Sometimes I forget that my kids are not mini-adults, they are actually literally children. This has a few implications. First -- they like chocolate milk… a lot. Second -- they believe sleep is a punishment. Third -- they take everything very very literally.
Kids don't do sarcasm. I wouldn't say I'm a hugely sarcastic person but I do like to try to be funny and inside every jokester resides a healthy dose of sarcasm. It's sort of a cheap laugh-inducer and it comes out when I can't think of anything truly witty to say. I'll be honest. I'm sarcastic far too often.
I really have to keep myself in check though because if I use sarcasm with the kids it just confuses them. If they ask to stay up until midnight on a school night and I say, "Yeah. That's a great idea. Why don't you just stay up tonight and skip sleeping altogether?" they get really excited that they will get to stay up all night playing UNO. Then when I usher them off to bed, they are ticked and confused.
The side-effect of this is their practice of "tricking" me by telling bald-faced lies and then when I catch them in the untruth saying, "Tricked ya!" I think they're doing what they think I'm doing when I say something sarcastic and then later explain that I wasn't being serious.
So I keep sarcasm to a minimum with my kids. I try to eliminate it altogether when they're around and it would probably be great if I eliminated it completely from all my interactions. I think I'd find that people weren't annoyed with me nearly as often.
The kids' literal minds aren't just befuddled by sarcasm. They also try to dissect and understand common phrases or colloquialisms and end up with some strange ideas about the world. You can just see the little wheels in their heads spinning out of control when they hear things like "That car is a steaming pile of poo" or "If I hear that sound one more time, I think my brain is going to explode" or "It's gonna take me forever to mow this lawn."
No matter how hard I try to account for their literalism, there are always things that I miss. Mostly they just walk away scratching their heads or, with frequent use, they figure out what things mean but every once in a while one of them will call me on something that I had no idea was an issue.
Yesterday Magoo made his nightly journey down from bed to tell us he was hungry. I offered him the usual crust of bread and he declined.
"Nope. I'm just hungry for some milk."
"Okay. I'll get you a glass of milk. Go have a seat at the table."
He stood there eyeing me suspiciously.
"Are you really gonna get me a glass of milk?"
"Because you always say, 'I'm gonna get you a glass of milk,' and then you give us it in a plastic cup. Why do you always do that trick to us? You never give me a glass cup of milk but you always ask me if I want one. I don't really like that trick but you always do it."
Yes. APRIL FOOLS! I said, "Glass of milk when I really meant plastic." Best gag ever. All this time I've been "doing that trick to them" and I had no idea how diabolical I was being. In this house, word choice is everything… literally.