Dad’s Pad: Father Knows Text
By Scott Klepach Jr.
I’m not sure how I feel about texting. I haven’t taken up the practice, but I’m not convinced it will be the death of all language and communication.
Maybe this drastic shift is what is supposed to happen in 2012? Some say language will forever be changed, with a shrinking globe and an expanded texting plan. This whole trend may turn into “The Great Bowel Shift” because the prospect of such change causes some adults to quiver and experience stomach-upset. Even though I refrain from texting, I can’t say I am immune to its alluring properties, and one in particular: coded language.
As a parent, I have become a verbal texter, and my wife and I have either spelled out or abbreviated many things so as not to excite, sadden or disappoint our daughter in case we do not have those items in stock. This verbal texting is almost exclusively used for food.
I ask my wife, “Do we have any more SBs?” My daughter had been asking for strawberries earlier, but I didn’t want to risk saying the word without getting her hopes up unnecessarily.
“I need to head to the store to get Bs, Cs and M-I-L-K.” That’s bananas, cookies, and, well, you’re following along.
I used to spell out bananas, but shortened it to “B” only because if my synapses weren’t firing correctly I might forget how many “n-a” combinations I’ve provided, and feel like my mind has taken a tumble on a slip and slide.
“B-A-N-A-N-A.” I turn to my wife and ask, “Is that how you spell it?” It’s not that I don’t know how to spell banana, but reciting the letters makes it sound incomplete. Is that all there is to it? When you say it aloud, it seems like there should be one or two more pairs of letters there. “B-A-N-A-N-A-N-A-S” sounds much more satisfying, something akin to Beethoven’s “Egmont Overture” with all the right concluding notes.
Speaking of eggs, I don’t have to spell out that one, since my daughter hates them. But I do have to be careful with milk. If stated too quickly, M-I-L-K sounds a lot like the word itself. Try it. The same thing goes for oranges. O-R-A-N-G-E. My daughter has caught me with that one before, but we were all out. Not wanting to risk that situation again, I revised my reference to, simply, “O.”
So it is that our pantry features, at some time or another, PTs (pop tarts), FBs (fruit bars), and SB and J (Sun Butter and Jelly, since my daughter is allergic to peanuts — which, on a positive note, means we don’t have to use “P” for peanut, but can reserve that letter for pears. If my daughter has a craving for the vegetable with the same sound, then we’ll face another quandary). Our freezer houses PSs (popsicles), and our refrigerator might consist of Ts (tomatoes) and the aforementioned SBs and other F-R-U-I-T.
But it’s not always this simple. She might be playing in the other room, and I am as silent as can be as I peel the last available orange, carefully remove each slice, and take my first bite. I am stealthy. But then there’s thumping. She knows. Somehow, she has detected I am up to something, and it’s something she wants. Now. The orange is hidden on the counter, well out of her line of vision, and I am holding the orange slice still in my mouth. I keep my lips closed and try to look natural. But she spots me, and without any hesitation, her smile vanishes and her brow furrows.
She says, “Sat.” (Translation: What’s that?) Her voice is low and measured. “Sat!?” Louder now, and she heads toward me, picking up the pace with thumping steps. “Sat? SAT!???” My cover is blown, and, ashamed, I am forced to confess my actions and relinquish the orange. No verbal texting will save me here.
I understand I am hiding information, even if only temporarily, from my daughter. But I don’t think our codes will reduce her ability to learn and describe objects, either. One afternoon, as she was sitting in her car seat in the Pacifica as we pulled out of the driveway, my daughter gazed at the spotted clouds and said, “Look, Mama. Polka dot clouds!” “Oh, you’re right,” my wife said, “Those are polka dot clouds!” My daughter continued with slow, calculated words: “Yeah, I’ve eaten those before.” My wife asked her what they tasted like, and she responded, “Like big, fluffy pillows.”
That account reveals an important truth: My verbal texting, up to this point, has not impeded my daughter from providing better poetic descriptions than I can muster after much deliberation. But someday, very shortly indeed, these codes will go away. My only hope is that the experience of sharing food with each other is not going to be short-changed, as some argue texting has or will do to language.
After all, we live to eat, and eat diligently so we can hurry up and get to the next meal. But I’ll suck it up because, as we all know, there’s no use crying over spilled M-I-L-K.
Filed under Dad's Pad, From the Mag