Are You Kidding Me? Kids And Sarcasm
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Are You Kidding Me? Kids And Sarcasm

“Sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded. “ Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Are you kidding me? The question has become ubiquitous, especially if you add another adverb before kidding. In the spirit of maintaining a G rating, I’m going to leave you to your devices. Long before this otherwise harmless question became such a catch phrase, sarcasm reigned supreme in my life. Never content to have a vanilla conversation, I have almost felt an obligation to colour dialogue with irony and satire.

This habit is either welcomed or met with disdain. There’s not a lot of in between unless you count the people that just don’t get it. I don’t. Either way it can’t be argued that it is a divisive form of communication. It has afforded me longstanding friendships that I value even today, and weeded out the dull and uninteresting. I am in good company. The likes of Mark Twain, Jonathan Swift and Dostoyevsky used it with reckless abandon.

Enter baby. Once my son got old enough to discern between face value statements and sarcasm, my world got a little bit brighter. After years of having to dumb things down for him and explain phone calls that he overheard to adult friends, he is now executing sarcasm with a skill I can only dream he inherited. I am still in denial that he is old and clever enough to beat me at my own game. I still find myself replying to some of his statements as if he meant them to be taken at face value, only to be “schooled” that it was sarcasm. It’s a tough pill to swallow after being the verbose pharmacist for so many years.

So does the apple fall close to the tree? You be the judge.

Mom: How’s dinner, honey?

Son: Terrible mom, I can barely choke it down. It’s the worst meal you’ve ever made.

Mom: What? But you love mac and cheese and salad! I made this extra special for.....,

Son: Sarcasm, mom. Sarcasm.

Busted. So is this a good thing or a bad thing, perpetuating a divisive form of communication to someone who isn’t old enough to vote? Have I, like Frankenstein, created a monster? Am I getting a taste of my own medicine? Could I unpack any more clichés from my bag of tricks? Here’s the thing. With power comes great responsibility. Thusly, with great command of words, comes the judgement call of when, where and with whom to exercise this muscle. I must own the responsibility to teach him that words hurt people, people don’t hurt people. I’ve hurt some feelings along the way, unintentionally or not, the end result was not nice. When the laughs come, the feeling is fantastic. When the hurt puppy face is directed at you, it’s the worst. With maturity comes the expectation that we use discretion to filter out what is appropriate for the right audience at the right time.

School is in session. While we can enjoy the safety of exchanging barbs at home knowing that we are in the company of those who love and respect us, we must identify, analyze and judge when to let the mental faucets run amok. This process must take place within seconds. One of the critical elements of delivery is timing. I will do my best to shepherd my son through the forest of jagged words, advising which ones are effective and which ones can cut you. In the meanwhile, I will have to learn to how to take my own medicine.


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