But I Don’t Want A Cherry On Top!

My 2 1/2 year old daughter is painfully literal and it frequently gives us a giggle.  Olivia is going through a phase of barking out orders.  “I want my milk” she announced not long ago.  Her father and I are both working on curbing her habit to demand.  “You don’t ask your mother for milk that way,” my darling husband corrects.  “You need to say may I have some milk mom…pretty please with a cherry on top.”  Instantly Olivia was in hysterics. “But I don’t want a CHERRY on top,” she wailed.  Her literal mind was sure her father was suggesting she request a cherry on top of her milk.

Our communication missteps remind me of a kindergarten teacher I once knew who remarked how often adults fail to say what they really mean.  They think they’ve been clear and that their point has been received as intended, and yet they’ve botched the message severely.  It’s funny when we do it with kids because we are willing to laugh when we’ve been misunderstood.  We don’t really blame it on ourselves, but on the fact our kids’ sense of language is still developing.  We think it’s cute.  When it happens with other adults we are less gracious.

It’s not rare to see ‘situations’ develop as a result of poor word choices or expressions.  When called on it, adults will often argue “well, that’s just semantics!”  As if using the more accurate word(s) isn’t necessary because “well, you know what I meant.”  The thing is though, people often really don’t know what the person meant.  I know I get the eye roll often for clarifying what someone is attempting to say.  This is especially true during intense exchanges.  It’s not to be annoying.  I’ve just ridden the drama train enough times in life to realize the wisdom in verifying the need to be pissed off before handing my ticket to the conductor.

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