5 Ways My Kids Have Improved My Adult Conversations
If there's one thing all stay-home parents seem to agree on, it's that the lack of interaction with other adults can be one of the hardest parts of the job. I love hanging out with my three-year-old twins, but let's face it: when it comes to discussing politics or last night's “Homeland”, they're hopeless.
When I really think about it, though, my kids may have cut into the quantity of intelligent conversation in my life, but at the same time, they've done wonders for the quality. I've never been very good at small talk, but since I've been staying home to raise my kids, my chit-chat skills have become almost Oprah-esque. For that, surprisingly, I have my kids to thank.
Here are just 5 ways my kids have given me the gift of gab:
1. Icebreakers. Thanks to my kids, the days of "What do you do for a living?" and "Gee, that's a nice sweater" are over for good. When I meet someone new, I only have to ask one simple question: "Do you have kids?" When they say yes, we've made an instant connection, something that leads to a million subtopics, from schools to potty training to which episode of “Phineas & Ferb” they're least sick of. As for the childless, I've just given them a quick exit ticket. They hate when we talk about our kids, so they'll move on to someone with an interesting sweater as fast as they can, and I'll seek out someone who looks unrested and bedraggled -- my people.
2. Conversation Enders. When I get bored talking to someone, I don't have to pretend to go to the bathroom or refill my drink -- not now that I have kids. I just pull out my cell phone and say it's time to check in with the sitter. Better yet, if the kids are with me, it's only a matter of time before they start fighting or demanding juice. "Ugh, I'd better go," I say. Whether they're with me or not, kids tend to cut down my conversation time by 95%, so I always get to end on a high note.
3. Access to Other Grown-ups. Everywhere I take my kids, there are other adults in the same situation as me, dying for some chitchat that doesn't include the words "gimme" or "poopy". At swim class, Gymboree or when I'm picking them up from preschool, there's always someone there I can talk to about global warming or how worried we are about poor little Suri Cruise. There's nothing parenthood does as successfully as grant you access to other parents as starved for conversation as you are.
4. Getting to the Point. Rambling is a luxury that I, as a parent, can no longer afford. Given the way kids tend to slice into my conversation time (see #2), the days of sharing long, circuitous anecdotes are in the past. The good news is that kids are great at honing your skill for cutting to the chase. With their gnat-like attention spans, they've gotten me in the habit of saying everything as briefly as I can. "You see Homeland this week?" I might ask. "Loved it. But the texting scene... C'mon!" And we're done.
5. Motivation. In the past, I would wait for a proper social occasion to seek meaningful human interaction -- a party maybe, or a job interview. These days, I make friends with everyone I can, because I know the drive-thru lady at Taco Bell might be the only person I meet all day who doesn't have Sesame Street characters on her shoes. It doesn't matter that our time together is limited. In fact, that's when I work best. When I get those magic words, "Your order will be right up, Sir," that's my opening. "So, Mariela..." I'll say, reading her name off her nametag, "do you have kids?"