My daughter rolls her eyes at me sometimes. She flips her hair and stomps her feet when she gets heated with me. To be honest, I also roll my eyes and twirl my hair (however, I no longer stomp my feet and flip my hair when angry) And, as a parent, I usually say something like, “We don’t roll our eyes at adults,” and “It hurts my feelings when you stomp your feet and then walk away.” My daughter flutters her eye lashes at me, raises her lips into a smile, and says, “Oooh-kay, Mommy.”
Of course, my son (and daughter) is privy to just about everything that happens in our 1,000-sq. ft. condo. Virtually nothing is a secret. So, when my daughter rolled her eyes at me, it raised the question of “How do you roll eyes, Mom?” My son pointed to his eyes and then gently tried to roll them around his eye socket. “Mom, seriously, I don’t get it. How do you roll eyes?”
On another occasion, sitting at a wood table that was smooth like butter, I received another confused response from my son. “Mom,” he said, “there is not butter on the table.” And, when I explained to him that it was an expression, meaning the table felt very smooth, he rebutted with: “Then say the table is smooth, Mom.”
For the typical developing child, this would mean reading between the lines and understanding that rolling of the eyes is an idiom – or a saying – to express sass and displeasure. For the atypical developing child, an idiom is a world of confusion. If eyes don’t roll in the eye socket, for example, then how is it possible to roll eyes.? And how can one possible roll eyes at someone if the eyeballs don’t even come out of the eye socket? For my son, this is what enters his mind when he hears an expression. He no longer focuses on what is happening, the body language of others, the temperature of the room. … His Jedi-like focus allows him only to focus on that one thing: eyes rolling.
In yet another occasion, with our child psychologist, I tried to explain to the psychologist how I broke down the meaning of forgiveness. I shared that forgiveness is more than just what you say, but it is also what you feel behind what you say. I then created some metaphor, one that I can’t even recall, and I figured that my son understood forgiveness. However, the child psychologist shared that forgiveness was a HUGE concept and that the way I explained it was rather, confusing, to state it simply. Instead, the child psychologist used phrases such as: To forgive someone to love someone no matter what. To forgive someone is to say how you feel and keep loving them anyway. Of course, there were a lot of other way to explain forgiveness, but the point communicated to me is that words are confusing. I need to speak with concrete terms. I need to use simple words.
Simple and concrete.
So, the way in which I communicate with my son has gradually shifted. I’m slowly unraveling my years of teaching experiences –and teaching myself how to use concrete language. Now, I say things like, “I’m hot right now,” instead of “It is hot as the Sahara Desert.” And when my son asks me how Jack can really climb a bean stalk (because, really, bean stalks only grow as tall as a rail fence), I respond with, “You’re right. So, does this tell you that the story is true or false?” And then, right there, we can get back into the book. We can keep moving forward. …
Concrete and simple.
Those two words opened up a world of understanding for me. My hope for anyone reading this is to recognize that simple is really simple. Rather than having my son “get stuck” on how it is possible to roll the eyes, I want him to understand that when someone makes a facial gesture such as this, that it means something. I want him to know that maybe the person could have also said, “She is upset with me.” I want my son to know that because building the connection between an idiom and and a meaning, on top of the sounds of generator below our window, the sound of the fire alarm beeping when the oven steam creeps out, and the feeling of weightlessness in his arms and legs, is, frankly, too much. It just needs to be simple.