I love talking to my wife. Unfortunately, it’s a trait I passed to each of our young daughters. Today, when I start to share the day’s events with Sharon, one little girl or another often will step over and say “Mommy” while I’m in midsentence. I generally allow no more than two “Mommy” interruptions before biting off the offender’s head. “Can you not see that your mother and I are having a conversation?” At that point, the daughter typically switches into frustrated-standby mode and impatiently waits for an opening. Only problem is, 5-year-olds haven’t developed the skill to distinguish a conversational pause from a conversational end. TEACHING children to talk is easy. They will pretty much learn the complexity of language on their own. Teaching children when to hush is nearly impossible. That’s why my wife and I don’t talk much anymore. Ten years and three children into our marriage, we spend most of our together time responding. Thoughtful exchanges of views and opinions are becoming fewer and further between. Our relationship was built on a foundation of long conversations. Sharon and I once made a 10-hour drive without once turning on the car radio. There’s almost always one more ill-timed “Mommy.” “What did I just tell you about interrupting our conversation?” I shout. “I thought you were done.” “I’ll tell you when I’m done. … OK, I’m done, since you made me forget what I was going to say next.” This is where holding on to the adult position is most difficult. I must fight hard to keep from vindictively blurting my own “Mommy” each time the little darling opens her mouth to speak. “Guess what, Mommy,” she says. “What?” “I swallowed my gum.” That’s the kind of all-important news a child deems worthy of risking her father’s wrath. Without even trying, my wife came up with a fantastic idea for resolving this problem outside the use of corporal punishment, which never leaves anyone in the mood to discuss the day’s events. Anytime Sharon leaves the house, with or without the kids, I can almost count down the seconds to the exact moment the phone will ring with her on the cell phone at the other end. “Do you realize,” she recently said while waiting for dance lessons to dismiss, “that the only time we really talk anymore is when we’re on the phone?” That set the light bulb to flashing inside my head. Telecommunication is the one area where we’ve made measurable progress in teaching conversation etiquette to our girls. They know how to answer the telephone politely, and they know that if they address either of us while the device is pressed to our ears, the house had better be on fire. Now when I want to share my day with Sharon, I simply take the cell phone into the bedroom, dial up the land line and say in a high-pitched voice: “Hello, little girl. Can I speak with your mother?” “Here, Mom,” the would-be interrupter says. “It’s Dad calling you from the bedroom again.” That’s my girl. Mark Rutledge writes for The Daily Reflector in Greenville, N.C. Write to him by e-mail [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!