Puppy Pirates – the Art of Conversation with a 5 year old (Part 1)

Lightning McTalker
Speeds round the conversation
Leaving me in dust


I picked AB up from the gym child care one day last week. He was hunkered down in the far corner with the only other kids in there at that time – two girls. They weren’t visible when I first walked in, so it was with a little hesitation that I asked him what they were playing.

“Puppy pirates mom.”

Really? What’s that?

“Well, it’s when you have a pirate and then some pink puppies come along and after a while the boat isn’t going anymore because the sail is messed up, but a dinosaur came over and handed them apples so they had dinner, but then the snow monster came over and created a real problem until the puppy pirates melted him.”

Got that? Talking with him is like trying to watch a hummingbird fly. Just impossible to keep up. As such, I notice I employ a few tactics in my efforts to master the art of conversation with him.

Tactic #1: Last Noun Volley

This one is really easy to do, requires a minimal understanding of the actual flow of the conversation, but does mean you have to listen for the breath as that is when you can insert yourself into the conversation. Example:

AB: So I was pretending to be the yellow power ranger who is a cheetah and I was like pow but then he became a girl on another one and the table was heavy so it wouldn’t work anymore but the cheetah is really fast not as fast as a rocket but the movie wasn’t over yet so we went to the monkey book place where they were having snacks and some bananas. <pause for breath>

Me (quickly, before he gets started again): They had bananas? Really?

AB: yeah and then after that we blah blah blah blah blah blah……….. …………..blah …………………blah but they couldn’t wait until after the legos were picked up.

Me (again, with some immediacy): Did you like the legos?

AB: yeah and then we…

You get the idea. This tactic, also called the “last noun volley,” allows you to semi-listen to the stream of consciousness from your child and still seem engaged. You just wait for the breath and repeat the last noun he mentions in a question or statement (that’s the volley) — he then picks it right back up.  I’m not entirely proud of this tactic, but sometimes, after a day that starts with a 7am global call with a bad connection and ends with me forgetting an umbrella in a monsoon, it’s the best I got.

Tactic #2: Big Muscle Maneuver

This one requires not your brain to be engaged, but your body.   You see, every one of these conversations is coupled with an insane amount of body movement on the part of my 5-year-old. Remember the hummingbird reference? I wasn’t kidding.  What you do is simple: hold his hands in yours and get him to use big muscles.  He will continue to talk the whole time, but because your body is involved, he doesn’t need you to actually say anything.  Example:

What he says What his body does
So after the train sailed over the alligator pit…. While holding hands, does deep knee bends and then pushes up high in the air
The pterodactyl got caught in a tornado with some flowers and SnotRod… Dangles from your arms, pulling legs up to his chest using extraordinarily strong stomach muscles (on a separate posting I’ll describe his six-pack abs, not kidding…)
He’ll be alright through because Buzz Lightyear gave him that circle ball thing that let him fly… Flips head over tail while still holding your hands, falls down, manages to blurt “I’m alright mom” and is still able to return seamlessly to the plot (did I say plot?) of his story.

If you don’t have the muscle stamina to do this while standing, sit on a bed with him.  It will accomplish the same thing…

Position 1: sitting next to me, bouncing
Position 2: standing next to me, bouncing
Position 3: doing a seat drop onto the bed
Position 4: rolling off the bed by doing a forward roll
Position 5: picking up a stuffed animal and pushing it down my shirt
Position 6: leaning over to kiss me, while also grabbing the dog.

Again, all the while telling me about the new space car that uses poop for energy and how it likes to eat popcorn and applesauce…

In both scenarios, large muscles are used repeatedly, which in the case of my son, eliminates the need for me to respond verbally in any way to his story. I am merely a climbing frame that he happily ascends. This is a great one to do while on the phone (wireless headset required) or when talking with a friend, assuming the child’s volume is manageable. Some amount of agility and strength are required, but you might be able to count is as some resistance training for the day.

Stay tuned for the last two tactics.  I would share them here but frankly I’m clear that no one who has read this far has time to read any further (I count myself among this group!). A two parter seems prudent. In the meantime, practice these a little, but be gentle on yourself (remember stretching is important for tactic two). And please share any  approaches you’ve employed successfully – we are all in this together!

Kids say the darndest things (or Balls, part 2)

Imploringly he
holds my face and whispers his
sweet little boy song


The place: CVS

The who: Me and my then 4 year old boy, AB.

The what: AB watching himself on the security TV at the entrance.

The quote:  Hey mom, watch me! I’m whacking my boy parts on TV!!

The reaction: Silence.

Because really, what can you say after that? I had at least 10 replies cued up in my brain, several that were downright hysterical, but none would play too well in that suburban store. Instead, I smiled blandly at the clerk, who, at 16 years old, thought that was the funniest thing she had heard in a while, and quietly replied “he’s 4”.

We left the store rather quickly. I tried to explain to AB that a) we don’t whack our boy parts and b) we certainly don’t do it in public.  But he was already onto the next topic, the whacking long forgotten.

I think AB picked me; I think that little soul looked down from wherever souls hang out pre-birth and decided that I needed to learn agility.  Verbal ability, mental agility, emotional agility, physical agility and most of all spiritual agility.   He has presented me with so many wonderful opportunities to build my skill set in this regard – always with a smile that melts your heart (those dimples! damn them!).  It hasn’t been an easy practice.  There have been more than my fair share of hot tears, born from frustration and defeat. But then we have a moment like CVS. Where the universe gifts me with an opportunity to observe my son with wonder… to watch him so downright pleased with seeing himself on camera… to have such confidence in who he is and what he is capable of that he boldly declares it to the world.  Look at me! Look at what I can do!

Who cares that if he was 10 years older he would be arrested for saying such things. I don’t want to be the one who dampens that spirit just yet. Instead, I’ll just carry on, walking with him, learning to be more agile than I ever thought I would need to be.  We will be fine. And we are going to have some great stories to tell someday to an unsuspecting girlfriend.

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