With a new season of the high-octane serial drama 24 now on television, my wife and I are once again finding ourselves using lots of 24-style lingo in our everyday parenting routine.
Of course, this is a bit ironic. The ceaselessly stressful and frequently violent show isn't exactly family entertainment. And the lead character, the indefatigable Jack Bauer, is depicted as a hopeless parent, married to his counterterrorism work. His estranged wife dies in season 1 and his only daughter hates him until season 7.
But Bauer and his Counter Terrorist Unit colleagues are great at working together to solve complex problems in real time under pressure -- key skills for parents with young children.
As my wife and I have watched all previous 192 episodes of 24, jargon from the show has seeped into our parenting vocabulary. Raising our twin toddlers isn't exactly like foiling terrorist plots, but parenting is an action-packed 24-hour job. At our Crazy Toddler Unit we don't have to deal with nuclear disasters, but we do encounter our fair share of explosions and meltdowns.
Here are 24 of our favorite parenting-as-political-thriller phrases inspired by 24--alongside their literal meaning in the context of raising little kids.
"The bomb has been detonated!" Poopy diaper.
"Secure the perimeter." Make sure the kids can't escape or break anything.
"I'm engaging both hostiles." Looking after our rascally twins.
"I need back up!" This mess or misbehavior is too much for one parent.
"I need all tactical units on site!" This mess or misbehavior is too much for both parents.
"Intercepted the missile." Caught something thrown by one kid at the other.
"Drop the weapon!" When a child is holding a dangerous object such as a Sharpie or hairdryer.
"Code Red lock down!" Misbehavior means play time is over.
"Send him to holding." Time out.
"Suspect is in custody." The kid is in time out.
"Interrogate the suspect." Find out how the blue crayon markings got on the wall.
"Can you run comm?" Please talk to the kids.
"I'm going dark." One parent's cell phone battery is about to die.
"Going rogue." One kid is doing his own thing.
"We've been played." Kids outwitted their parents again.
"Can you run point?" Asking the other parent to take charge of a situation.
"Stand down." Avoid getting into a debate with the kids.
"Right now it's our best play." Parents running out of parenting tricks.
In addition to using 24-ish lingo to describe multiple parenting scenarios, we find that a bunch of classic Jack Bauer lines provide a perfect script for exasperated parents dealing with mischievous kids. Jack yells these phrases at terrorists, but all parents have felt the urge to use them with their toddlers -- in a calm, loving tone of course!
"Trust me, you don't want to go down that road with me."
"I don't have time to explain right now."
"We don't have much time!"
"Tell me what I need to know!"
"Right now you don't have a choice!"
Parenting is an amazing and rewarding privilege, but it can be intense and exhausting. At the end of a long day of cooking meals, changing diapers, calming fights and cleaning messes, it seems appropriate to look myself in the mirror and voice one final Jack Bauer quote: "I'm Federal Agent Jack Bauer, and this is the longest day of my life."
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