Broken record and other mystical objects

Nora has a bad habit (not rare among two-year-olds, I'm given to understand) in which she repeats stuff just endlessly until you acknowledge what she's saying -- and sometimes even after that.

"Oh, it's a bird," she'll say from her car seat, pointing up at the sky through the window. Usually this happens when I'm merging onto I-440 at 70 mph, or almost unfailingly when I'm trying to navigate a left turn from that hideous intersection near my house that really should have a traffic light but doesn't.

"Uh-huh," I'll say, trying to keep my attention on the road.

"Bird!" she'll repeat. "Bird! Oh, it's a bird! Bird! Up there! In the sky!"

"Uh-huh …"

"BIRD! BIIIIIRD! In the sky! Oh, it's a bird up there! BIRD!"

"YES NORA, BIRD! OK? YES! BIRD! I HEAR YOU!" I'll finally snap, and then she cries because I snapped at her, which makes driving even more nerve-shredding.


I told her once that I wished she'd stop this broken-record stuff, but then I realized some things:

1) I was attempting to reason with a toddler, which is futility defined.

2) She has no idea what a "broken record" is, and probably never really will fully grasp the concept.

Isn't that crazy? We all know what that metaphor means, because we've heard a broken record on endless repeat, so our brains make the connection without even really having to think about it. But I guess that saying will probably die out with my generation of dinosaurs.

Thinking more about it, I realized there are plenty more examples of that -- sounds so familiar in our childhoods that we use some of them in cliches, but that our kids really have no concept of.

They know the phrases fast forward and rewind, but do they know there's a sound to go with that? That whirring of a cassette tape accompanied many happy (or unhappy, depending) hours of making mix tapes, in my youth. And I was always kind with my VCR tapes -- I would always rewind. But now it happens instantly, and soundlessly.

My house is like many others these days in that there's no home phone, no landline. I have a cell phone, and my husband has a cell phone, and I guess when Nora's old enough to get calls she'll use one of our numbers, or probably just have her own cell and phone number. No problem, in a practical sense, but just think of how many sounds she won't know! That clangy, piercing ring, the purr of a rotary dial, the sound of stuff tumbling off the counter when you accidentally drag the coiled wire over it.

Of slightly more recent vintage, but still ancient history to anyone younger than 12, is that screech and murmur of a dial-up Internet connection. Not that I pine for that sound, mind you, but how weird to think that Nora might hear it in some movie or something and not know what it is.

Even school bells are different now, did you know? These days it's a recorded tone piped in over the PA system. In my day (shaking fist from my rocking chair) it was, you know, an actual bell!

So I'll have to adjust my parental cliches to match this new reality, I guess. No more accusations of sounding like a broken record. Now I'll have to scold Nora for sounding like an incorrectly sampled remix, or whatever it is that the kids are into these days.