When Your Child Gets Stuck In A Verbal Loop

I’m a pretty easygoing parent. I don’t yell. I almost never yell. I prefer slow smouldering jaw clenched whispered threats. They effectively scare both my kids and my husband. Fortunately, I don’t need to pull out the eye daggers often. 

I’m pretty patient—especially when it comes to dealing with my daughter’s idiosyncrasies. If I feel annoyance creeping in I simply remind myself that she’s trying her best and whatever she’s doing, it isn’t intentional. 

Like, she’s a very noisy eater. As a card carrying Misophonia sufferer, her lip smacking doesn’t bother me because I know she can’t help it. But God help my husband if he slurps a drink or smacks his lips. That’s a swift kick to the groin right there.

My daughter asks a lot of questions and I try to answer every one.

She tells endless knock-knock jokes and I always ask who’s there. 

It can take a long time for her to complete a sentence. I patiently wait it out.

Putting on her shoes or zipping up her coat can take ages. I wait without complaint, even if we’re late.

Eating her dinner can take hours and I rarely lose it.

But the one thing I struggle to patiently wait out is… the loop.

What is this loop?

It’s an irritating verbal circle where the same topic is repeated without an end in sight. 

Here’s an example.

My daughter is obsessed with the concept of calling 9-1-1. This has been ongoing for ages. When we still had a land line two years ago, she dialled 9-1-1 on more than one occasion. She knew she shouldn’t, but she just couldn’t stop herself.

Ever wonder what happens when your child dials 9-1-1 and then hangs up? Wonder no more. They call you back and when you answer you feel like an idiot and you apologize profusely and pull the “my child has special needs” card because you’ve watched Orange is the New Black and you know you won’t survive in the big house. 

Anyway, every time we drive down a particular stretch of road, she spots a big sign that says, “Call 9-1-1 in this city for emergency assistance.”

I try to distract her before we get to the sign, but sometimes I forget.

Yesterday as we drove past on our way to an after school program, I forgot. And the loop slowly but surely rolled ahead, gaining momentum.


Avery: “Mum, you call 9-1-1 in an emergency.”

Me: “Yup. You do. But only in a real emergency.”

Avery: “I’ll call 9-1-1 only if there’s a real emergency.”

Me: “Okay. Got it. I think there’s a loop starting here. Let’s talk about something else, okay? Tell me one thing you did at school today.”

Avery: “Gym. 9-1-1 is a loop.”

Avery: “Right mummy? I won’t talk about 9-1-1 anymore.”

Avery: “Right mum? It’s a loop. No loops. 9-1-1 is a loop.”

Avery: “Mum? Mummy? Mum?”

Me: “Remember a loop is a circle. It’s goes around and around without an end. Cut the loop Avery. Use your pretend scissors and just cut it.”

Avery: Miming the action of dramatically cutting an invisible loop in the air. “Okay! I cut it!” 

Avery: “I cut the loop. The one about the 9-1-1.” 

Avery: “Mum? Mummy? Lisa?!?”

Me: “Enough with the 9-1-1 Avery. I mean it. Just look out the window for a minute.”

Avery: “Sorry about the loop.” Long pause. “The 9-1-1 loop.”

Me: (Under my breath… for f*ck sake.)

Avery: “Sorry mummy.”

Avery: “I’m sorry about the loop.”

Avery: “9-1-1 is a loop.”

It just keeps going around and around until even the most patient parent just can’t take another word. 

Avery: “9-1-1 is a…”

Me: “Avery! Stop!!!”

Avery: Quiet for about sixty seconds then… “I won’t talk about it anymore. I mean about the 9-1-1.”

And that’s when I put my thumb on the radio button on the steering wheel, slowly increasing the volume until it was “rattle the windows loud”. In my defence, it’s not like it was metal or acid rock. I had the radio tuned to classical FM.

Shouting over the music I yelled, “Avery, you can talk about 9-1-1 all you want. Go ahead. But I just can’t listen to it anymore. I’m going to listen to this pretty music instead.” 

I let the music boom while I took a few long deep breaths.

Then I caught a glimpse of her face in the rearview mirror and it startled me. She looked confused.

Feeling guilty, I quickly turned down the music and we sat in silence for a few minutes.

Then I said, “Avery, I’m sorry. I’m just tired. And when you get stuck in a loop, sometimes I just… I feel frustrated.”

She didn’t say anything. She just nodded. 

She didn’t talk about 9-1-1 for the rest of the ride. I could see how hard she was trying not to bring it up. 

When we got home my husband said, “Hey ladies, how was your class?”

Avery replied, “It was good. Mummy was frustrated because… 9-1-1. It’s a loop. Right mummy? 9-1-1 is only for emergencies. But that’s a loop.”

I kissed her on the head and gave my husband the “I’m done. Please take over look!” and I went to bed.

The next morning there was no mention of 9-1-1 or booming classical music. Today was a new day. Avery looked up from her breakfast and exclaimed, “Hey mummy, look! My cereal is loops. A lot of loops…” 

 

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