Talking to kids: Why do adults suck at conversation starters?

It happens almost every single day. You meet someone you know and your child is with you. They make small talk while the child has slipped his hand in yours and is gently pulling you away. Suddenly they realize they have to ask the child something. And they unleash:

So what’s your name?

No name? You are shy? 

Why are you shy? Don’t want to talk to me?

They should have got the hint by now, but they don’t:

So are you being a good boy?

And this:

I know all about you. 

I have never understood this.

Of all the stupid questions adults ask, their conversation starters with kids are truly idiotic. Honestly would you walk up to someone in a bar and say “So what’s your name?” Then why would you do it to a kid?. Ditto for how old are you? Do you really care? Are you trying to test their Math? And what use is this information anyway?

Imagine if someone asked you, while you were drinking a cup of coffee. Ah, you are drinking coffee I see. You like coffee?

Same thing. Why would you ask a child eating an icecream: Ah, you are eating icecream?

Kids do not like small talk. They prefer being ignored than be asked : what’s your name, which school, which standard, how old are you?

How about asking kids what they like to do in their free time, what is their favorite color and why, do they like being indoors or outdoors, do they believe in magic, when was the last time they made a paper boat, do they like boats or ships, rivers or seas….

I asked some friends of this blog what were the most annoying questions their kids get asked and and here’s some of what they came up with (the list was huge, so I have only picked a few). Mind you, some of these questions have been asked post the stroking or pulling of child’s cheek, or worse, lifting them up bodily, or even worse – hoisting them in the air (as size may allow)

What if I take this TOY away..?

Look.. your Mommy is gone.. what will you do now?

Is that my toy?

What do you want to be when you grow up? 

Let’s see if you can give me a hi-five!

Why don’t you sing me a song?

Smile! Let’s take a selfie!

 Who is more naughty you or your brother?

Who does mummy love more you or your brother?

 Oh.. You’re only 8? But you’re SO BIG!

Will you please give me a kissie no. Please. Please. 

Who do YOU love more? Mum or dad?

 Want to come to my house, I have toys and chocolates

I feel like saying: GET OVER IT!

It’s a child. It’s not an alien just landed from a space ship.

It’s a smaller (and perhaps less stupid) version of you.

You are supposed to know this. You have a vocabulary. Years of experience in making conversation. You went to college. You have a job. Surely you can come up with something better.

And the worst questions are usually asked by people who already have kids, so there can be no excuses technically of not knowing what to say. And why bother saying anything at all? I am sure my child won’t mind and I will be spared writing such posts.

Some day, I will make a list of questions to ask a child or make Re carry them as flash cards. I will. I wish I didn’t have to do this, but it’s been year seven for Re, and I have hardly come across people who can initiate good conversations with him. He in the meanwhile has mastered the art of ignoring stupid questions or just shrugging his shoulders and refusing to answer them or sometimes telling the said person exactly what he thought of the question.

My approach to kids (even before I had one) has always been simple. I approach them as I would an animal. In that I try and make myself as unobtrusive, yet watch what they are doing, make eye contact when I have a chance and then wait for the child (or animal) to make their move.

They always do.

For everything else, there’s always peekaboo.

 

 

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Lessons from my three-year old

Write it down, my friends tell me. Re spews new gems every day and most of the time, I can only stare in awe and wonder how little minds work. Every since he acquired a voracious vocabulary, he can’t seem to cease showing it off at any given opportunity. Most of these are during car-rides — to the park, to the beach, to school, to naani’s house, to a play-date, and sometimes, to nowhere in particular. Some are on lazy afternoons, where we are both chilling out, each doing their own thing, and frequently (and sometimes too frequently intersecting). Since I have outgrown the diary phase, some of these made it to Facebook and Twitter updates, but I have promised to make more and more of them into the blog (for now) and a book (for later).

Dec 11, 2012

8 am negotiation:
You also come with me in the school bus, mamma.
Oh, I can’t, because the bus is only for small people. I am big.
Then when you will become small?

***

 

Dec 8, 2012

“Mamma, we can’t go higher and higher into the clouds and their mammas and daddas. Ony birds and helicopters can go.”
“Who said that?”
“I said that. And now please close your laptok!”

***

Dec 8, 2012

Mamma, can I have one laddoo?
No.
Then can I have two, thwee…six laddoos?

***

Dec 6, 2012

So yesterday we put up our Christmas tree, fairy lights and all.
Boy exclaimed, “Look Happy Dilawi came on the Merry Kissmass twee!”

***

Dec 5, 2012: The universe explained by a 3-year old.

“Look, white sun has come. Then yellow sun will come, then clouds will come, then their mammas and daddas will come, then moon will come, then sun will go home to his mamma and dadda, then stars and dark will come.”

Nov 29, 2012
1. Doggies do potty everywhere because they don’t have hands for potty seat.
2. We must ony take flowers from the ground. We must not pluck from the twees because flowers want to be with their mammas and daddas.
3. We must not take piktures of sleeping cats and dogs othewise they will get distubbed.

***

Nov 23, 2012: How being with a child gives you perspective:
Boy and I walking back from the park. We spot an open manhole. I think, “God, an accident waiting to happen!”
Boy says, “Look mamma, potty seat is not there!”

***

Nov 21 2012

The bath saga continues:

Back to Bombay. Back to bath saga. I leave boy alone ( as instructed) in bathroom for half hour with the essentials. I return. Boy is bone dry.
“What have you been doing?” I ask.
“I was just putting water on the soap. It haffto take a bath no?”

***

Nov 16, 2012. Goa.

Conversation with the sun at sundown:
Okay sun, you go home now. The moon has to come and the stars haffto come. See you tomorrow. Take care of yourself, sun

***

 

Conversations that became Facebook updates for no particular reason

Yesterday, boy and I counted autorickshaws while waiting for the bus.
Today, we counted cars.
Sooomany are there, he said.
Right.

**

The firecrackers have started.
Boy is concerned.

“Mamma, they are dooving firefighters. I am getting scared. The window is getting scared. The building is getting scared. Bravo and Nadia are also getting scared.”
He goes to the window and shouts at no one in particular, “Children. Children. Stop this I say. Otherwise I am going to be very angwy.”
Turns to cat. “Bravo, don’t worry, I will beat them!”

Diwali is a week away. Now I am worried too.

**

Boy spills water on the sofa.
I bellow. “Look what you did to my sofa!!”
“Wait..wait.. I’ll get you a new sofa,” he says.
“But do you have money?” I ask.
He runs and gets his coin box, opens it and thrusts it into my face. “See, so many moneys I have. Come, let’s buy a new sofa.”

**

Breakfast negotiations:

Boy: Can I watch Max and Ruby?
Me: It’s morning time and morning time is not for TV.
Boy: But I am asking nicely no? See? NICELY!
Me: Okay, but only for ten minutes, and only after you finish your ragi and milk.
Boy: (mouths down two scoops too big for his mouth): See, I finished my ragi.
Me: What about the milk?
Boy: Do you want the remote? Should I give you the remote?
Me: I said you have to finish your ragi and milk and wash your mouth and then we can watch it.

Boy (slurps the milk down, gets a nice milk moustache, and licks it clean with his lips ): See mamma, I can wash the ragi with the milk and it will go away.Ugh! Boys!
**
I meet boy’s teacher today. She tells me he doesn’t listen to her. That he often ignores her. Later at home I ask boy why. He says, “But she is not listening to me also.”
**
I tell boy it’s naani’s birthday today.
We call naani.
Boy sings… “Happy birday choo you.. happy birday to naani.. and happy mess too!”
He pauses. “Naani, you are thwee years old today.” *claps* “One, two, thwee!”
Naani is overwhelmed. “No Rehu, I am 69 years old!”
Boy too lazy to clap anymore. Says, “That’s sooomany, Naani!”
**
Sibling rivalry unfolds
Re: Mamma, Nadia has no hands (points to the resident feline)
Me: But she has four legs and you have only two.
Re: But she can’t dwink chocolate milkshake with a stwaw! (looks very pleased there is no competition)
Me: But she can climb on top of the cupboard. Can you?
Re: I don’t want to climb on the cupboard!