It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Non-communication with Katie

Little Katie chews her way slowly through her second bowl of spaghetti, her face tomato-sauce red from chin to ears, with the odd speckle on nose and forehead. The other children have long since left the table. Katie looks up at me and says something indecipherable.

“Are you finished, Katie?”


“Give me your bowl, then, and we’ll go wash your hands and face.”

She clutches the bowl protectively. Body language contradicts her expressed wishes. Hmmm… Best clarify.

“Are you finished, lovie, or do you want to keep eating?”


I’ve fallen into this trap too many times not to try it again in reverse.

“Do you want to keep eating, or are you finished?”


As I thought. We’ll try it one question at a time, then.

“Are you all done?”


Seems clear enough, right? Think again.

“Do you want more?”


All right.

“I think I’ll just leave you alone and let you sort this out yourself, okay?”

“Thank you.”

Confusing, but polite. The girl will go far.

April 7, 2006 - Posted by | food, the things they say!


  1. I was married to someone like that once.

    Comment by Q | April 7, 2006 | Reply

  2. At least she had the sense to realize she needed to think about it. Some people go about their lives firmly believing that they are decisive…when really they’re anything but!

    Comment by Haley | April 7, 2006 | Reply

  3. ah, yes, that dance. I do it in my sleep, between my toddler and my library patrons. One of the major parts of reference interviewing is “repeat back what you understand them to have said.” Appraently when they hear you say it, they realize it’s not what they really want. Grownups are just as weird as toddlers most days!

    Comment by kittenpie | April 7, 2006 | Reply

  4. Hey q. I still am. Around our house, we call it “speaking Ray”. I have learned to never ask and either/or question. He always says yes. Just yes.

    Comment by Granny | April 7, 2006 | Reply

  5. I’ve lost count of how many of that conversation that I’ve had around here. Thankfully the princesses are pulling out of it, but for a while there, mind reading was a required skill at the table.

    Comment by Simon Peter | April 7, 2006 | Reply

  6. LMAO! First I’m crackin up at the whole conversation with you and Miss Katie then I read what q said and I’m dieing here. LMAO!

    Those kids of yours Mary crack me up !

    Comment by kimmyk | April 7, 2006 | Reply

  7. I have to say, I don’t have this problem with Bryce. He has no qualms about clarifying PRECISELY what it is he wants. Over and over. In many different ways. Until we get it right, for the love of god!

    Quinn, on the other hand, leaves me in stitches with these types of conversations. Ah, toddlers.

    Comment by Kristen | April 7, 2006 | Reply

  8. Upies! Uppies! Up!! UP!!! *UP*!!!

    NO!!!!! NO!!!!

    Down! DOWN!


    Comment by MsSisyphus | April 7, 2006 | Reply

  9. Mary, I don’t comment much, but I am a regular lurker on your blog. I just wanted to tell you your dialogues are absolutely hilarious. I have no idea how you manage to come up with such comical posts day after day!

    Comment by J | April 8, 2006 | Reply

  10. Q: Self-contradictory? Check. Polite? I’m thinking not so much.

    Kimmyk: Aren’t they great? (Q is pretty great, too.) A sense of the absurd takes you a long way when dealing with tots.

    Haley: I’m not so sure that she knew she needed to think about it as she was simply doing more mindless agreeing with whatever I said. But at least she was agreeable!!

    Kittenpie: They are indeed. Which is why, when I’m in adult scenarios (which does happen, all blogging to the contrary), I run a VERY efficient meeting.

    Granny: Well, at least he’s agreeable!

    SimonPeter: Mind-reading is a useful human skill. Why it wasn’t built in to the design, I just don’t know. OH, wait, yes I do. Out of respect for our privacy, perhaps; or more likely, knowing our tendency to savagry, out of concern for the future of the race! Some thoughts are, after all, best left unspoken.

    Kristen: You can see Bryce’s dilemma, though. Parents are notoriously thick, especially about the virtue of, say, jumping off the furniture, or wearing the same spiderman briefs for a week running, or french fries as vegetables, or telling your little brother scarey stories in the dark…

    MsS: Oh, so familiar.

    J: Well, thank you, loyal lurker. Except that I don’t make any of this stuff up. Like Susan, I may exaggerate for comic effect, but I don’t make it up! This is straight from the mouths of babes.

    Comment by Mary P. | April 8, 2006 | Reply

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