No more secrets

No more secrets October 31, 2013

This year, our oldest started first grade. As part of first grade she has weekly spelling tests.  Additionally, with her rapidly improving reading skills, she is increasingly able to decipher words that she hears others spell out.  While there is much to celebrate in these milestones, it is also causing me a bit of a problem.

Up until this point, my husband and I have enjoyed the ability to have relatively private conversations while our children are present (ages 6.5, 5, 2.5 and 6 months) by spelling out occasional words to make our conversation harder to follow.  For instance, during dinner we might discuss special evening options, like, “do you want to get a T-R-E-A-T after this?” Or, perhaps we are at church on our parish’s donut Sunday, debating whether the children’s behavior merited a D-O-N-U-T.  Admittedly, conversations using this secret language usually revolve around trying to collectively deliberate whether to reward or surprise our kids with a something special, but at other times we might be spelling out a word of something more unpleasant like upcoming V-A-C-C-I-N-E-S or avoiding mentioning a topic that is not yet age-appropriate.

My super-speller now has particularly attuned ears to words that I spell out.  She instantly sets her mind to decipher the word that I have spelled.  If she is having trouble or is unsuccessful, she is quite vocal about asking me what word I spelled, bringing the topic to everyone’s attention, including our other kids.  Suddenly, I find myself missing my ability to privately discuss things with my husband when little ears are around.  I am secretly mourning the sudden death of my secret language.

So, I must ask advice of the more experienced mothers with children older than mine:  do you have any way of communicating privately, clandestinely, with your beloved when little ears are present?  Pulling my husband aside is rarely possible (children seem to be everywhere in our space!), neither of us speak another language well enough to use it casually (embarrassing, I know), and I refuse to resort to pig-latin.  I accept that our habits have to change as our children grow older, so I am trying to celebrate spelling successes rather than begrudge every time my secrets are decoded these days.  But, if there is a way to adapt for these older years, I would be grateful for it!

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  • Catie H

    I can relate! We went through this about 2 years ago… then we switched to Spanish. 🙂

  • Joanna

    Use code words. You could say “vitamins” or “medicine” for treats, haha!

    Our word for being intimate is “paint”. “I think tonight would be a good night for painting” “Is the paint shop open?” The kids will either not be interested in what you’re saying or think you’re talking silly and just laugh. It gets pretty hilarious when the youngsters say, “I want to paint!” and we say, “No, you’re too young to paint,” or, “Only mommies and daddies can paint.”

  • We still spell (my oldest 3 can now figure it out), but if our olders shout out the word for the younger ones, they don’t get the treat! And if we decide against it, they are old enough not to whine about it. So I’d just tell her that she can decipher away, but no sharing the secret with the others, and no whining.

  • Juris Mater

    Totally hear ya, Queen B. I guess we just have to catch 5 seconds to hide around the corner to discuss whatever is secret; we haven’t figured out another code yet. Agreed on not resorting to pig Latin!

  • Kathleen

    I’ll second the pig latin failure. When our oldest started spelling, we used “ob” (a fake language like pig latin). Our spelling daughter picked it up really fast and then started speaking it all the time. (Not awesome..) Sometimes we’ll just go into our room and close the door if we want to discuss something quickly, but we’ve often found them with their heads plastered to the door straining to hear. I don’t have a lot of helpful hints, just commenting to say that I feel your pain.

  • buildingcathedralstexasmommy

    Yes, once you start acting cagey, they are glued to your side to hear what they may be missing!! We usually throw them outside if we need a moment to chat. So what if it’s raining 😉

  • Bethany

    I use Spanish too! GG speaks French, but understands enough Spanish to get by, especially when I want to tell him about “numero uno” or “numero cuatro” doing something that day… I can make it cryptic enough so the child has no idea! Dulce is “sweet”, so you could use a word like that!

  • Queen B

    Hysterical, Joanna! I love it. We may have to start using this one 🙂

  • Queen B

    Oh, if only we could, Catie and B-Mama! I think that is so cool.

  • Jen Minson

    We have resorted to a bit of French over the years. Writing and passing notes occasionally works. (I just found one in a cookbook of all places.) A little sign language can go a long way.