THE OTHER DAY I found, to my horror, my mother's words pouring from my mouth. I was dealing with an obstinate grandchild who had decided he wasn't dirty enough to take a bath. Suddenly, I became my dearly departed mother and repeated those fatal words, “Look at the back of your neck. It's filthy.”
Great advice in case the kid turns out to be a contortionist and wants to join the circus.
In the process of my own children's childhood, these words fairly dripped from my lips, despite the fact that I vowed never, ever to sound like my mother.
For example, a lesson on stamina: “You will sit there until you finish your string beans, even if it takes all night.”
The result? I always wore out before the kid did. Truth is, I can't remember one of our four sons ever finishing anything he decided he didn't like.
On the weather: “Your room looks like a tornado hit it.” Yeah, well he liked it that way. It is far simpler to resist entering the child's room unless it's on fire.
On fashion: “You're not leaving the house dressed like that!” If a parent or grandparent really hates the outfit, the other kids will love it. That's the law. Hair styles follow this same set of rules, the bolder the color, the more accepted by the other kids. (We have a green haired grandson at this writing.)
On religion: “You'd better pray that grape juice comes out of the carpet.” Moving furniture or Oxyclean is the solution, not prayer and incantations.
On logic: “Because I said so, that's why.” Now just who would trust a dumb old woman who obviously has forgotten how it is to be young to make the rules?
“If I told you once, I told you a thousand times.” Get a clue, no one's counting but me.
Repetition is not all it's cracked up to be.
Timing: My own grownup kids can remember the phrase “If you're going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning the house.” In fact, I heard my daughter-in-law say it just this summer at our family reunion.
If she'd waited a few minutes, the kids would have forgotten what they were fighting about and find another way to annoy us.
“Always wear clean underwear!"
Music appreciation: “Turn down that damned music.” The grandkids can't hear me, they're all deaf from the noise.
And my personal favorite, “Always wear clean underwear, so if you're in an accident and they have to cut your underwear off, you won't be embarrassed.”
Did it never occur to any of us that if a kid was in such a terrible state that someone else had to remove his underwear, he wouldn't be in any condition to be embarrassed?
Here's one that never works: “Wait till your grandfather comes home.” The grandkids know the old man is a pushover. He thinks whatever terrible thing they do is just plain cute. Not that I'm any better. After all, we see the grandkids only occasionally, just often enough to spoil them rotten.
Suddenly Trivia: How many children were there in “The Brady Bunch” family? a) 10 b) 6 c) 9
“Stop that, or your eyes will stay that way."
"Don't run with scissors."
"Eat your carrots so you don't go blind."
"Always give someone else the biggest slice of cake."
"Remember you are her sister and really love her."
"Because I said so, and I'm the grandmother here."
"Just wait till you have grandkids of your own, then you'll understand what I mean."
We grew up, and older, taking along all those tired old bits of "Mom Wisdom."
Now how do you think that happened?
Could it be DNA? That these phrases were ingrained in our hearts and minds as a result of genetics? Did the Neanderthals warn their offspring to quit teasing the mastodons or their fathers would deal harshly with them when he got back to the cave?
Or did we simply become our parents, despite our vows to never do so? And are we all really dumb enough to think these things really work and that the kids are listening?
We got through those years, while not unscathed, at least with a semblance of sanity. And here we are now, using those same old tired worn cliches on our grandchildren, as if they will suddenly have some meaning and will actually work in this day and age.
Worse, we are creating yet another generation of people who will utter the same time-worn scolds that our mothers used a hundred years ago, back when we were young.
Suddenly Trivia answer: b. 6
© 2004 Frank Kaiser
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