September 2018

The Dad Life: ‘Kid-munication’

Author: Justin Jarrett

A number of personal qualities are key to being a successful parent. A strong stomach that can handle all the blow-outs and throw-ups; a long fuse to endure the incessant annoyances; and a sense of humor to turn potential crying jags into belly laughs.

Like in most relationships, though, from the office to your marriage, communication is paramount. And communicating with kids can be treacherous. Anyone who has asked a kid what happened at school that day knows their responses often have a tendency to be scant on details and frequently of questionable veracity. (You didn’t learn anything today? What do you mean you don’t really do science? Your teacher said WHAT?!)

As frustrating as that communication gap can be, it can also be fun. Our family has decades-old inside jokes based on funny things kids uttered generations ago, like saying it’s time for “B-P-D” (because my uncle once exclaimed he didn’t want to go to “B-P-D” after hearing my grandparents say it was time for B-E-D). And our own kids have renamed products with their adorable misinterpretations (for example, Nutri-Grain bars will forever be known as “gum bars” in our household, and we refer to the Disney chipmunks as “Chicken and Dale”).

Nothing takes the kid-munication cake quite like storytelling, though. Trying to piece together what really happened from the vague outline a child provides is an exercise in futility that puts a parent’s imagination and investigative chops to the test.

My kids and I have found a way to turn these daily struggles into a fun game in which the five-year-old Princess describes the movie she watched at daycare and the eight-year-old and I try to guess the movie.
Sounds simple enough, right? Not so much.

The first issue is that we’ve learned that the Princess does not understand in the least the difference between live-action and animation. Like, no idea. Secondly, she rarely remembers the title of the movie, so confirming whether we’re right is dicey.

Amazingly, we’ve still managed to figure out all but one of the titles, which is more a testament to the power of Google and the value of the Internet Movie Database than it is to our film-buff prowess or her ability to accurately summarized movie plots.

See for yourself. Use her descriptions to try to name the movies (note that five-year-olds use a lot of run-on sentences). I’ve omitted some of the less helpful details, like “I think it was a cartoon, because the people didn’t have ears or noses.” (It was live action, and the humans had all their face parts.) Answers at the bottom.

1. Santa is in it, but he doesn’t know he’s Santa. And he has a dog but the dog can’t find him and then the dog turns into a stuffed animal! And the reindeer can’t fly. And there’s this girl, and she lives with this mean girl who burns the toys.

2. It’s about this girl, Felicie, and she’s a dancer and she goes to Paris. And she’s sad because her mom died. (Yep, that’s all you get.)

3. This girl lives in a house with all these other girls and a mean girl, but then she gets adopted by the mayor. But then she gets kidnapped! And she has a dog. And there’s a lot of singing.

4. There’s this boy, and then there’s this old boy and this old girl, but the old girl dies. And there’s a dog that can talk!

5. These boy chipmunks and these girl chipmunks are in it, and they’re on a cruise ship.

6. A boy lives in the jungle because his parents died, and there’s a bad guy who has a big gun with two circles.

7. The good guys are kind of like ninjas, and the good-guy girl tries to save the good-guy boy but he falls! But he’s not dead! And there are these other girls. There are three of them.

8. There’s a lot of bugs, and they can fly, and the humans are trying to kill them! It’s not A Bug’s Life. (Like I said, scant on details.)

9. These aliens think they’re humans, but they’re not humans. They’re green. And this human goes where the aliens live. He’s a … what are they called? … an astronaut! And the aliens help him get back to his spaceship.

10. We didn’t get to watch it all because people weren’t watching it, so we had to turn it off and play something else, but there were these guinea pigs and those other things that are kind of like guinea pigs. Hamsters! And that’s all I remember.

Best of luck. If you can ace this, you’re either a great parent, a future great parent, or someone who has seen way too many children’s movies and has a disturbingly adolescent mind.

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