Daily Foglifter: Ernest Vincent Wright wrote the novel “Gadsby,” a story of over 50,000 words, without using the letter “E.”
Before I was a mother, I knew what things I would never say when I became one. I knew I would never say them because when my mom said them, I felt like screaming. I would be nicer to my kids than my mom was to me. I would be a cool mom who explained everything to her kids. Here’s a short list of things I swore I would never say:
- Because I’m your mother.
- You’re not old enough.
- Life isn’t fair. Get used to it.
- We’ll see.
- When you’re a parent, you’ll understand.
- As long as you live under my roof, you’ll follow my rules.
- Sammich. (I’m not sure why this bothers me so much, but it drives me up the wall. Oddly enough, my husband uses the word sammich. I can only chalk it up to God’s attempt to cure me of such a silly pet peeve or maybe He’s just having a laugh at my expense.)
- Because I said so. (The absolute WORST phrase in the history of the English language.)
I thought these were horrible, awful things to say to kids. (With the possible exception of sammich). I thought they were what lazy parents said when they didn’t feel like chauffeuring their kids all over the place or taking the time to explain things in terms kids can understand. I was right. I know I was right because I say these things at least 10 times a day for those very reasons.
I have 5 children. Between trips to the grocery store, church, and gymnastics I spend half my life in the car as it is. I cannot run to the store because Billy has a sudden hankering for goldfish. I cannot go to the redbox just because they’re bored. There are logical reasons for this, but no matter what I say the kids will hear, “Because I said so.” I save myself the time it would take to explain that gas costs money, I don’t have time, and it’s not good for kids to get whatever they want as soon as they ask for it, because this creates spoiled rotten brats with a skewed sense of entitlement, and just say, “Because I said so.” Then when they say, “It’s not fair!” I say, “Life isn’t fair. Get used to it.”
Aside from laziness and not creating spoiled brats, there are even better reasons for using these phrases. When my son asks if he can ride his bike down the road, I say no. He asks why and I say, “Because I said so” or “You’re not old enough.” He’s 11, which is plenty old enough to ride your bike down a country road. IF that country road didn’t have a crazy man who stumbled up and down it, mumbling to himself. IF that road wasn’t the place where a dead body was dumped last summer. IF that country road wasn’t a popular sunning spot for 5 foot rattlesnakes. “Because I said so” is kinder and less scary than “Because that guy could be a child molester or deranged homicidal maniac” or “you might get bitten by a monstrous venomous snake.”
Of the things I swore I would never say, the only one I kept my word on is “sammich.” I guess I’m not a cool mom. Of course, there is no such thing as a cool mom. There is only mean, embarrassing old mom who has no idea what it’s like to be a kid. As far as my kids are concerned, I am old, have always been old, and always will be old. I realized this when my son, Billy, asked me to pour him a glass of tea. When I didn’t do it as fast as he thought I should, he said, “Where’s my tea, old lady?” This was a blow to my ego as both a parent and a woman. I am trying so hard to raise non-brats, and he calls me that incredibly rude (and untrue) name. I’m 32, for heaven’s sake. That is not even close to old. Not to mention that “Where’s my tea, _____?” is no way to ask for something to drink, even if he had filled in the blank with “my cool, beautiful, sweet mother.”
Normal “momisms” aren’t the only unbelievable things coming out of my mouth. Sometimes I say something and my immediate thought is, “Did I really just say that?!” Some recent examples include:
- Don’t eat coffee grounds out of the garbage can.
- Don’t rub pizza on your feet.
- Don’t eat styrofoam.
- Put down that metal bar. Find something else to sword fight with.
- Don’t touch the cat’s butt.
While all this is really good advice, I hardly think it will be included in any parenting magazines. Seriously, though, why do kids want to eat and touch disgusting things, play with their food, and hit each other with deadly weapons? I can’t believe I told my son to find something ELSE to sword fight with. Shouldn’t I have said, “Let’s not sword fight.” If I recall correctly, that particular game ended with crying and the swelling of some body part, as “innocent” games between five kids always do.
I look back to my pre-kid conceptions of the perfect mom and sigh. I was right in my convictions. Perfect moms should take the time to make their children understand why they aren’t allowed to do certain things. The only problem is that I’m not perfect. I don’t have the time. More importantly, I don’t have the heart. I want to keep the ugliness of the world from tainting my children as long as possible. Until I’m ready for my kids to view the world with the wary eye of good vs. evil, I’m content with being the bad guy. That’s a position all moms are willing to take. If you don’t have kids yet, trust me, “When you’re a parent, you’ll understand.”
Children are unpredictable. You never know what inconsistency they’re going to catch you in next.
Franklin P. Jones