Precision of Language


I will be the first to admit that I am not the most patient person. Every year, I make a silent resolution to be a little more patient than I was the year before. When I feel I am going to lose my temper, I try to reign myself in within me. I close my eyes, breathe deep and if possible, remove myself from the situation. But I fail sometimes. I give in to the angry, red surge that flows through my blood and my temper defeats me. I try again, and again. One day, I say to myself, I will win. I am doing better, I am told,  than how I used to be.

Although I am an impatient person, I like to explain to my children the reasons why I ask them to do certain thing or forbid them from doing some others. I try my best to express my logic in meaningful language that will be age appropriate. My mother in law says she respects us, the modern parents, because her reason to her children was generally, ‘God made me your mother, now you listen to me. Do not ask questions!’

I allow questions. And I patiently reason with them, but only to a certain point. When I reach my breaking point, I let all the reasoning go out of the window. ‘Do it NOW!! Do it because I said so!’ Lately, Sahana has been saying, ‘because I said so is not a good enough reason, mom!’ I tell her that will have to suffice since my reasons only face rebuttals and more rebuttals from her. We have reached a satisfactory compromise. She tries to draw me in a debate for as long as she can. I try my tactics of being patient with her, and as I reach that dangerous breaking point, I use my ‘do it cos I said so’ arsenal. It works. The job gets done. We coexist (not always happily, but oh well)!

Yesterday, after dinner, I said to Sahana, ‘Please clean up the kitchen.’

‘But why me? I have a lot of homework!’

‘You will clean up the kitchen because I asked you to.’ My fifteen year old daughter’s response was this:

‘Precision of language, mama, precision of language! If you say you asked me to do something, you are actually empowering me by giving me a choice. If you ask, I could refuse. You must say, because you said so. In that case my choice is taken away. Since I am your child, I must do what you said I should do. And then I am bound to do it! So yes, precision of language!’

With that long lecture, she happily went to clean up the kitchen chuckling to herself. I also chuckled since we both read and discussed Lois Lowry’s The Giver which talks of ‘precision of language’ and we both decided we must practice it. I also chuckled because each age has its joys and challenges in different forms. Mothers of two and three year olds, if you think your toddlers are fun and frustrating, let me tell you, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Fifteen is kind of toddlerhood of adult age – willful, self centered, irrational yet adorable and sweet. If one takes the time one can get glimpses of the real human that is slowly emerging, always evolving, still malleable but slowly taking shape. I find the whole process fascinating, when I have the patience to see through the husk, that is.

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