Monday, January 29, 2007

Secrets of The Code

After being a mom for a few years now, I’ve realized my kids don’t always come out and speak to me directly. They’ve developed a “code” language. They’ve figured out a way to communicate that, somehow, we all understand.

Toddler girl: I need to go potty.
Translation: Drop everything you are doing. Run! As fast as you can!

Five-year-old girl: Can I paint?
Translation: Mom, you haven’t been paying much attention to me lately.

9 yr old girl:
Can you bring me something when you go to the store?
Translation: It makes me feel loved to know you were thinking of me.

12 yr old boy: What’s for dinner?
Translation: Please don’t tell me spaghetti, and please let it be Hamburger Helper.

13 yr old girl: I don’t want to go to school. Note: “I don’t have anything to wear,” or "I'm having a bad hair day," can also have the same meaning:
Translation: 1) I didn’t study for a test. Or, 2) There is a problem I need to talk about.

As I was thinking of this, I wondered what some of my “hidden” messages were.

Here’s one:

Me: I’m just going to check email.
Translation: I’m going to check 250 blogs and I won’t be off for at least 30 minutes.

Here’s another one:

Me: [sigh] I guess I‘ll go clean up the kitchen now.
Translation: 1) I sure could use some help in here. Or 2) Sheesh, y’all are treating this place like it’s your own personal pigsty!

I am trying to get better at being direct. Having kids has forced me to learn to speak plainly. For one thing, kids (of all ages) are blind. If I do not say, “Pick up that gum wrapper two inches to the left of your foot,” they will look all over (and over and over) the floor and simply NOT SEE IT!

For another thing, they can’t comprehend generalities. If I say, “Clean your room,” I might as well have said, “Catch a barracuda for lunch.” They have little idea where to start, and they are masters at finding creative ways to avoid trying. If I give them a list of items to do, however, they will follow it impeccably.

While I’ve learned to be something of a children’s mind-reader, I can’t expect others to be so studious of my hidden messages. Especially not my husband. He doesn’t need to spend his time working through my “code language,” guessing what’s on my mind when I say, "I'm fine." I need to be able to tell him plainly.

My friend Sherri has helped me a lot with this. She uses four points to help her remember how to express her needs:
  • I feel
  • I think
  • I need
  • I want
Do I need something? I want to be able to state what I feel, I think, I need, and what I want, directly and lovingly.

Do you have trouble expressing your needs?
Speak the truth in love.
Ephesians 4:15

15 comments:

Rachel Anne said...

In response to my husbands "are you ok?"
"I'm fine:" code: if you really love me you'll ask me again because its OBVIOUS I'm not fine but I want you to not say "good" and walk away because I really need to talk about something or I'll blow a gasket.

Yeah, that's my code. It's called "read my mind." Thanks for the reminder that he's not a mind reader and I do need to speak plainly.

txmommy said...

said with a sigh: yep, I need to work on that. I feel like I should always be "fine" even when I'm not.

Elise said...

Oh, this had me in stitches!
My husband has accused me of speaking in code for years now, and I've been trying desperately to learn how to translate. I will be mindful of communicating my needs, though, as you suggested.
But guys - they do the same thing, although it's not as exasperating.
Guy 1 - I would have done the same thing. (translation - I'm sorry)
Guy 2 - I'm sure you didn't need me to give you any crap like that. (translation - I'm sorry, too)
Guy 1 - So, do you want to grab a beer? (translation - Forget about it!)
Guy 2 - Yep. (translation - I already did)
They're so funny.
Seriously, though, this is a great and timely post this Monday morning - I needed to be reminded!

Ivey Elizabeth Sirmans said...

My husband and I went on a trip this weekend. Our conversation on the six hour trip turned to exactly this. He said, "How do you expect me to read your mind? Just tell me." I really need to focus on being more specific with my husband.

Chappyswife said...

This is a perfect post! And by that I mean you said it perfectly!

Munchkin Land said...

These are great! It's so easy to slip into the theory that our husbands (and children) can read our minds, especially using the code words. I'm going to have to start making a concious effort to really express what I'm trying to say.

Andrea said...

Love the four points. Maybe I'll post them up in my kitchen somewhere to remind us ALL around here. We use code language, too. :)

Susanne said...

Great post Katherine! I have spent so much time being angry and grumbling inside because my husband could not pick up on my hidden messages when all I had to do was speak clearly. Or ask for what I needed instead of beating around the bush.

Jen said...

I'm having a mommy melt down today. Miller has been sick and he is on a steroid so he is whiney and wants me to hold him alllllll day long which means its 4pm and I'm still in my pj's he sitting next to me on the couch and I'm exhausted. Nothing got done today....Nothing. I guess I'm having no problems today with expressing my feelings....LOL!

Caroline said...

Great thoughts.

I need to remember this when my hubby says, "Are you o.k.?"
I say if they have to ask this, then it is a clue that there is something wrong.


I am guilty of saying (especially while on the computer) "Just a minute."
translation: 30 minutes later when you have forgotten that you wanted to play Candy Land with me.

You gave me lots to think about...as usual. :)

Chris said...

I "ditto" what Rachel anne said.. Oh how I expect him to read my mind at times.

I did this just today because I was tired and I wanted him to see it.

Katrina said...

Excellent post! While I had to learn a long time ago to speak directly to my husband, I need to be more diligent in reading between the lines when he or my son speak - and responding to their underlying needs.

Beck said...

Wonderful post! I read it yesterday, sat around for a while and tried to think of something to say and today I'm back to say that I thought this was just great - I DO expect my husband to read my mind, the poor man.

Jennifer said...

This was really great--thanks.

Dianne said...

Really great reminder on how important it is to communicate clearly and directly. ANd why is that hardest sometimes with those we're closest to?