I hate the phrase “use your words.” A few years ago when I was still paying some attention to the world around me, I used to hear moms saying “use your words” all the time. It started to take on the quality of a sort of Druidic incantation in my mind, echoing around playgrounds as a white noise chant, interrupted only by the high pitched shrieks of little tortured souls having trouble sharing.
I hated it because inevitably the mom I was hearing would say “use your words” to her child precisely because said child had lost the ability to use words and was in the middle of a tremendous emotional meltdown, at which point the directive meant as much to the child as hearing mommy say, “honey, speak a poem to me of 14 rhyming lines, using iambic pentameter. NOW.”
But cultural osmosis has caused the phrase to flow inexorably into my brain, and once in a while it pops out my mouth without my even knowing it was coming, like an unexpected fart. This morning during our daily mommy-child bed wallow, Nick rolled himself onto Jesse and squashed her painfully. “Nick!” She snapped. He continued to squash. “Niick!” Nothing. “Niiiiick!! Niiiiiick!!” Still nothing.
I interjected. “Use your words, Jesse. Use words to tell him what you want.”
Bleah. There was the use-your-words fart, stinking up the air in my bedroom.
She complied. “Niiiick! Get off me! You’re hurting me!” And like magic, it worked. He got off.
Okay okay, I’m full of shit. What actually happened is, after Jesse spoke those words, I realized Nick was going to ignore her. So I just pulled him off her. I could go off on a tangent about direct and indirect causality, but I won’t.
Now that Nick was off her, I added, “Seeee? You finally used your words and it DID work!”
Oh no you didn’t, Carla! Yes, I did. I made it a double fart, and a didactic one at that. Double stinky. Even worse, for reasons I can’t possibly explain, I was being all cheerful and up-beat about it, like I was channeling Kathy Lee Gifford’s chirpy voice and making Michelle Bachmann eyeballs. It was so wrong.
Jesse paused for a perfect beat before answering me, speaking slowly and with a mild tone of recrimination, like she was addressing a Very Stupid Person: “‘Nick’ is a word.”