“Most parents don’t want sarcastic kids. But, in case your home is a little too quiet and you’d like to spice up the conversation, I can tell you the secret to getting them…. You lead by example. Then, you’re in a hurry to make a purchase at your local department store and the clerks are too busy talking among themselves to help you, turn to your child and say in a loud voice, “This would be a good place to open a department store.” (Don’t worry about offending the clerks…besides, your child’s education is your highest priority.) As your child watches you use sarcasm, his or her knowledge will grow. And then one day, your child’s brain cells that control sarcasm will come to life and you’ll experience the following event…. You’ll have to attend yet another late-night meeting, keeping you from eating dinner with the family. You’ll gather the kids around the table to explain the importance of tonight’s meeting and why you must order pizza for the third straight night. Then, your oldest child will turn to you and say, “This would be a great place to open a kitchen.” —Tim Bete, parenting columnist
arcasm didn’t change my life. I was being sarcastic.
But sarcasm has done wonderful and magical things to me as a parent. Wonderful in the sense that my daughters, young and innocent as they are, are full of it. (Sarcasm I mean.) It makes me strangely proud and occasionally worried about the timing of their sarcasm. And magical in the sense that at specific moments in our time together, I have been brought to tears by the level of their humor, which has sometimes left them balancing on a tight rope between where my hand will land, a high-five for the quick-wit or a swat for their smart mouths.
Most often my shock and/or pride overcomes my shame. I don’t remember being as comically savvy at their age. Or has humor just changed that much? I don’t remember my parents using sarcasm as a tool of any kind. I definitely don’t remember my grade-school teachers using sarcasm to relate or straighten us out. Is it used more often now or have we just become more tolerant of it?
An example pulled from an otherwise mundane car ride across town:
To set up this example, I must explain my youngest daughter, age 5 at the time, had been occasionally talking about something she called “Leaf Camp” to her dad. She seemed to think we understood the concept. Truthfully, we had no idea what Leaf Camp was or where the term came from. We still don’t.
On the morning of the following conversation, she had been smarting off to her father, dropping attitude in every direction. Later in the day, we were all riding in the car. This was the conversation:
Dad: “How was your day?”
Dad: “Are you going to be nicer to me tonight than you were this morning?”
Daughter: “What do you mean?”
Dad: “You were rude this morning and you wouldn’t listen.”
Daughter: “I don’t remember that.”
Dad: “You don’t remember getting in trouble this morning for being talking back and being rude”?
Dad: “Well, I do.”
Daughter: “Daddy, do you remember Leaf Camp?”
Dad: “No, I don’t remember that.”
Daughter: “Well…I don’t remember being rude to you.”
This banter was gold. I was so proud of her quick wit. As this 45-second banter was happening, I could swear I heard the wheels turning in her head. And her method, as though she had planned the subtle attack, resulted in what had to be her exact intention: to shut us down.
What could we do except look in awe and congratulate her on such a fine and thorough display of wit that simply rolled off her tongue.
I may very well struggle through many moments of regret instilling both the mild acceptance and occasional encouragement of sarcasm into my kids’ brains. They are both quickly becoming masters. It does liven up the dinner table.
Considering it’s benefits when used for good, I can’t help but chalk the art of sarcasm up there with changing a tire and counting back change. Necessary skills, street smarts. Things that should be instilled before children are released into the wild as young adults.
I better take this opportunity to add something like, “This would be a good place to instill better parenting,” before those little smart alecks beat me to it.