After some serious analysis, I've come to the conclusion that my children and I speak and hear in completely different languages. Examples from my report to the Committee on Family Affairs:
They say: Mama, I'm so hungry. What's for dinner tonight?
I hear: Darn, Mama. Why'd you have to be in the kitchen when we were coming to sneak a snack? We want to spoil our appetites because we know you're going to burn whatever you're cooking.
I say: Carry your plate to the table with two hands.
They hear: If you don't dump all those noodles on the floor before you get to your seat, I'm going to grab that plate and spill your spaghetti myself. Run!
I say: Turn off the television.
They hear: Hit that volume button, the one with the up arrow on it, and drown out my annoying voice.
They say: Can we watch just one more show? We promise we'll turn off the TV when it's over.
I hear: We'd like for you to forget about us flopped in front of the tube so we can transform into zombies for the rest of the afternoon.
Teaching moments ...
I say: Look at that fuzzy, little caterpillar crawling through the grass.
They hear: Quick! Everybody grab the caterpillar! Who can squish it first?
They say: Can I hold the caterpillar? No, me first! No, me! I always have to go last.
I hear: Can we take turns killing the cute, fuzzy caterpillar?
I say: We've enjoyed looking at this caterpillar, but now we need to let it go, so it can find its family.
They hear: When I put it down, each of you grab a body section. Don't let it get away until green stuff oozes from its bottom.
I say: Son, take out the trash. It's your turn.
He hears: Tell your brother to take out the trash, because I'm too lazy to tell him myself, even though he's standing right next to me. Be sure to thump his head when you relay the message.
I say: Son, this is the second time I've told you to take out the trash.
He hears: Yell at your brother and kick the cat.
He says: Awww. Do I have to take it out? I did it last night. Why are you always picking on me?
I hear: If I can't coerce or physically force one of my siblings to do it, you'll have to come back in 10 minutes and tell me again. Threats to take away my phone, X-box, and computer privileges might motivate me better.
Running errands ...
I say: Y'all get out of the car. We're in a hurry.
They hear: Nobody move!
They say: How long will this errand take?
I hear: If we spend more than 5 minutes in this place, we will fall out and embarrass you until you're talking to us through your teeth about doing business with the gypsies.
I say: This won't take long.
They hear: I plan to get into a conversation longer than the Trail of Tears and forget all about the four of you until y'all have a public slap fight or someone is bleeding and crying.
I say: Don't point that BB gun at anyone.
They hear: Shoot your brother's eye out. I really, really want to know if we can still have fun after someone loses an eye.
Next week - My report on communication with my husband (if he'll let me print it).