I was strolling through the grocery store today when I passed a dad who was pushing his young daughter down the aisle in a shopping cart. When he passed me and our eyes met, he glanced down at his daughter and did something that I realized many of us parents do – he talked through his child. “Look how messy your hair is today,” he said to her while side-glancing my way, “how did it get so messy huh?”
He said this in a playful, high-pitched voice, as if to be joking with his little girl, but I knew his intention. I knew, because at that moment, I realized that this was something I had done too – often.
Now, I could very well be wrong, but I believe that this man was using his child as a conduit to pass along a message to listening adult ears – perhaps to justify the dishevelled appearance of his little girl (who by the way was totally adorable). I’ve done this often too – I’ve suddenly noticed that I’ve forgotten to brush my child’s hair, and when another adult looks in our direction, my parenting insecurities set in and I say something similar to my child. “Oh honey, how did your hair get so messy? I guess we forgot to tie it up today, hey?” I’d say, hoping that by verbalizing it, my insecurities would disappear.
I’ve talked through my children in other ways too – and to be honest, I’m not sure why I do it. “What do you think your brother and sister are doing right now?” I’ll say to my eldest if we’re out alone and I feel as though adult ears are listening in. As if verbalizing aloud that I have 2 other children at home will automatically excuse my lack of makeup, sloppy attire and tired eyes. “Now, I’ll buy these Eggo waffles for you just this once honey, as a special treat.” I’ll say to my middle child at the grocery store. As if saying “just this once” out loud excuses my purchasing of an unhealthy, processed breakfast food.
And the worst way that I do this – talking through my children – is when I’m frustrated with my husband. I often do it as a way to passive aggressively express my disdain for something that he has done (or hasn’t done). “Ok honey,” (I’ll say in an elevated tone of voice) “mommy will help you with that in a moment, she just has to finish cleaning up the dishes in the kitchen, and grab the laundry from the dryer, and tidy up daddy’s mess on the table.” (cue stink eye in my husband’s direction as he slowly flips through the newspaper on the couch). And this passive aggression doesn’t go unnoticed. My husband isn’t an idiot – he knows what I’m doing, and let’s just say he’s not a fan.
So why do I do it? Because I don’t like to nag. I feel insecure sometimes as a parent. And I’m writing about this because I know that I’m not alone – I’ve seen lots of other parents do this too.
So my advice to myself and those of you who are also guilty of talking through your children is this: just stop. Passive aggression is unattractive. And onlookers probably don’t care that your kids have messy hair or that you’re wearing torn sweats. And if they do, so what? Be you. Be confident. Be happy in the skin that you’re in.
Are you guilty of talking through your children?