by Risa Green
There are a lot of things that we as parents can teach our kids; like how to count, the alphabet, how to wipe their own butts, etc. But I’m finding that there are some things that are just un-teachable. They either have it or they don’t; like comic timing, the ability to do math in their heads, and, as my husband likes to say, heart. (As in, “He’s a good player, but he doesn’t have heart. You know, you can’t teach heart.”) Also falling into this category is sarcasm. Or, as my son calls it, "sarcrastic." (As an aside, just because it’s funny and also because I don’t feel like writing this down somewhere else and someday I’ll re-read this and be glad that I wrote it down here, my son is in that five year-old stage where he’s trying to use big words a lot but he can’t really say them or, in the alternative, can’t remember them exactly. For example, they’re learning about the ocean at school, so he brings up suction cups a lot, like on octopi and starfish. Except for some reason he calls suction cups ‘infections.’ I never correct him because I don’t want him to stop doing it, which some people may think is bad parenting but I don’t really care because it’s super funny. He’s also been using ‘literally’ a lot lately, which he pronounces, ‘lirally.’ As in, ‘mom, it lirally smelled like a fart.’ (He’s also been talking about farts a lot, but that word he pronounces just fine)).
Anyway, sarcrastic is a concept that my son is having a hard time understanding, and no matter how hard I try to explain it to him, he just doesn’t get it. A recent conversation went something like this:
My son: Mommy, you have an ugly pimple on your chin.
Me: Wow. Thanks, buddy.
My son (cocking his head to one side, like a confused dog): Why ‘thanks?’
Me: Dude, I’m just being sarcastic.
My son (sighing with annoyance): Mommy, I keep telling you, I don’t know what
Me: And I keep telling you, it means that someone says the opposite of what they
really mean. So when you tell me I have an ugly pimple on my chin and I say ‘thanks,’ what I really mean is…well, [struggling to think of a word that means the opposite of ‘thanks’], I guess what I mean is, that wasn’t such a nice thing so say, and it sort of hurt my feelings.
My son (head now almost parallel to the floor): I still don’t understand.
So then I try to explain it again, but this time I attempt to speak his language. Okay, I say. Let’s say you farted and it was really, really stinky, and I said, wow, that smells so good. That would be sarcastic. Get it? He cracks up, and I can tell he’s thinking, heh-heh, she said fart. Okay, okay, he says, excitedly. What about this: Why did you just throw that ball?
Huh? This time I do the head tilt.
Mommy, I’m being sarcrastic. Because you didn’t really throw a ball. Get it? I tell him that’s not sarcasm, that’s just making stuff up. So I give him another example. Let’s say it’s bedtime and I give you a kiss and tell you I hate you so much. That’s sarcasm, because I don’t hate you, I love you. He laughs. Okay, okay, he says. How about this: you are a poophead. I sigh. I can see that this is going about as well as when I tried to teach my daughter how to tell knock-knock jokes when she was five, and she came up with: Knock-knock. Who’s there? Shampoo. Shampoo who? Shampoo conditioner! And then cackled for like, three hours because she thought she was so friggin’ hilarious.
I tell him no, that’s just calling me names. Literally.
We go back and forth like this for a while, and finally I tell him that maybe it’s better if we hold off on the sarcrastic until he’s a little bit older. Because I know he’ll get it eventually. He can’t be my child and not be able to be sarcastic. It’s just not genetically possible. So I’ll stop trying to teach him. I’ll be patient. And in the meantime, my son and I can just go to the beach or something, and check out the infections on the starfish.