Saturday, April 2, 2011

Word Salad

I admit, I didn't pay a whole lot of attention in nursing school.  These are probably not words you want to hear coming from the mouth of the woman who holds your 15-ounce, 23-week premature baby's life in her hands, but fear not, over the past twenty years, I have amended my ways.  And I think I even redeemed myself a little in grad school with - ahem - a 3.96 GPA (Yes.  Totally bragging).

But when I started Clemson, though, Lawdamercy.  I was 17, living away from my parents for the first time, active in a very social sorority, and altogether ah-mazed at this life outside my sheltered upbringing.  And so I took full advantage of everything college had to offer.

Which means I never said no.  Well, scratch that.  My mother is reading this.  Of course I said no to boys, Mom!  And to drugs!  I promise, you raised me right. 

But I didn't say no to:  parties, socializing, mud football on Bowman Field, chatting long hours on the phone, "laying out" behind our dorm on a sunny day, road trips, volleyball on Lake Hartwell beach, Hootie & the Blowfish concerts, calling in requests to Cryin', Lovin', Laughin', or Leavin' on the radio every night, organizing skits for my sorority sisters to perform, and anything my abysmal fake I.D. would allow me to do in a small college town (It's okay, my parents know all about the fake I.D.) - we're talking, basically, anything that would or could distract me from studying.  Ahhh, the good old days....

Thus, during those 8 o'clock classes on Monday mornings, I didn't exactly sit in the front of the class with my arm eagerly raised, ready to blurt out all the answers.  Nope.  I was the girl in back, with a baseball cap pulled low over my eyes, so it wouldn't be abundantly clear on first glance that I may or may not be sleeping off my weekend.  Ergo, the (Dad, close your eyes) 2.7 GPA from Clemson. 

I'm so proud.

I will probably recount these college days to my daughters in the form of "life lessons".

But there is one little obscure nugget of information I retained from nursing school.  It was during my semester on Psychiatric Nursing - yes, we devoted a whole semester to that - and it was the phrase, WORD SALAD.  It's a term used to describe what happens when you try to say something meaningful, and the words come out all jumbled up. 

Or, as Wikipedia puts it:  Word Salad is a mixture of random words that, while arranged in phrases that appear to give them meaning, actually carry no significance.  The words may or may not be grammatically correct, but the meaning is hopelessly confused.  A famous example is Noam Chomsky's phrase, "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously".  People who suffer from this affliction attempt to communicate their idea, but the random words come out instead.  Often, the person is unaware that he or she did not make sense.

HELLO?  Love it!  This is me!  I have Word Salad all the time. 

I mean, weekly, daily, hourly.  I've always prided myself on being a multitasker, but lately haven't even been able to walk and chew gum at the same time.  I see the perplexed look on Chris' face when I give him a nonsensical answer that makes total sense in my brain before I try to put it to words.  Or I get the Huh...What?'s from my friends on the phone as my conversations trail off mid-sentence while I get distracted by my children dancing on the coffee table, helping themselves to a snack from the refrigerator, playing chef in Lexi's dogbowl, or tattooing each other with Sharpies.  (I'm not proud of it, but it happens).

Aria has been getting in trouble lately for going into her sister's room early in the morning and/or during naptime, and waking her up by either a)  climbing into the crib with her to play; or b)  piling all of Caroline's toys into the crib on top of her.  Either way yields the same results:  loud shrieks of joy and laughter in the beginning which then later in the day turn to loud shrieks of fatigue and annoyance from the overly tired baby.  We've tried everything:  time out, taking toys away, taking desserts away (gasssssp).  I've had in-the-heat-of-the-moment-hollers with her, and several sit-down-talks about it with her when we (me) are calm. 

And still, the same thing keeps happening.

But here's the thing that's bugging me.  When I go upstairs to her room, she'll have various dolls or stuffed animals lined up in the hall (Exhibit A) -- banished from her room, she tells me, "for being dis-oh-beent". 
So I'm beginning to wonder how she's processing, in her little three-year-old mind, being punished for being disobedient.  Have I effectively communicated to her it's the behavior I don't like, not the person doing (or not) the behaving?  Is she getting the message? 
Or does everything to her just sound like Word Salad?
The other night Chris found me in tears for this very reason.  "Am I being too strict?  Am I not strict enough?  Will she ever learn right from wrong?  Am I teaching her boundaries?  Is she going to grow up okay?  When she does all the press after winning the glittery disco ball trophy on Dancing With the Stars, is she going to thank her mother for disciplining her and taking her to ballet and teaching right from wrong?  Or worse, is she going to run away at fifteen to follow her pop music dreams and then blame her mother on E! True Hollywood Story for being too overbearing?" 
(Okay, that possibly might have been another one of my Word Salad moments...)
But really, though?  Really?  How do you know if you are doing the right by your kids???
And the answer is, Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. 
Yep, exactly.  In other words, there is no answer.  We just have to pray.  A lot.  And trust God to give us the wisdom to do and say the right thing in the right way at the right time.  And try to use the words He gives us for the right purpose.
And not just make salads with them.

No comments:

Post a Comment