Paje Vu

Definition of déjà vu

1: the illusion of remembering scenes and events when experienced for the first time

2: something overly or unpleasantly familiar. The team’s poor start to the season was déjà vu for its long-suffering fans.

Definition of paje vu

1: the feeling that you’ve definitely said the same thing a number of times to your offspring and yet they still need it said a number of additional times in order to hear it once

2: the sense that you have said something before but feel like you are saying it for the first time because you’ve managed to reach infinity on your internal counter and have gone back to the start of the numbers used for counting

Welcome to the science* post of our little website. I say science* instead of science because science* is the type of observations that has no actual basis or backup in terms of real science. Like Flat Earth Theory, but without the zealots and conventions.

See, recently I’ve noticed that I am repeating myself with the kids. Not just repeating myself but saying the exact same line over and over and over and over and over and over and…

Sorry, got stuck in a loop there.

The point is that as the eldest has hit her fourth year on this mud-ball she has definitely developed selective hearing. Selective being a nice way of putting it, by the way. I genuinely think that she has mastered the art of fully closing off her ear canals to block out all sound and has simply developed a sixth, seventh and eight sense to replace her lack of hearing. It is the only scientifically* sound explanation for how I have to ask her twenty-three times to pick stuff up off the floor in my normal parenting voice (which goes up a decibel level for every ten times the same lines has been said). Yet I can stand at the bottom of a well in another country and ask her in a whisper if she wants a biscuit and she will hear it in our home as if I had screamed it directly into her ear.

Hence, paje vu. I have convinced myself that it is a thing, it has to be a thing. It is the only real reason that makes sense. There is no way that a person cannot hear the same sentence, with the words in the same order, and the volume growing slightly louder with each utterance, forty-five times in a row. There just isn’t. It has to be a parental phenomenon, the feeling that you’ve said something before in the exact same way you are currently saying it. Only you haven’t said it before and you are only saying it once.

Otherwise kids have an amazing ability to control their senses that adults would relish. Can you imagine being in a boring meeting and being able to totally shut down your sense of hearing in order to survive the hour long presentation on why full stops, dots and periods are different things.

It also explains how Littles the world over are able to fart so badly you’d convince yourself they have an entire skunk up their backside, pushing a green mist around them so intense that your eyes water, yet they cannot smell it themselves. The scientific* answer: they can shutdown their sense of smell on command.

But fear not, fellow parents, I know you’ve all experience this sensation. Now you have a name to it. You’re not going crazy, you are repeating yourself almost indefinitely, because kids have mastered the ancient and wise art of Selective Hearing.

And here you all were thinking you were going crazy. No such luck, parenthood will make you insane for many more reasons than just this. Of course it doesn’t help that the younger follows everything the older one does, so he has started not listening a full two years earlier than she did.

But like all good science and science*, you need an example to quantify the experiment. So let me present experiment J below, taken from the field this very morning.

Experiment J

Test Environment Configuration: we’ve been up since about 7am because it is Saturday and the kids only sleep past 9am when it is a workday. The kitchen looks like a Smyths Toystore passed by and vomited on the floor. Both kids want to watch a movie on Netflix.

Parent 1: Pick up the toys.

Parent 1: Pick up the toys.

Parent 1: Clean up the toys and we will watch the movie.

Parent 1: Why haven’t you picked up the toys yet.

Parent 2: Did you pick up that parcel from the collection centre yesterday?

Parent 1: I’m not going to ask again, pick up the toys.

Parent 1: Why aren’t you picking up the toys?

Parent 1: You, pick up those toys. Other you, pick up those ones.

Parent 2: Seriously did you pick it up or not because if you didn’t it will be sent back on us.

Parent 1: Would you for the love of all that is unholy pick up the bloody toys.

Parent 1: I don’t care if you didn’t play with that toy, put it away or no movie.

Parent 1: Would you just, for once, listen to me and put the damn things away before we watch the movie.

Parent 2: Honestly, did you get it or not.

Parent 1: Why do you keep asking the kids if they picked up something from the collection centre? They can’t drive.

Parent 2: I’m not asking them, I’m asking you. Like I have done for the last four days. At least five times a day.

Experiment conclusion: turns out Paje Vu can apply to partners as well as parents.

The Interrogation

I hate circular conversations, they are the worst. Nothing feels more like a complete waste of time than asking the same questions back and forth and getting nowhere.

Circular conversations are the verbal definition of madness: trying to do the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

“What do you want for dinner?”

“I don’t mind, anything really. Whatever. Honestly I don’t mind, you choose.”

“Ok, let’s get Indian.”

“No I’m not in the mood for Indian.”

“Then what are you in the mood for.”

“I told you, anything at all.”

Scene fades to black as a single gunshot echoes out in the night.

I can’t remember how long we’ve been here, but I know it feels like forever. The interrogation started like they always do: with a question.

“What do you want?”

“Mark.”

“Mark?”

“Shop.”

“We’re not going to the shop, we just got back from the shop.”

“Noooooo.”

The drama in this last part is almost a physical thing. Head thrown back, mouth opened at a strange angle that only sword swallowers can manage in later life. All it does, really, is reset the conversation.

“I said no, we’re not going to the shop.”

“Daddy!”

There is a line about never arguging with a fool, because people outside the conversation may not be able to tell which is which. The same applies to having these types of arguements with a pre-two year old. Using my language skills against those of Jellybean are always going to end in disaster. We speak the same languge, just wildly different dialects.

“I don’t get what you want. Are you hungry?”

“No.”

“Do you want me to play?”

“No.”

“Do you want to play football? We play some football?”

“No.”

“Do you know what you actually want or are you just defaulting to no?”

“No.”

We’ve entered circular conversation mode now. I can feel the small atoms of my remaining sanity disappear into the void. He clearly wants something. He knows that I can get it to him. But neither of us is speaking the same lingo so we are at an impasse.

“You’re not hungry, you don’t want fruit or a cracker?”

He smiles, that devilish little grin he has that I know will cause us trouble in the teenage years. It is a smile that immediately disarms and most of the time gets what he wants. Cuteness on steroids.

“You want a drink?”

“Shop!”

“We’re not going to the bloody shop.”

“Mark.”

“Uncle Mark isn’t here. Do you want juice?”

“No, daddy. No juice.”

I think I have just about grasped the thing he wants. A drink, maybe. He got very excited when I said drink, but I’ll be damned if he is getting into the habit of asking for a drink that requires a trip to the shop. You do that once and they remember forever more. It ain’t happening. Not on my watch.

Picking up a nearby kid cup, I hold it out in front of him.

“Drink, right?”

That smile again. He is happy that the language barrier between our two peoples has broken down slightly.

“Shop!” he says, nodding.

“No shop!” I’m slightly stern with my tone. I need to nip this shop shit in the bud.

“Daddy!” he moans.

“Water?”

“No water.”

“Juice?”

“No juice.”

“Orange juice?”

Both kids call dilutant ‘juice’ but consider orange juice to be something else entirely.

“No juice!”

This is his stern tone now. It sounds like a leprechaun on laughing gas, but at least he tries to be intimidating.

I’m reminded of all the scenes from Indiana Jones were the Nazi’s are asking him questions. They peel off a glove and give him a slap to the face, then repeat the question. Only for child protection services said you’re not allowed to do that sort of thing any more I’d be off looking for my gloves.

“Right,” I said, exasperated and still holding the cup. “You want a drink, right?”

“Shop. Mark, please.”

I’m about to abandon all hope, when the lady friend walks in.

“He wants a drink of milk,” she says, passing through the kitchen like a train of logic en route to different lands.

“What? He never even said anything that sounds like milk.”

“Mark, he uses Mark for milk.”

“Well how the hell was I supposed to know that? Kids need to come with phrase books, each one is different. Is that it, you want a drink of milk?”

He smiles and claps his hands together. The caveman has finally understood.

“Shop!”

“We’re not going to the bloody shop.”

“Shop means yes,” herself shouts in from the living room.

I feel my shoulders sag, defeated by a language barrier of my own creation. Since fifty percent of this cute demon child is me, so he had to get the skills to understand from somewhere.

“One milk, coming up.”

“Thank you, daddy,” he says, taking the cup of milk from me and running away delighted with life.

I update my mental Rosetta Stone for future conversations and continue cleaning the kitchen.