Discovery: My Kids Know When They Really Should Shut Up

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?

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25 thoughts on “Discovery: My Kids Know When They Really Should Shut Up

  1. I’m sorry to hear about your family member’s heart attack, and glad that your kids had a spidey sense to just shut up when needed.

    I have no such luck…I work from home half the week with my almost-3-year-old, and the minute I get a project-related call from my offshore team, she stops playing quietly with her blocks, moseys right on over to me, and starts singing loudly into the phone. Maybe she thinks I’m talking to the grandparents, who knows. And the more shushing I do, the louder she gets.

  2. It’s like when you take your car to the mechanic and tell them it’s been making this awful, metal-on-metal groaning noise, and then the mechanic starts the car, and it’s just a gentle humming whisper of a combustion engine. Glad they kept it together for that phone call though – sounds like they knew it was needed.

  3. I’m glad they know to be quiet when something is truly wrong. Do you think they could teach my 21 year old?

    I’m sorry to hear about your family member, and I pray they get better soon.

  4. Nope. Can’t say that my two year old has mastered that ability. But I have hope. Not for me, but for my husband. My son only listens to anything that he says, usually the first time. I’m sorry about your family member…

  5. It’s not quite the same, but I have seen my kids act differently around Ian. Just something subtle that says to me, “they would NEVER let me get away with this.” Of course it was heightened in this situation and I’m sorry for the heart boo-boos. I saw your comment that things are looking positive — hope they stay that way too!

  6. I have never witnessed this behavior in my kids. Maybe it’s not too late for your kids to teach mine? We’ll be over soon to find out. Hope everything is okay with Jeff’s family member?

    • It’s not exactly a surprise that Jeff commands more respect. I have to admit he earns it. Family member doing better– still needs prayers and intentions.

  7. I totally echo what Carinn said. My kids would totally be worse for me than Ian.

    Seriously, though. It’s amazing how perceptive kids are. I’m glad they were quiet at the right time, and I hope your cousin is doing much better.

  8. I have grown so tired of my kids fighting in the car that I have simply pulled the car over and got out of the car. Then I stretch my legs and look out at the horizon. It’s funny to immediately hear silence as the wonder what this crazy mama is doing. It especially is fun to do this if they are the ones who want to go somewhere. Eventually, they ask if we can go now:). I’m glad your family member is doing better.

  9. they’re like animals, they are attuned to the vibe. they sense things, like what’s serious and what’s not. like who to take advantage of to get an extra cookie. hee hee.
    i glad too that news has been good.

  10. Wow, that’s great! Little sweet, sensitive kiddos. Isn’t it amazing that at such young ages they could sense how important that phone call was? They never stop amazing me at how much they can understand, even when you think they won’t. Good job kiddos!

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