There are many reasons why a parent might want to speak in code. Perhaps the most commonly thought of example is the “Spelling Code.” You know what I am talking about. This code, developed by television producer Aaron Spelling, allowed him to produce multiple TV series without his daughter Tori knowing about them. This worked well until she grew old enough to crack the code and was subsequently cast on “Beverly Hills, 90210.” The idea of this code, that we all now use, is that instead of saying words, we spell them out, since kids cannot spell. That way we can ask our partners if there is any C-A-N-D-Y around, without our children turning into maniacs.
This code is becoming less useful around our house these days, but there are still plenty other codes available. I have my own personal code for when I am out in public with my three year old. You see, he is (how can I put this…) a rambunctious child, and is often doing things, including, but not limited to, crashing into people, knocking things over, yelling, and crashing into more people even harder. This often results in my scolding him and trying to strap his little body into, or onto, something to prevent further mishaps.
But here’s the thing. It’s not always his fault. There are, I would say, an equal number of times that some adult is swiftly walking down the street, eyes glued to phone, straight at my knee level son, and when they inevitably collide, these people glare at him and me, placing all of the blame on poor Edward, because, well, it’s easier that way. They clearly expect some scolding to happen, so I oblige them, but this is where my secret code comes in.
If I do not refer to my son directly, I am talking to you. That is the code. When he speeds headlong into you at Costco in his search for a straw, I will say “Edward! Watch where you’re going!” If he is running a zig zag pattern on the sidewalk and brushes against your leg, I will call out, in a sweet voice, “Be careful there, buddy!” But if you are not paying attention and bump into him? I will say, in an equally sweet voice, “Uh oh, someone needs to watch where they’re going!” And this is a true statement, but I will also then follow that up with, “Sorry that person banged into you, buddy.” That’s the code.
So if you glare at my son, you might hear me say “Oh, you need to be more careful Edward,” and you can know that I am taking steps to fix this behavior. But you might also hear me say, “Oh dear, that’s not a very nice way to treat people.” And when you hear me say that, I hope you are paying attention. ‘Cause you just got secret-codinated.