Choosing Our Words

The fact that my son doesn’t speak sometimes amazes people. They can’t fathom living in a world where they don’t constantly blabber on about blabbable things. Even I, in many cases, think about how frustrating it must be to not be able to use your words and speak your mind.

In all honesty, though, Lucas has a better handle on the world than the rest of us do. Once we were able to steer him towards PECS, AAC devices, and other methods of communication, he had an entry to his iPad, TV, and food. He was able to tell us what he wanted and express affection. Everything else we wrap our words around can sometimes seem pointless.

He might not speak in the traditional sense, but he also doesn’t offend people. He’s not rude or insulting. There are no lies, deceit, or false stories about famous people he knows. Lucas doesn’t boast, brag, demean, or belittle. He’s just a good guy and, while he could probably have an easier go of things if he did have verbal language, it doesn’t diminish who he is as person.

I, however, have done all of those things during my life. From offending to belittling and everything in between, I’ve made more than my share of verbal mistakes.

When I was younger, I believed that everyone had to hear every clever thing that popped into my brain, regardless of how hurtful it might be. If we were sitting around a group of friends and one of them set me up with a funny line, even at their own expense, I had to spike it into their face like a ‘roided up fifth grader in gym class.

Ugh. I’m so tired. I don’t know what’s wrong with me today.

Your face?

That’s not funny.

Yes it is. Have you looked in the mirror?

Bam! Got him! Everyone around us would break into hysterics and, when my victim inevitably got offended, it was on them. They can’t take a joke. Come on. Grow up. We all rank on each other.

Maybe we do, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. In fact, as you grow up, that stuff gets old quicker than you do and it starts to cost you friends. People resent you and eventually avoid you. Sure, they should “take a joke”, but more often than not, you shouldn’t “make the joke”.

It takes a while to realize that silence is golden and the old adage about opening your mouth to remove doubts that you’re a fool is pretty true. Many times, it’s best to not say anything. All times, it’s best to take a moment, think about your words, and then say what’s in your head. Or, even better, don’t.


It’s not just about going off at the mouth with insults either. Big reactions and crazy explosive tirades are the stuff that makes up our youth, as well. Most kids blow up at each other on the playground. Lots of them do it in high school and college. Few, however, do it as adults. The people causing drama at the Senior Prom are commonplace. The middle-aged woman ranting at the post office about masks and stamp prices is the anomaly. She never realized the simple truth.

No one cares.

While we can freak out in Middle School and then apologize for our outbursts afterwards, that luxury is gone when you grow out of the hormones. No one gives a damn about your bad day because, chances are, everyone else is having one too. No matter how bad you think things are for you, there is someone else with something equally bad, if not worse, suffering silence who doesn’t have time for your nonsense. Because they’re keeping it to themselves, it makes them resent your public tantrums even more.

I try to keep that in mind as I go about my day. I choose my words and pick my battles. There’s no need to subject friends to my cruel zingers or scream over spilled milk at Starbucks. My words have weight and most times, you can’t put them back.

That holds especially true for parents. My daughter and her twelve-year-old attitude from hell can make me think some pretty harsh things that, if I was twenty years younger, would have flown out of my mouth by now. Instead, I stop, take a breath, and say it with firm look.

That’s rude. We don’t talk like that in this house. You understand?

It beats the 19 year old version of myself where I would have headbutt the wall and garbled gibberish that sounded vaguely like, “Wha’joo say’n ta me, punkess!?”

Nah. What’s the point? It wouldn’t make her listen any harder. It only causes long term mental scars, desensitizes her to the point I’m trying to make, and further pushes her into the realm of her own crazy adulthood. The day she starts cursing out the post office clerk over extra shipping costs is the day I failed.

And, as for my son, he just keeps to himself in that sense. Like most things with his personality, the mass public should probably take some notes. The world might think he doesn’t use his words enough, but, it seems like maybe the world uses its words too much. If we’re being honest, I think he’s closer to the right idea than anyone else is.

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