Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 7, 1974 · Page 63
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 63

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 7, 1974
Page 63
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Page 63 article text (OCR)

The Motherly Feat of Vntalk When she yells at her son and he seems not to hear, it's really love speaking--and listening. By John Ed Pearce ·ODD SCREAMS from the kitch- I en, » "How many times do 1 have to tell you not to do that?" "Stop that this instant!" "Do you want me to come up there to you?" "I'm not going to tell you again!" What is all this, anyhow? Simple. It is a mother and son, engaging in a meaningful dialogue. She is employing untalk. He is responding with unhear. Together, they are managing effective communication. They both understand that what she means is not what she says. But she is easing the tensions, irritations arid frustrations that make up the joys of motherhood, while her knot-headed son is deriving a feeling of security at hearing his mother scream at him, and a sense of male satisfaction in ignoring her. Sound psychology. However, some mothers,, especially new ones or those reared in permissive homes, do not appreciate, the values of untalk, or the nuances involved, with the result that their dialogue produces neither relief .for the mother nor security for the knot- head. So as a public service, we offer unskilled mothers a glossary, of terms useful for useless use on sons. It is important, though, to realize that much of the effectiveness of these terms depends on the tone of voice employed. Ideally, they should be screamed, producing relief from tension, but in a casual mariner, to ; Jet the knothead know that all is well. For example, "I'm not going to tell you again!" is best used in sequence: "What are you doing up there?" (Or "What in the world do you think you're doing up there?") "You get down from there this minute. I'm not going to tell you again!" THE EXPECTED RESPONSE is a dull "Okay, okay," followed by inaction. The knothead has heard the key words "I'm not going to tell you again," knows that this means she will tell him again, and that he can wait for the subsequent screams before doing anything. Similarly, the knothead knows when the maternal question is intended only to express irritation, and requires no answer at all. Johi Ed Pear.ce of the Courier-Journal aid Louisville Times staff was a little boy oflce. "Where in the world have you been?" "How in the world did you get so dirty 7 " "Do you have to get so dirty?" "How many times do I have to tell you not to track mud in here?" The proper answer is a drop- jawed "Huh?" or "Can I have something to eat?" To which the normal rejoinder is, "No you can't. You'll spoil your dinner." Untalk can be broken down into categories. There is the warning, designed not to keep the knothead from doing something awful, but to .relieve: his mother's guiit feelings when he does something awful and gets hurt "Don't scratch it. You'll only make it worse." ("I told you not to scratch it. See what happens when you don't mind?") "Don't pick it!" ("I told you not to pick it. See what happens. . . .") "Don't run with that in your mouth. You'll fall and ram it down your throat." Similar is the rhetorical, or stupid, question. "Are you trying to kill yourself?" . "You want to get sick?" "You want to poke your eye out?" "Are you trying to drown yourself?" "What are you doing up there? You want to break your neck?" (In the work) of untalk, young necks exist to be broken. "You fall down from there, you'll break your neck. Lean against that door, it'll come open and break your neck. Keep that up and you'll break your neck." The knothead, of course, knows he is not going to break his neck, which is made of rubber, like his brain. There comes a time, of course, when calamity befalls the knothead, and his wails would drown out Tarzan's jungle call. A proper precaution against this eventuality is, "Don't come crying to me when you get hurt," another warning to which he will pay no attention. The first response to his wails is, of course: "Quit crying; you're not hurt." This is followed by, "A little bee sting isn't going to kill you." ("A little skinned place [bump on the head, black eye, cut, bruise, blister, splinter, scrape, bloody nose, etc.] isn't going to kill you.") These will have no effect. The knothead is not afraid it is going to kill him; he is afraid it is going to hurt, which is worse. OTHER PHRASES are useful mainly in communicating frustration. They require no response,, but serve as a warning that the mother is nearing the end of her rope and may soon put another knot on his knotty head. "Let me catch you doing that once more. . . ." "I've had about enough of that, young man." "What's gotten into you, anyhow?" Caution also dictates a certain caution when the following are screamed: "If you can't play nicely, you'll just have to quit playing." "Find something to do or I'll find something for you." "Play nice or you'll have to come in the house." Classic cases of water off a duck's back, however, are offered at meal- tin^. This is a great time for untalk, ano guaranteed to bring out incurable unhear. "Sit up there and eat right. Do you want people to think you don't have any manners?" "No, you don't have to eat. But don't come whining to me when you're hungry." "Millions of little children all over the world would be thankful for a nice dinner like that." There are, of course, the classics: "And just what do you think you're doing?" "Did you hear what I said?" "Do I have to come up there to you?" (Variation: "Do you want me to come up there to you?") "What's wrong with you children, anyhow?" "Why can't you play together without fussing?" "Don't you know better than that?" .(Variation: "You know better than that.") "All right, but don't get dirty." "How in the world did you get so dirty?" Some untalk, though, borders on the real, and the knothead should beware when he hears it. "Because I said so, that's why." "Because I'm going to spank you if you do, that's why." (These should not be weakened by "I'm not going to tell you again!") Properly employed, these terms create and maintain a bond of mutual trust and understanding, giving the mother a feeling she is performing her traditional role in an accepted manner, and letting the knot- head know that someone is watching the store. What she is saying, of course, is: "I love you, son. I worry. When you are hurt, it breaks my heart." And he is saying, in his own way: "I know. Mom. I know." ·State Magazine,. July\7 t -1974,,

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