Confused Communication

Cornflakes at breakfast

It was about midday on a Sunday when I heard the door of Favourite Son’s “boy cave” open. I call it “boy cave” because:

  1. He seems to have been hibernating in there for the last several months.
  2. I wouldn’t venture in there alone – at least not without survival equipment and a plan of how to retreat.

Mr M. and I were making lunch as Favourite Son (FS) slouched into the kitchen. Greeted by the now familiar grunt that had come to represent “Hi, how’s it going?”, we smiled at him and, without another word passing between us, FS and I began our ritualistic kitchen dance. We’d rehearsed it many times before and by now it was an almost up-beat allegro.

He opens the cupboard door and removes a bowl, placing it on the worktop as he backspins towards a second cupboard (home to several varieties of cereal, none of which contain enough sugar, apparently), and I glide over to close the first cupboard door.

He turns back towards the expecting bowl, filling to at least double its actual capacity, being sure to leave some cereal on the worktop, should a family of Borrowers move in (I raised a kind and thoughtful boy you see).

I swish round, scooping up the cereal box, sashay to the second open cupboard, returning the box to its familiar slot, and close the second cupboard door. He shimmies to the fridge, grabbing, then swinging a bottle of milk, as if it were a hammer, before popping open the lid and sloshing half the contents into the already bulging bowl.

For his finishing move, he slams the bottle of milk on the worktop, ensuring a few drops join the aforementioned cereal. I pirouette in, grab the milk, returning it to the fridge and close the door – our dance is done.

As we moved around the room in silence I ponder: would I, could I, should I speak? These are difficult questions when asked in relation to a 14-year-old boy. I felt brave, but I had to ask just the right question, in just the right tone – nothing too prying or ‘parent-y’.

“So…what’s been happening with you recently?”

I didn’t make eye contact in an attempt to match my body language with the nonchalance of my tone. I waited, he chewed. Was he considering his response, or just going to ignore me altogether?

“A few of my pals are grafting,” he reluctantly volunteered.

Result! Now, where do I go with this information?

Before I have a chance to respond, Mr M. interjects. Clearly this is a topic of conversation that is of interest to him.

“That’s great. Good for them,” Mr M. approved.

“Yeah, suppose so.” Still no eye contact with either of us.

“Are they having to travel far from home?” asks Mr M.

“Gala, Hawick, Kelso, wherever.”

“Really!”, Mr. M said.

It was at this point that I realise that Mr M. and FS have different understanding  of the word ‘grafting’.

I didn’t want to interrupt (secretly I really wanted to see where this would go), so I become a bystander to this exchange.

Now  FS is  sitting at the breakfast bar, his face almost submerged in a mountain of milk and Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.

“Well, that’s brilliant. Great experience, an opportunity to try out things in different places. It will be hard work I’m sure but worth it in the end.”

Without looking up, FS scoffed: “You can say that again!”

“Why don’t you think about grafting too. It’s good to develop a strong work ethic from a young age.”

The spoon hit the cereal bowl and the chewing stopped.  He looked up…

I laugh under my breath; here it comes.

“Dad, what exactly do you think ‘grafting’ is?”

“What? It’s working of course! Is it not?”  Mr M. looks at him, like a wide-eyed toddler asking how Santa can get into a house if there’s no chimney.

FS laughed – not that little boy giggle that used to fill the room, but a deep manly laugh that was more ‘at us’ than ‘with us’.

“No! Grafting is not working – at least, not in the way you mean; it means casually seeing someone.”

FS pushes back the stool, threw the bowl and spoon into the sink, and looked right at me (down at me) before placing his hands on my shoulders, and saying: “Oh Mum, you and Dad are so naïve about these things!”

Eh, why exactly have I been labelled too?

He laughed and with that was back upstairs and into the ‘boy cave’ once more.

Mr M. and I are still standing in the kitchen, unsure of what to say next. I decide it’s best not to announce that I knew exactly what FS was taking about, and opt to shrug my shoulders in sympathetic support of Mr M’s communication confusion.

The chance of miscommunication in professional life is as likely as it is in personal life. For example, did you know, that Coca-Cola translated into Chinese meant “bite the wax tadpole.”? But causing confusion doesn’t even need an actual language barrier. Sometimes businesses can come get it wrong with their native speaking customers! That is why we make it our mission to truly understand our client’s target market, so we can effectively communicate their message without the chance of confused communication!

And my tune of choice for this one? I Can’t Speak French by Girls Aloud