Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Yes, No, Really

Some years ago, when I was young and naive, one of my colleagues told me about conversations he used to have with his young and absurdly loquacious daughter. He privately challenged himself to participate in the conversation using each of the words "Yes", "No", and "Really" in turn. He had to stick to that sequence, though he allowed himself to vary the intonation however he chose, to express surprise, agreement, confusion or indeed to request clarification. Because language is awesome like that. At the time I thought this was a rather sad indictment of his relationship with his young daughter, that he had so little interest in what she was saying that he played a game with himself to pass the time. I said I was naive. (Incidentally, as far as I know, his daughter never realised that this is what he was doing. She's now an absurdly loquacious 25-year old and I'm fairly certain I could get away with the same trick when talking to her, but that's not the point right now.)

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, LittleBear and I spend a total of nearly an hour in the car together, getting to and from nursery/work. And he more-or-less talks the entire time. Being the good and devoted mother that I am, obviously I listen attentively and respond in a loving, interested and educational fashion*. Except when I don't. Because, to be honest, there's a limit to how many accounts of the ferocity of imaginary dinosaurs I can bring myself to care about. And I find myself drifting into my own world, whilst maintaining an appropriate level of approving interjection in response to LittleBear's meanderings. Like GrannyBear, I have a handy ability to recollect the last half sentence or so that's just been uttered, even if I wasn't paying any attention at all, so I can quite convincingly go beyond my colleagues simple responses. Thus it is I find myself saying "Seventeen claws sounds good" or "It can eat sharks can it?" or "Two thousand tonnes? Gosh!" without actually really having much of a clue about what's going on, or whether we're even still talking about dinosaurs. Do I feel guilty? A little bit. But I do do a lot of listening to LittleBear and his non-stop chatter, so I reckon I deserve a few minutes of glazing over from time to time. And if you disagree, you're welcome to borrow LittleBear for a few days and then tell me how your attention-span is doing...

* In my own defence, this morning LittleBear wanted to know if atoms were smaller than germs. And on discovering that they were, he wanted to know if atoms were the smallest thing in the universe. Which is how I ended up explaining about protons, neutrons and electrons. And when those didn't turn out to be the smallest thing either, I ended up on quarks. Is four-and-a-half too young to be starting on the Standard Model? Of course not - you're never too young for quantum physics!

No comments:

Post a Comment