There a lot of things I swore I’d never do when I had kids, and most of them, I’ve stuck to. For example: I don’t wear mom jeans. I don’t socialize exclusively with other people who have children. And I have never, ever said to anyone, “When you have kids, you’ll understand.”
But I am surprised at some of the pathetically mom-like things I have said since becoming a mother. Especially since, as a writer, I try very hard to avoid clichés. Really, I should be ashamed of myself for all of the following:
1. “Young lady.”
Ugh! I can’t believe this has issued forth from my mouth! I hated it when my mom said this to me when I was little. It made me feel so awful—like I was acting like a supreme bitch.
And it made my mom sound so mean and disappointed in me. A terrible expression all around. And, yet, I have uttered it more than once, in spite of myself. I must stop!
2. My children’s full names.
As in, “Clio Rose Moock, stop that right now.” I don’t actually recall my parents doing the full-name thing. But I certainly heard other parents do it. And grandparents. And great-grandparents, probably.
It’s a rather an old-fashioned admonition—a classic, if you will. So, while I think it’s kinda funny that both Alastair and I use it, I don’t feel so bad about it. And it’s not quite as harsh as “young lady.”
Plus, it’s retro! It’s hip! It’s the parental equivalent of a curled mustache on a Brooklynite! And, true to its oldie-but-goody status, it tends to work.
3. “End of discussion.”
This one I find very empowering to say. It’s like a little parental affirmation to myself: You do have the right to end the discussion! You do not have to accommodate or negotiate with
Of course, the truth is, it doesn’t really end the discussion. It just delays it. Because, let’s face it: the discussion never ends.
If it’s not them asking for one thing, it’s them asking for another. And if it’s not me asking them to brush their teeth now — no, not after you finish taping an entire pad of post-it notes to a piece of cardboard, NOW — then it’s me asking them to put their shoes on / set the table / go to bed. NOW.
It’s all the same fucking discussion, man. [To be said in the voice of Janis Joplin.]
4. “I’m going to count to three.”
I think there was a time when thought I wouldn’t have to be the kind of parent who would count to three. You know, I’d be such a brilliant, effective parent that I would never have to resort to threats of any sort—especially something so unoriginal as the old one-two-three.
My children would obey me because I would so expertly acknowledge their needs and feelings, and then make my needs and feelings clear, and it would all just work, beautifully. (Yes, I can hear you laughing.)
And one in every ten or fifteen or maybe sixty times, that approach does work. But know what works even better? Counting to three.
Especially when the consequences of three are a bit of a mystery. “What happens if you get to three?” Elsa will sometimes say. Sometimes I’ve thought of something—losing a privilege, taking a time out, etc. If I haven’t managed to think of anything (and a time-out is counterproductive because we’re trying to get out of the house on time—which is when the girls are at their most difficult), I say, evilly, “Try it and see.” That usually works best of all.
Still. Jeez. How predictable.
5. I could just eat you up. (Or some variant thereof).
Lest you think it’s all negative clichés that come out of my mouth. This is one I always thought of as sort of over-the-top cutesy and even mildly creepy back in my pre-parent days.
But now I get it. Sometimes you really do want to eat them up, they’re so damned lovely. There’s no other way to describe it.
And you, mesdames and messieurs? What do you find yourself saying as a parent that you never thought (or swore you wouldn’t) say? Please, share. I’m going to count to three…
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