Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dear Subtlety

Dear Subtlety,

You are an artful way of expression that is perfected with life experience.  Often used in literary works, theatrical forms, as well as everyday life, you make the obvious even more conspicuous, if you are applied with dignity and poise.  Unless you are children.  Specifically, mine.


My kiddos can take subtlety to a whole new level.  You can almost see the hamster wheels spinning inside their heads as they casually speak as if Dear Husband and I are as clueless as backyard pumpkin growers.  Whatevs.  But sometimes we have fun with it, too:

Us, in the parking lot, walking towards Target:

Dear Son, age 6, (innocently): So, what are we going to buy at Target?

Me (as-a-matter-of-factly): Oh, you know, the stuff we need.

DS (such a curious boy): Like what stuff?

Me (I can put on a good act, too): Let's see... we need to get a birthday present for jie-jie's friend, mouthwash, sugar, and air filters.

DS (those hamster wheels are spinning faster): That's it?

Me (relentlessly): Yep!  That's it!

DS (the wheels are burnin' baby, burnin'!): Oh.

DH (swoops right in without missing a beat): But I'm getting a toy!

DS (looks down at the ground to avert our detection of the edges of his lips on an uncontrollable upward turn): ...

Me (acting surprised): What's that I see on your face?  Why are your lips moving closer to your ears?  What?  Is that a smile I see?

DS (finally yielding and bursts into laughter): No, I'm getting a toy!

DH (still at it): No, I'm getting a toy.

DS (finally admits defeat and concedes that his parents are better at this game than he, says to DH): You don't need a toy.  I need a toy.  Stop teasing me!

And that's how he got a toy.

Dear Daughter, at age 10, has had a few more years of life experience under her belt.  Like her little brother, she wears her emotions on her sleeves, so it's quite easy to tell how she's feeling, though not necessary why she's feeling that way, but that's for another post altogether.  Ironically, in her simple mind, she likes to get from Point A to Point B in roundabout ways.  Good thing I have an automatic map app pre-installed in my brain.

DD (in a sing-songy voice): Wha-cha do-in'?
Translation: I wanna do it, too.

DD (in a sing-songy way): What-er we do-in' today?
Translation: I have something in mind and I know you can read it so just say it already!

DD (in a sing-songy tone): What's fer dinner?
Translation: It had better be something I like.

DD (in a most resigned voice): Are there any clean clothes in the dryer?
Translation: I have nothing to wear.

DD (under her breath): I wonder if there are any new episodes of So You Think You Can Dance?
Translation: I've done my reading and homework so MAY I WATCH TV?

Waiting to catch candy at a parade. Subtle much?

At my age, I'd like to think I've mastered the art of subtlety.  As a mama, I often speak with my eyes.  One look will tell the kiddos yes or no.  Now or later.  You-have-got-to-be-kidding-me! or Oh-for-cryin'-out-loud!  And with DH, someone who has been with me for over twenty years, through my life's highs and lows, through thick and thin, for better or for worse--we've got it down pat.  We don't even have to be subtle with each other.  We just know each other.  I finish his sentences, he knows what I'm thinking.  On a rare occasion to go downtown, we name the exact same restaurant (out of hundreds, without having been to or mentioned for years) as our top dining choice.  For my birthday, DH planned a dinner for me, and upon knowing whether it was in the city or not (it was not), I name the exact one he made a reservation at.  We're not subtle.  We're just that good.

And if there's no activity in the kitchen by 5:30 PM, DH will come ask me where I'd like to go eat for dinner.

I'm not subtle.  I'm just that good.

As for DH, a man of few words, subtlety is his trademark.  I examine his every move: a slight turn of the head, a look in his eyes, a twitch of his finger, or an exhale from his chest.  I sense his mood and assess his state of mind.  I know what's coming.

In the wee hours of the night, after the kiddos have gone to bed, we finally get some alone time.  DH nudges me from across the bed, and looks at me with a twinkle in his eyes.

DH (whispering his excitement): So, should I?

Me (not finding any clues in his eyes but whispering back): Um, should you what?

DH (still twinkling): You know, get the toy?

Me (hmmm, subtle or not subtle, pick one): Toy?  What toy?

DH (still excited): The toy in my amazon shopping cart?  The one I found for DS?  The one I've promised to get him?

Me (oh, that toy!): Um, sure!  He'd be thrilled!

And that's how DS got another toy out of his daddy.

And that's how I know I need to sharpen up my wheel-spinning skills.



So, Dear Subtlety, there's nothing cuter than children trying to master the art of being elusive.  Then again, there's nothing more embarrassing than grownups "missing the mark."  Striking the right balance between ambiguous and precise takes skillful finesse.  I look forward to my kiddos' journey in crafting theirs, all the while hoping that I'll also keep my hamster wheels well-oiled and in top spinning form.  Wish me luck.



  1. The exchange with your DH is too funny! The humor of it brightened a somewhat dreary workday today!

    1. Hi, Rachael! I'm so glad to add some cheerfulness to your humpday! I also wanted to say thank you for joining me on Facebook--it doesn't tell me you did until I saw your 'likes' on my posts. BTW, I hope your sister is doing well? All my best to you both.

    2. You're welcome for the FB activity-I'm not great at interacting other than "liking" posts, but I try.

      My sister is doing okay. Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts! She just started a new round of chemo, this time it's a trial form of chemo delivery. I plan on blogging about her & a bunch of other stuff soon, but so far "tomorrow" has yet to arrive! :)

      Have a great weekend!

    3. Rachael, I appreciate your 'likes' always! I really do!

      It must be so hard for to you see your sister fight cancer. I bet writing about it will be a good source of therapy for you. I'll be by to read when you post. I do keep you both in my thoughts! Have a good weekend yourself!

  2. Sounds to me like your kids are very well behaved. No demands & no whining? You've taught them well!

    1. Trust me, Asianmommy, they have their moments of demanding and whining! But perhaps in these instances, they have a better grip of what works and what doesn't. They are good kids, really, most of the time! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. First off - your children are funny! And so are you. :-)

    Subtlety - it is a tricky art to learn. It is a combination of politeness and sensitivity to other people's needs and feelings. Having grown in a family where communication skills are missing, I try to teach my children to be fortright about what they may want or think or need, especially when they are talking to me. Their requests may not be granted, but the information will be filed in my maternal brain for reference. Hand in hand with this training on fortrightness is the training for them to be mindful of others. At their ages, they are not able to read cues well, what matters is thy get to be aware of other people's needs ad feelings.

    Meanwhile, I have long learned that being too subtle with my husband does not always work well to my advantage. I have to be clear about what I want (of course, years of being together have helped us know each other very well) but I still can't expect him to read my mind perfectly each time. (We quarrel about this inability of him to do so, actually. :-) On the other hand, I tend to read too much on what my husband says or does, I also get into 'trouble'.

    I guess, in my roundabout way, subtlety is a skill I have yet to learn.

    1. Hi, Imelda! I certainly understand the importance of being forthright. Being able to interpret my kids' thoughts comes from having had that talk with them: you NEED to tell me so I'll know and understand! LOL about being subtle with your husband. I've definitely had those issues, too, and I've had to just say what I want. In truth, I've experienced everything you mentioned at various times of my marriage/parenthood, so that tells you how complex our chemistry with one another can be. I am positive that you are, in your own way, artful with subtlety, and that you don't give yourself enough credit for it! In this post I just wanted to recognize the children's innocence for trying to be subtle and all the fun that follows. Thank you so much for reading and partaking in a wonderful discussion from your perspective, though you ought not be so hard on yourself! :) Much appreciate your words!

  4. When I think of my childhood, one of the things I absolutely loved was the verbal volleys back and forth with my parents. It taught me to think on my feet with a great dose of humor on the side. These moments with your children remind me of a similar kind of banter. I hope to instill the same in Gavin as he grows up, too.

    1. Interestingly, Nilsa, I grew up without this sort of friendly banter, so I find this--while a new experience for me--so very endearing. Maybe that's why I find myself writing about it a lot. I'm sure you will be verbally playful with Gavin, and he'll surprise you back with his wit and charm! :)

  5. I enjoyed reading this (mostly because subtlety is a lost art in our house.) I had to smile at how you toyed with your son as you went into Target. It sounds like you are pretty in tune with each other and know how to relate as a family!

    1. Janna, we are in tune with each other *most* of the time. I haven't mentioned how I made DD cry on her birthday because I wouldn't believe her when she said nothing was wrong. I made it all wrong that day. It was not my proudest moment, for sure! There are also times I forget to make it fun and jovial that I'm just a big old scrooge! But we generally try to be fun when we can. I'm so happy you enjoyed this!

  6. I can tell you parent with kindness and a smile never far from your lips. Your kids sound like they have keen powers of observation and have learned a lot by trying to interact with you and your husband in different ways. You see exactly what they are up to and genuinely enjoy all your verbal exchanges with them. Your household sounds pretty ideal to grow up in! :-) Thanks for giving me a glimpse inside your world.

    1. Awww, thanks, Chrisor, for that kind comment! We are usually pretty in tune with one another, although the result of this sort interaction came with a lot of trials and tribulations as well. Thanks for taking a peep inside our world--I'm glad you like what you see :) !