“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate”
- Cool Hand Luke
My family often quotes this line when miscommunications occur. Such as today. We showed up at a kid’s party, not knowing it was a POOL party. Which is important, if you actually want to get IN the pool.
The invitation was an Evite that arrived in my inbox. It said nothing about a pool. When I clicked on the link, there was a date, time and location… still nothing about a pool. I even called the hostess hours before we arrived, to ask if we should bring anything, and she didn’t mention swimsuits.
Thankfully, the party location was 5 minutes from my house. So when we showed up, we realized what happened, and were easily able to run back home to get swimsuits, towels, gear, swim diapers, sunscreen.
Fearing that I had lost my mind, I searched my Gmail for the original invitation. Nothing about a pool. I clicked the link. Nothing in the event description about a pool, no reminder to bring swimwear. .. except. Under the header “Back To School Fun”, there was a tiny graphic that said “pool party”. Apparently I had missed it.
But still. It would have been a small thing to add one line to the invitation: Don’t forget your swimsuit and towel!
Then I felt really dumb because everyone else seemed to understand that it was a pool party. Like it was understood or something. And I pulled two of my friends aside and asked, “Did you know this was a pool party?” And they said, “Yeah… the invitation said it was at the clubhouse so I assumed it was a pool party.”
But… I’ve been to plenty of neighborhood clubhouses that didn’t have pools. And in fact, that very same clubhouse was having another party upstairs, and nobody at that party was going to the pool. Obviously, it’s not an automatic thing that a clubhouse=pool party.
Still scratching my head. The kids had a blast though! Me – not so much. Victoria was walking all around, bound and determined to climb, backwards, into the pool. By herself. She wasn’t happy being held by a big sibling, and I couldn’t get in the pool myself because I had loaned my swimsuit to Zoe (because she couldn’t find hers… if we had known it was a pool party in advance she could have looked for it… but I digress!).
I couldn’t even talk to any of the adults, for having to keep a constant eye on baby Vic and 3 year old Ruby, the daredevil.
The experience made me think of all the ways that poor communication causes trouble.
I remember as a child how, sometimes my mother would assign some project to me. Perhaps it was a cleaning chore. And I didn’t know exactly what her expectations were. And I would feel paralyzed by that. I remember thinking how much I would have preferred that she make a list for me that told me exactly what she wanted me to do, so I didn’t have to worry about doing it wrong. She probably had no idea, and maybe even attributed my discomfort to laziness. (It was more akin to perfectionism.)
Why I didn’t have the good sense to just ask her to make me a list, I don’t know. It’s weird how you don’t even think of things like that when you’re a kid.
Which brings me to the point of this blog post.
I wonder how often our kids feel out of place, lost and stupid because of misunderstandings. Because of failure to communicate.
For years now I’ve had people comment on how well my kids behave while running errands and in the grocery store. My kids aren’t always angels. But I think the reason they did so well in this area is because a) they had plenty of practice and b) I always told them exactly what I expected of them.
My 3 year old, Ruby, is definitely going through a challenging age. Sometimes I suspect she feels much like I did at the party today. Embarrassed and annoyed that everyone else seemed to know how to behave but I didn’t. Ruby wants so badly to be involved with everything. And it works so much better when I tell her exactly what I want her to do, instead of disciplining her when she messes up.
I’m thinking about more ways I can put this into practice. What do you think?