Talking out of school

Why do children turn into goldfish when you ask them: What did you do at school today? “Can’t remember,” they reply. Or “nothing”. Sprog 1 is particularly good at keeping her school cards close to her chest. I never hear a thing. Not one word. But then, Sprog 1 is pretty good at keeping everything close to her chest. At her best friend’s house last week, I mentioned we had a Doctor Who marathon while Sprog 1 was sick in bed. Her best friend piped up with “Ooooh, I LOVE Doctor Who!”. “Wow, I said to Sprog 1, did you know that?” “No,” said Sprog 1, ever the erudite conversationalist. “So what do you talk about with your best friend at school every day?” Mute shoulder shrug. The only time Sprog 1 likes a chat is when it’s lights’ out time, late at night. She could blather for hours then, but I’m pretty sure that’s a cunning delay tactic rather than a genuine desire to communicate. Sprog 2 is fond of the “nothing” response too, but in her case I think it’s an actual case of little-person-goldish-brain (bless). Now and again, however, she’ll completely freak me out with explosions of disturbing information. Like: “The naughty boys chase me and kick me and punch me and I have to run and hide in the girls toilets, but they follow me in and I have to lock myself in a cubicle.” or “The other kids made fun of me and said the scab on my knee looked like bird poo” or “I don’t have any friends, so I just walk around picking up rubbish for the teachers at lunchtime.” Ohhhhh god, no, really? My heart contracts with horror. Sprog 1 found her voice when the latter of Sprog 2’s remarks was made in the car one afternoon. “Don’t worry,” she said to Sprog 2, “I didn’t have any friends in kindergarten either.” Let’s just leave all fear about breeding social misfits to Mummy then shall we? I’m pretty sure – after talking to her teacher and other mums – that it’s not as bad as she occasionally makes out. At least I hope not. I just wish there was some middle ground between “nothing” and schoolyard tales of misery and despair. Mind you, I don’t know what I was expecting with 50% of my genes bouncing around in their little bodies. Husband is driven mad by my inability to communicate. He’s infuriated when I walk out of movies and don’t have anything more to say than “it was alright”, because he adores a long dissection. Major life issue discussions (as opposed to idle home renovation blather)? Forget it. I’m pretty sure my family find me equally frustrating. Which is ironic, because I’m usually regarded as being quite the chatterbox in social situations. It’s a skill I learned during 20 years as a journalist, where I often attended functions alone and had to make conversation with complete strangers for hours on end. Hell on earth. But it did help me master the art of chit-chat. It’s the meaningful stuff that eludes me. Which means, oddly, that the better you know me, the less I’ll tell you. I find it almost physically impossible to discuss anything that’s bothering me. My tongue literally ties. So I’ll loosen it by telling you something funny instead. My psychologist reckons people eventually notice that you’re not exchanging confidences with them. She drew a diagram of a “relationship onion” on her whiteboard to illustrate it. I’m an outer layers girl. Most people like to move closer to the core. I’m sure the core is a very warm, comfortable place to be. But I’m going to need a bit (lot) more therapy to go there.

TONIGHT’S MENU: Baked salmon, with a preserved lemon salsa for the grown ups. I’ll add the recipe tomorrow if it’s any good.

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