Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday Rambling on Sarcasm. Great.

I've been thinking a bit about sarcasm.

The whole concept of that method of communication...the skill one needs in order to be sarcastic and not make everyone around them angry. Or sad. Or take it completely personally and have any of a dozen reactions.

To me, sarcasm is an ornery sense of humor. It is usually a bit (a lot) negative, and it is a huge mockery of any given situation.

It is also usually used in my family way too much. My kids grow up with a strong sarcasm streak. Which is actually fine in some situations, but we have found that other people's children don't 'get' sarcasm. My kids end up saying something that would make an adult chuckle, but makes a peer of theirs frown.

Comedy is a big part of our family life and we have treated our kids as real people instead of "babies", so they seem to have picked up a good grasp of adult humor (fortunately not anything risque...but anything else doesn't get past them very often). We have had comments from teachers about all of our kids and their sense of humor...i.e. a first grade teacher telling us that she would make an "inside joke" in her lessons that she was sure would go over all of her student's heads, but would look up and see one of my kids laughing. She would at that point have to be more careful with her humoring herself in class when she found out that my kids 'got' her jokes.

So my kids are funny. They just are. Just last night we had home teachers over and the man giving the lesson asked what is "Be One". My nine year old son immediately popped off with "A number in bingo".

And then he laughed and laughed. (1. I need to be quicker, because honestly when he said that it took me a minute to figure out what he was talking about...and 2. I should also work on having the kids not laugh at their own jokes..they work better that way :) )

Sarcasm, however, is a whole different ball of wax. When you use sarcasm in a situation with people who appreciate a good sarcastic comment, it is great. When you use sarcasm around people who aren't good at picking up on sarcasm...or when you think you are being sarcastic but don't use the right intonations so it sounds like an insult and not a sarcastic comment--well, that can just be awkward.

My 14-year old daughter is my most sarcastic child. She has friends who appreciate it. And she has distant acquaintances who think she is rude. We need to work a bit on her delivery and timing with people like the latter...or get her to find her "off" switch so she can be a normal human with people who don't understand sarcasm or who haven't really been around it before.

I can see her sarcasm coming a mile away. If you know what to look for with her, you know to take the next phrase out of her mouth with a grain of salt. Her eyes narrow and she usually uses a slight hand gesture. And the sentence coming out usually begins with "Uh, ya...".

I've seen her make kids cry because of a sentence that started with those two words.

That usually means she failed in either the delivery or her ability to assess whether or not the person she was talking with could handle some sarcasm.

I will admit that I've never seen her use sarcasm on anyone undeserving of a little shake-up. But still. She needs to find a kind and gentle use for her sarcasm.

Good time to use sarcasm for her: Helping her sister learn how to make mac & cheese on her own...

"Uh, ya....some people probably like macaroni and cheese soup, but the rest of us read the directions on the back of the box and pay attention to the part right here that says "DRAIN"."

Bad time for her to use sarcasm: During a close soccer game after the other team scores a goal on the goalie...

"Uh, ya...I think you were supposed to NOT let the ball go in the net. But maybe that's just me."

(Goalies don't have much of a sense of humor after they have to walk back and take a ball out of the net...but besides that, our goalie outweighs Kelly by 50 pounds and has a good 7 inches on'd think self-preservation alone would keep her from yapping. But no).

Sarcasm is practically an art-form. You have to use the right tone with your voice, you have to try to quickly judge the situation and the people involved and hopefully be able to pull the sarcasm back if you find yourself wanting to say something but realize it would be a bad idea. It is subtle and blatant all at the same time.

Whatever that means.

Uh, ya...nice try on waxing philosophical with sarcasm. Good one. Really.

Friday, September 26, 2008

20 Year Reunions and the Sneetches

My twenty-year high school reunion was a couple of years ago. I know I try to avoid blogging about things that age me, but there you have it.

I attended my 5-year reunion with a date. Everyone after five years still seemed the same. Same groups of people hanging out and talking about the other groups, no one losing their hair yet. Most still looking young and fit. It was held at the high school, and honestly if they had thrown up some tacky banners and more streamers, hired a photographer whose skill lay in taking the worst photos possible with a disco-ball thrown in for good measure, it would have felt like we'd never left. It would have been a high school 'stomp', but with better refreshments.

I attended my 10-year reunion with my husband. I had gone with him the year before to his 10-year reunion and had high hopes for fun and reminiscing--his reunion was fun and I didn't know anyone there at all. Mine was still filled with some clicks that refused to go away, and someone had the bright idea of showing the video montage of our senior year in high school for the highlight of the program. Apparently it was the idea of the people who were in every single scene. Not really the all encompassing love and feel-good situation for the majority of the folks who had paid money for a lousy dinner and lame entertainment. So, after 10 years people were still a little young. Still focused on self. But there were some balding heads and protruding bellies, which thrilled me--so you can see there that I was still my shallow self. :) The good news is that they held it in a resort instead of at the high school...but it did make it hard for the materialistic people to show off the make and model of car they drove up for the occasion....

There was no 15-year reunion--thank goodness.

For my 20-year reunion life had changed. For almost everyone. Suddenly who you were or who you knew didn't matter so much. A lot of people had to look at the name tag to place the face. Some looked the same as they did in high school. The rats. :)

But we could all sit at random tables--not knowing who you were sitting next to until you checked their name tag...and even then you might still not have a clue who they were...and it didn't matter. We could talk, converse, listen. We could share high school stories that even if they weren't directly involved, they understood and appreciated. They had been there. But it didn't matter if they were 'jocks', 'stoners', 'cowboys'...etc. back then. Today they are men and women who happened to have graduated from the same high school the same year I did. They have jobs and responsibilities. Kids. Spouses. Mortgages.

The whole evening was eye opening. I thought about my own kids who at the time would be starting high school in the very near future and thought that if I could teach them anything that would help them enjoy high school more, it would be for them to grasp the concept that clicks don't matter. People matter. If you see someone who needs a friend, BE a friend. It shouldn't matter if they wear a cowboy hat or have multiple piercings. Because in 20 years, these same people will look a lot like you. The clicks will be gone. But they will remember a friend.

In my "deep" pondering I realized Dr. Seuss was a genius. (And in looking for a picture online, I found that I wasn't the only one to think of this line...confirming that I'm NOT all that deep and philosophical...) I'm talking about his story about the Sneetches--you know the one. Star-bellied sneetches and those without "stars on thars"...They all thought having a star on their belly made them better than those without. Until the Mr. McBean and his machine came along and put stars on the bellies of those who didn't have them before, which made the star-bellied sneetches upset so they had theirs removed--and the cycle continued until no one could remember who had a star and who didn't. (Well, and they ran out of they couldn't continue the insanity :) )

But they realized that star or no star, they were really a lot alike. They could accept each other as is. Star. No star.

It is like high school. The goths aren't bad people. The nerds are worth getting to know for more than homework help. The jocks can actually carry a conversation with real words and not just grunts and sports plays. The "in" crowd has down moments just like every other kid on the planet. In other words, star or no star, we all have thoughts, feelings, wants, and needs. And we all need a friendly face and someone who will accept us for who we are.

Because 20 years from now the 'stars' won't matter.

If I could teach that to my kids now, it wouldn't take 20 years for them to figure that out. I can't imagine that being a bad thing.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Power of Pudding

As I type this blog, I am taking five minutes out of my housecleaning schedule to test a theory.

The theory? What are three four-year olds willing to do for a Snack Pack pudding?

All of my older kids are in school, so I get to try to keep the littles busy/entertained/exhausted in order to keep them out of trouble. Or attempt that seemingly impossible task anyway.

So I have just informed them that if they clean the tv room, they can have a pudding.

They are now "folding" blankets and picking up their toys. (To be 100% honest, they are doing those things between bouts of throwing plastic toys at each other--thus the pause in cleaning while they cry and come tell me about it--whining, and using the bathroom).

Apparently I have not only taught them how to clean, but how to do anything else EXCEPT clean. (My typing here is proof of that...I'm avoiding it too)

Let me update their progress and get back to you............

Um. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.

The youngest 4 year old has just jammed a video into the VCR the wrong way. The oldest 4 year old is gazing longingly at the pudding in the pantry. And the middle 4 year old is back in the bathroom hoping for a longer break in the action.

[sigh] I guess that means I get to go help them finish the job.

It was a good theory. They did their best, and it kept them out of major trouble (well, unless I can't get the video unstuck....).

I will have to stock up on the pudding and we'll keep at it until they either get the whole idea of keeping things clean--or they grow out of the pudding bribery stage and move on to cold hard cash....