Quite a statement I know. I began this voyage of personal discovery after reading an article on ‘humble bragging’. Here’s an example:“Oh my god, night-mare at soft-play again! Emily was climbing the highest climbing frame and jumping off. She’s only 2 for god’s sake. We’ll be in trouble with social services at this rate”. Lol x
This adult is not suggesting they have been completely irresponsible in letting their two year old undertake an inappropriate and downright dangerous activity. They are not arguing that as a result of this criminally negligent parenting, said child should be removed to a house of safety. What they are telling you is that, in their opinion, their two year old is incredibly advanced.After several beers and 38 seconds of focused thought I was able to come up with a truck load of other examples. All designed to subtly tell everyone how bloody marvellous their odious children are without suffering the social embarrassment of being up front about it.
Bragging is not the only child centred situation where people say one thing but mean something completely different. Here are some more examples:“Come on now you never behave like this at our house”.
This kind of phrase is delivered by all adults who have regular contact with your kids without you being there. This could be a relative, childminder, teacher or neighbour. Is it a compliment for the child’s excellent behaviour at their house? Is it designed to curb the child’s behaviour in the present situation? No! It’s a sentence designed to tell you that they think they manage your child’s behaviour better than you do. The sentence is spoken to the child but it is meant for the parent.How about this one: “Stop showing off!”
A simple phrase you may think. Oh no! This is a parent’s secret weapon in the battle to explain their child’s appalling behaviour. It is used only if there is another adult (not parent) in the room just as little Jacob sets about shaving the dog or trying to force his sister into the tumble dryer. This short phrase effectively means ‘my child is only behaving like a nob because you’re here’. Ipso facto, your fault! Ever used this phrase when just you and your wife/husband/partner are in the room? No, of course you haven’t!I could go on. There are literally hundreds of phrases of this nature. All designed for adults to boast, brag, insult, shift blame, criticise and generally act in a very unpleasant way – and get away with it!
The thing is this is not a new phenomenon. Every heard a phrase like this? “Gosh Sally you are so lucky. You’ve got such womanly curves”. Roughly translated: “I think you are fat!”That’s right. The female of the species uses this secret language almost continuously. I give you this small sketch as an example. Picture the scene. You are in soft-play (a level several feet below the ice prison depicted in Dante’s inferno) and your son runs up to tell you someone has hit him.
Son: Mum, Oliver just hit me!Mum: (said within clear earshot of Oliver’s mum) Never mind my little soldier, I’m sure Oliver didn’t mean it but If he’s going to be nasty find someone nice to play with.
I think we all understand the implication of that phrase and who it’s meant for. Now let’s play that scene again with a dad:
Son: Dad, Oliver just hit me.Dad: Stop crying you girl! And no one likes a grass!
Of course when men were men this was not a problem. Our Dad’s didn’t have to navigate this new and subversive language. In previous generations Dad’s just didn’t spend so much time with women and kids. It wasn’t expected and the opportunities weren’t available. Women weren’t in the workplace or the pub and men had a completely different relationship with their kids. I’m not saying they didn’t spend time together and I’m not saying it was a worse relationship. But when they did it would be specific dad/child activities such as going to the rugby, gardening, brewing beer, smoking or sawing things in the shed. The task would be the same regardless of the sex of the child. If mum couldn’t take child to party it wasn’t dad who stepped in. It was Nan (and certainly not with granddad in tow!)There were of course social occasions where men, women and kids were all together. But it was completely expected and understood that the men would all stand together looking petrified while wives, grandmothers and aunties fussed around the kids as nature intended.
I am not suggesting for one minute that the sexes should exist separately. I go to pubs all the time but I would never go anywhere that was just full of blokes. Work is the same. I have always worked in female dominated industries so for me, working in a male environment is very difficult to get used to, and a damn site less fragrant. I enjoy female and male company in equal measure. In fact many of the women I know would much prefer to be in mixed rather than single sex company. The dynamic just seems to work.However, science gives us a clue that the separation of the sexes and their hideous offspring might have been a good thing. It is fact that male testosterone levels drop around crying babies and crying women. Why is this? Well, crying is really annoying and an immediate drop in testosterone prevents us from slightly over reacting to this situation by throwing the culprit off a multi story car park. It doesn’t take a genius to work out what happens to the testosterone levels of a man who is constantly surrounded by women and small children. All quite helpful if they are a stay at home dad or need to wear a gillet and be very jolly on a bouncy castle at kids parties. However, not so helpful if they come across a burglar in their kitchen at 2 am. Using a puppet to explain to them how naughty they are being just isn’t going to cut it.
My point is this. For real men, this subtle language is just as it should be – totally below their radar. Real men are not aware of the subtle nuances of female speech patterns in the combat zone of parenting. Real men don’t read the subtext.
My problem is that I am so used to female company that I pick up on every single subliminal message. However my natural response is completely male. I can’t partake in this phoney war. If someone has the bloody cheek to tell me I’m a crap parent, or my son’s naughty, or my daughter’s thick, or I’ve got a fat arse, however it’s disguised, the entire core of my being wants to smash their head repeatedly on the nearest concrete object.Imagine the stress. During the course of a two hour children’s party or family occasion my body is in a constant state of fight or flight. If we didn’t have a punch bag in the garage I’d be doing time.
So what’s the solution? Well there isn’t one. I just need to come to terms with being a woman in a man’s body.