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What’s the code in your family?What’s the code in your family?

Home Front: Like elusive backup hand signals, the right code in your family can help you get the job done.

John and Kendra Smiley

February 20, 2020

3 Min Read
male farmer holding son in field

Recently I asked John when and where he learned Morse code. I assumed his answer would have something to do with flying for the Air Force, but I learned it was the Boy Scouts who were responsible for teaching him about those dots and dashes. I was a Girl Scout for several years but have no recollection of hearing a lesson on Morse code, or any other code, for that matter.

The chances are great that if there was a lesson or two on Morse code, Kendra temporarily tuned out. Dots and dashes are simply not her thing and never will be. Kendra is a words and grammar girl. That’s not to suggest she can’t use words to create a code or two. In fact, that’s exactly what she did when we were raising our boys.

In the beginning of our child-rearing years, no codes were necessary. John and I could communicate with each other, and only each other, by spelling. For example, “Are you t-a-k-i-n-g the b-o-y-s-w-i-t-h-y-o-u after lunch?” As the kids got older, we mastered the art of spelling at a very rapid speed, fast enough to confuse even our friends. This strategy worked for several years.

But time passed and codes became unnecessary. No longer were we discussing whether or not someone would be heading to the park with the kids. Those days were gone. However, when all three boys were teenagers, we discovered another code was needed.

Before the new code was established, when family or friends joined us at our dining room table, I would bring in the mashed potatoes, and one of our sons would inevitably ask, “Are those all the mashed potatoes?” If I answered, “Yes,” I’d end up with leftover potatoes, as each guest took a smaller spoonful than they actually wanted.

How could I solve this problem? A code! As I placed the potatoes on the table, I simply said, “Here’s the mashed potatoes, MIK.” Or “Here’s the mashed potatoes, FHB.” Our guests didn’t pay attention to my relatively quiet and unusual announcement, but the boys did. MIK meant More In Kitchen. FHB meant Family Hold Back. Those codes served us well for several years.

One more code that’s still alive and well in our home: “I need a banana.” Hmm … you may wonder what that code communicates. Bananas are rich in potassium, which can lower blood pressure. So, when I hear Kendra say she needs a banana, I know someone or something is driving her crazy.

And what do codes have to do with agriculture? They’re simply a way to communicate. Sort of like the hand signals John gives me when I’m helping him in the field. But admit it, codes are much more entertaining.

And a quick note. If by chance you hear me say anything about bananas while you’re visiting our home, please know it has nothing to do with you.

John and Kendra Smiley farm near East Lynn, Ill. Email [email protected], or visit kendrasmiley.com.

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