Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Don't Let the Children Scare You

It is close to axiomatic in the Darwin household that it is possible to do things with children. And given that one of the main things we do is talk, we certainly tend to maintain that it is possible to have good conversation even while the brood is milling about and brooding. Yet lately, with the girls currently aged 5, 4, and nearly 2, even we have been forced to admit that adult conversation is difficult at times.

The oldest two are certainly up to narrating their days, talking about the books they've read/heard or spinning loud and somewhat confused yarns from sheer imagination -- but their attention spans are short and they tend to try to vear any adult conversation off in a direction they can understand. Though we occasionally put in the work to make them keep silent during dinner while we talk, meals are generally given over to kid-level conversation and the two of us talk over dishes or after they've gone to bed.

Talking with guests can work well when they are other families with children. Then the whole pack of young ones can be chased upstairs or outside while the adults talk. But recent times when we've had single visitors (especially people who aren't used to children, like our priests) have been less successful. Perhaps it takes a certain talent or experience to successfully maintain conversation while children run in and out and interject their own questions.

We remain convinced that parenthood does not mean the end of long adult conversations, but for the first time recently we've found ourselves occasionally arranging for one or the other of us to meet with others outside the house if serious talking needs to be had. I'm hoping this is a fairly brief, awkward stage the children are in: not yet old enough to be counted on to stay off playing on their own for protracted periods (or join in at a semi-intelligent level) nor young enough to be placed in a swing or carseat and allowed to drowse off. In the meantime, though, people occasionally remark in shocked tones: Wow, your girls have a lot of energy.

Yes. They do...


Kiwi Nomad said...

Actually, going by what friends of mine have said, it gets worse the older they get, because they stay up later. So those lovely times for conversation when they are all in bed, disappear!!

Anonymous said...

Kids also need to respect the distinction of you as their parent & an adult. One way we have tried to instill this & have that conversation time is to strictly set aside 30 minutes for only Mommy & Daddy time. The kids must entertain themselves & not interrupt. Tough to start, but they get used to it... for the most part. :)

You can meet mine at


Ana Braga-Henebry said...

Good post! Husband and I could not do without our dinners, guests & conversation. Kids are welcome while they are interested in the conversation-- but a movie or a toy (Playmobil?) put away for certain occasions have helped in the past.

Darwin, the first sentence of this post was very Jane Austen! ;-)

love2learnmom said...

*Sometimes* we resort to using Skype across the room or across the house.

LogEyed Roman said...

Don't have kids myself, of course. So I really cannot appreciate the full difficulty and impact. Nevertheless I know one couple who get their kids to not interrupt adults at the table. Mostly. But they have to (a) discipline the kids very consistently when they interrupt and (b) make sure that they get enough attention so that they don't have an exceptional need for it.

But also most of their kids are older than yours.

While kids always need lots of attention, I have also observed families where, when the kids get older, they can help a lot with family chores. There can also be activities that hold the kids' attention longer as they get older.

I have seen other strategies. Not to embarrass you, Darwin, but you may remember a perid of time when you were still a child when your parents initiated a strict practice of reserving one night a week--Thursdays, if I recall--where no visitors were allowed and no out-of-home activities were done. While this gave the kids more attention, it was even more so that your parents would regularly be able to find more time together.

...At the home of my friend who is also my Judo instructor, I am one of maybe half a dozen visitors who the kids have known all their lives, and when I am there I often end up engaging the kids' attention. Lately I have been targeted by their youngest, their 2-year-old daughter, who likes to have me carry her around; to play with my keys and flashlight and so on; to read to her, etc. When her mother is preparing dinner, I have sometimes asked what I could do to help, and have been told that to keep the little girl occupied is the best help I can offer.

...Finally, here's something; note Item #12:

"Advice for Aliens and Monsters on the Rampage.

1. Inoculate before invasion.

2. Don't terrorize around nuclear power stations.

3. No matter how pretty the girl, leave her alone. Almost guaranteed your anatomies, much less your biologies are not compatible.

4. If your planet desperately needs women, chances are you can get them without invasion by simply offering job and pay equity.

5. Don't route all power through the Mothership.

6. Don't climb tall buildings to evade capture unless you can fly from the top.

7. Don't lay your eggs in a major metropolitan subway system or stadium. Find a nice secluded cave.

8. If you can outbreed your enemies, don't go for the brute force takeover.
9. Conduct all planning sessions in your own planet's tongue. A group of non-humans speaking English are just asking for intelligence intercepts.

10. Eat the prisoners. It solves many later problems before they crop up. If you CAN'T eat the prisoners, why are you invading?

11. The pre-invasion scouting efforts should include time spent at a regional office of Greenpeace. Examine the list of life forms COMPLETELY WIPED OUT by the locals. If any resemble your forces, especially the warrior caste, pick another planet.

12. Invade a kindergarten first. If you can't handle the house-apes, you have no business invading the planet.

13. A large enough group of human prisoners will invariably contain one person willing to sell out his own mother to survive the invasion. AND/OR one person willing to sacrifice his mother to trick you into trusting him until it is too late. If your technology or internal politics cannot easily deal with this problem, pick another planet. (Or eat the prisoners, see above.) "

You can find more along these lines at this website:

--LogEyed Roman

Kiwi Nomad said...

Personally I love it when kids "have a lot of energy". It gives me the heebeegeebees when they are quiet and boring and overly compliant!