked back at me placidly as if to say, “We know how to do it, Dummy, we just don’t do it for you.” They were so quiet I wanted to reward them 3 minutes in. I held back. Eight minutes in I was ready to buy them each a new pony for being so damn quiet.
Damn! Look at these kids sitting there all doe-eyed and quiet. Ten minutes in I gave them each a graham cracker. Nothing says thank you for not ruining this tense phone call (like you ruin all of mine) like a goddamned graham cracker.
As soon as he was off the phone, Jeff fielded 50 questions from the kids about the call. It turns out that it was really bad news about a beloved family member who suffered a heart attack. He has a boo boo on his heart? they asked. Jeff explained heart attacks in a cogent, age-appropriate way and even snuck in the suggestion that we all eat healthily so we can keep the boo boo’s away from our hearts.
I’m still in awe of their behavior. They choose to scream through my phone calls with the pharmacy, the hair salon, my friends, and my sister, but when a truly important call comes in with news about a heart attack and a medically induced coma, they know to sit quietly? I am certainly grateful they have those powers of discernment even though I’d never seen them before.
Have you seen this in your kids? Can your kids sense when they really need to be quiet for an important phone call?