Sunday, October 25, 2009

Recorded for quality assurance purposes

Every word uttered in our house is recorded. Our conversations are stored in a comprehensive database for later review and utilization. No, I do not think the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, or IRS has bugged our house or tapped our phone line. I am not a conspiracy theorist.

I am the mother of a 2-year-old.

Sitcoms, movies, and even commercials are rife with cherubic children creating awkward situations for their parents by revealing intimate family secrets. Remember the commercial in which a little girl in an elevator regales strangers with the details of the Disney cruise she enjoyed with her parents the previous year? The one that culminates with her telling one of the other elevator passengers that her mother refers to her baby brother as "our little souvenir?" I'm pretty sure that commercial was scripted by a mom.

For now at least, Lily doesn't tell embarrassing stories about our family. She does, however, repeat everything she hears us say. Every parent thinks their children are in some way gifted, but it is positively uncanny how well Lily utilizes her ever-expanding lexicon. She takes our words, runs them through the Cutenator 2000, and astounds us and those we know with her loquacity.

What she says is always cute. Often, it is surprising. Sometimes, it is embarrassing.

Occasionally, it makes me stop and think.

Sarcasm is used quite liberally in our family. While my husband and I have never thought anything of it - blame it on too many episodes of Friends and Seinfeld - not even the Cutenator 2000 can dull the edge on everything. In fact, some things seem even harsher when said in Lily's sweet, tiny voice.

Mike and I are products of our society, and I think our society has put too much stock in the wrong kind of wittiness. Somewhere along the way, snarkiness has become synonymous with intelligence. We are ever in search of the "zinger" - that perfect comeback line that is delivered so flawlessly by comedians and actors with a prepared script and no need to worry about the consequences of what they say. We have become desensitized to the impact of words. What might be humorous were our lives a series of 30-minute TV shows is - however unintentionally - cruel in reality, with long-lasting effects on us and those we love. We have forgotten the importance of showing kindness at all times and in all things.

We may be products of our society, but we also have the final word about what our society produces. Lily is still an impressionable little girl, and there is plenty of time to teach her the value of kindness. I think we can retrofit ourselves to produce more kindness, too. It will take time. Commitment. Effort.

And maybe an army of toddlers to record our conversations for quality assurance purposes.


  1. Amen, Mama!

    I detest snark. I am so sick of the cynicism, sarcasm, and schadenfreude that permeates our culture that I want to run screaming to a time machine and hop it back to a time when civility and joy and manners were valued.

    I fear we can't go back. But I try to limit the snark in our household, although with two boys and a husband who seems to think a cutting wit is something of value, I may be fighting a losing battle.

    Good on you for recognizing the situation and trying to right it.

  2. I am facing this, too. It is so hard to keep the sarcasm to the "after hours". I grew up in a family where dinner time wit was/is king. But I recognize that was not always so when I (and my siblings) was little. I can't identify when things changed but I'm guessing when I hit late middle school and my siblings were old enough to understand what was going on.

    My four year old is a straight shooter. Not much subtlety in her. The baby a complete and total quick thinking witty little thing. And so, dinner time conversation at my house is slowly changing.

    I'll be curious to hear from you how your progress goes.