The other day I took the three-year-old to his swimming lesson. Within moments I’d struck up a conversation with the other two mums as we watched our kids flounder in the water.
So what did we talk about? Let’s see.
- Trusted truisms
This conversation was designed to engender feelings of warmth and closeness between the participants. Women do this all the time in conversation.
Mum 1: Child A is obedient and trustworthy, Child B is stubborn, whereas Child C is a loner.
Me (soothingly): They all come out with their own personalities. No telling what you’re going to get. (This comment is a sure-fire winner. I’ve used it many times before.)
Mum 2: So true.
This is about proving that one is an experienced parent who is not easily spooked.
Mum 1: Oh look, Child A is sinking under the water. (Hollow laugh). He’ll be fine, I’m sure.
Mum 2: Course he will.
(Child A sinks downwards. Instructor pulls him out of water.)
Me: That’s how they learn.
Alan De Botton, as far as I remember, claimed that almost all interactions are about status: who has it, who wants it. Certainly with mum-type conversations, there is a lot of subtle bragging to determine pecking order. Men, I think, are quite familiar with this kind of nuance.