I’ve got two kids who are skilled communicators. One blows me away while regurgitating facts, details and dates, spitting them out in a way that captivates me like no professor could. The other one sharply launches zingers that envelop me in an explosion of laughter. If they worked together, embracing their differences, they could go on the road flattening audiences in uncontrollable fits of eye-watering amusement. Instead, they battle each other – accurately pushing each other’s buttons during normal big brother/little sister squabbles. I’d forgotten, until this week, how big a part delivery plays in communication.
Upon finding out that I got accepted into graduate school, I shared the news with my daughter. “Guess what? Mommy’s going back to school!” My daughter’s face squinched up and I tried desperately to translate the expressions on her face ranging from “Is my summer over?” to “Do I have homework tonight?” to “Do we have to move and leave all my friends? Tomorrow?” As her eyes grew misty, I asked, “Are you ok? Do you have questions?” Eyes down, she quietly squeaked, “I think I’m just hungry.”
I thought I’d discussed my degree program application enough but realized that conversations may have been aimed more towards her brother, bypassing her ears. Truthfully – I hadn’t mentioned it much because no sense in getting people excited in case I didn’t get in. After a few unsuccessful attempts, countering her vehement protests that she had been upset at all, I got her communicating again. I said, “It seemed like you have questions about what it means for Mommy to go to school. What were you thinking when I told you?” She bravely responded, “I thought you would be a teenager again and that you aren’t allowed to take care of children any more.”
After thinking, “I wish” about recapturing one’s teenage looks, I reassured her that I get to study something I love, that I will participate in family homework time, and that, someday, it will help me get a better job for all of us. Still vague, but clarifying that we’re all in it for the long haul. Whew! What a first warm up lesson for my impending Communications master’s degree.