During summer vacation, we, like many families we will have more time to spend together. And let’s be realistic: this also means that our children’s ears are around to hear more of our conversations. We love our kiddos, but there are times when the family adults need to communicate without the kids understanding. Sometimes this happens because we are trying to figure out the game plan for the day without getting anyone’s hopes up. Other times this happens because we want to discuss, well, adult things. Rather than expose our kids to language or topics that are too adult for them, at our house we use code words and inside jokes, and so far our kids are none the wiser. We have needed to vary the complexity based on the age of our kids, but that sort of mental agility on our part is the kind of brain training we’ll need for parenting a teen in a few years.
It Began With Making Muffins
From 2002-2010, we lived just outside of Boston. We met many wonderful people out there, but we also had the blessing of having many friends from the midwest living in the area for their graduate studies. Our midwestern friends frequently hung out together, enjoyed Leinenkugel’s beer that one of us had driven back East from a trip home, and laughed until our sides hurt. At one such gathering (and I wish my memory served me better so I could remember more specifics), my husband and I had missed seeing some event on television. When asked what we were doing that we missed it, we accurately told them that we were making muffins. A snarky reply of, “Oh, is that what kids are calling it these days?” turned the phrase “making muffins” into our group’s universal code words for intimate relations between two consenting adults. Muffin mixes became regular gag gifts between the couples in this group, especially as parting gifts when we eventually moved away from Boston and took jobs around the country.
Fast forward with me to the present day. Each May, my husband and I brainstorm house projects that we will work on over our summer break (we are both teachers). We then write these tasks on a whiteboard that is on the wall near the entrance to our home from the garage. Like all lists, we relish finishing a job and striking through that list item with the marker. A few summers ago, my husband volunteered to write the list on the board for us (that probably should have tipped me off), and when I read through it later, I was surprised to find “make lots of muffins” on the summer job list! I chuckled and left it up there, thinking no one but the two of us would be any the wiser about what that meant. I was wrong.
Later that summer, waiting during the interminable five minutes it takes young children to put on their own shoes, my brother-in-law busied himself reading the whiteboard. He asked, “So what do you guys do with all the muffins?” and I almost snorted my coffee out my nose. And then when my Dad asked me about making lots of muffins…let’s just say I let my dear husband answer that one. Other grown ups aside, our children have no idea that we have another meaning for the phrase “making muffins.” Heck, they like it when we bake actual muffins, so they are excited to see muffin making on the summer job list. We can allude to our plans to make muffins later, and they have NO IDEA we are talking about being intimate. It really is a beautiful system.
We have found that codes and inside jokes have other helpful applications. When our oldest child was about 18 months old, the mere mention of certain words like “walk,” “park,” and “ice cream” incited extreme excitement. Not wanting to get her hopes up, my husband and I started spelling those words when we wanted to ask each other if we should do one of those things. I admit, we felt pretty clever, outsmarting our one-year-old like this. It only took her a few months to catch on, though, and then as soon as one of us spelled anything to the other, she would answer “Yes!” and get excited. She had figured out that if we spelled it, it was something she wanted in on. After that, we started spelling other words in our conversations and she stopped thinking that anything we spelled = fun.
For the next few years, spelling was an adult code our kids couldn’t crack. That is, until our oldest started attending school, and those talented teachers had the audacity to teach her to read. Yes, we wanted her to learn and grow, but OUR SECRET SPELLING JIG WAS UP. For a short while, we could spell things backwards, and she couldn’t figure it out…and then all of the sudden she was slowly unravelling our backwards spelling and knew we were thinking about G-N-I-T-T-E-G E-C-I M-A-E-R-C (getting ice cream). Neither one of us is very good at Pig Latin, so that was a fail. We tried using fancy vocabulary words that are synonyms to what we meant– also a fail. If she mentions visiting the book repository, that’s because we (unsuccessfully) tried that as a code word for the library. Recently we have resorted to texting each other, even though we were in the same room, just to keep our kiddos out of the loop on fun plans until we actually wanted them to know. So far, texting works…and it also has its applications for muffin making discussions.
Our kids don’t need to know everything about our grown up lives. Sometimes Team Parent will have things to discuss that are not for our kids’ ears, so we will use our secret codes to circumvent them. Sharing and enjoying a few secret words in front of our kids adds a little zest to our muffin making. Score!