The Evolution of Phrases As A Parent

by Lisa Douglas

Have you ever considered the differences in a simple phrase, and the variations of meanings at different ages in your child’s life?

Let’s take, for instance, the phrase “Talk to me.”

When they’re newborn-small, and they’re making these sweet coo-ing faces at you, and you so desperately want them to continue being animated while looking you in the eye, you sweetly elicit more from them by saying, “Talk to me” in a soft-spoken way, in hopes of continuing on with your babyish conversation.

Tack on a couple years to that child’s age, it becomes a whooole ‘nother ball of wax.

“Talk to me!” You call out to your stubborn toddler, who won’t tell you what he wants for lunch.

“Talk to me!” She folds her arms at her chest, toughening up her bottom lip, refusing to answer who spilled the cup of milk.

Add another couple years, and a different story emerges.

“Talk to me!” When you’re trying to get to the bottom of an argument outside. Or a bullying issue your elementary schooler doesn’t want to let you in on, afraid of the repercussions. Or, maybe you’re trying to find out who took the last cookie.

Enter pre-teen years, and the phrase evolves, again.

“Talk to me” becomes more of a plea when you see them shielding a feeling they don’t understand beneath their eyes as tears fall. Sometimes, it’s whispered softly while you hug. Other times it’s yelled at the TOP.OF.YOUR.LUNGS. when you realize they’ve done something verrrry wrong.

And in full-fledged teenage-hood? LOOK OUT.

You’re begging at times with the phrase, encouraging them to let you into their teenage world; a world chock-full of friends and get-togethers and texting they want to shield from you, in a newfound need for privacy. “Talk to me” to snap them to attention from away from their phone, or friends, or blaring music or favorite teeny-bopper television show.

In a couple more years, “Talk to me,” will be through the phone, while they’re away at college. You so desperately want to hear everything and nothing, just to hear their voice, hear how it’s going, feel reassured that they’re okay.

And then, for many years after that, “Talk to me” is triggered by their playing a guessing game with you about their big news (moving, big job, new significant other, proposal). The phrase never ends, even as they get older.

One thing is for certain, though- I want my kids to know that, even though I may have to drag it out of ’em every now and again, I want to hear it ALL! The good, the bad, the ugly; my parental door is always open. Even if they need to lay it out there as a friend instead of a mom, I will ALWAYS listen.

It starts young, and I hope it never ends.

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