Top phrases of motherhood
Special to the Daily
The language of motherhood is universal. That’s because mothers the world over have always said the same things to their children, and always will. These stock maternal phrases, passed down from generation to generation, are guaranteed to cover any given situation that could possibly come up while raising a child.
Let’s be honest ” there’s probably a bit of a revenge factor going on as well. Every mother, since time immemorial, has told her child during the heat of battle, “I hope one day you have a kid who treats you exactly the same way!” Unfortunately, this one phrase has stuck, causing generations of kids to grow up anticipating the time when they, too, could wield the omniscient, awe-inspiring Power of Parenthood and say the same things to their own groveling offspring.
We all grew up knowing that when Mom brings out one of her stock phrases, you’re not supposed to answer back. But in honor of Mother’s Day this Sunday, I have compiled a short list of the most common phrases of motherhood, along with an admittedly subjective analysis of how to counter them in a non-verbal, purely ideological way:
1) “I have eyes in the back of my head!”
The Tuatara, a lizard-like reptile indigenous to New Zealand, is famous for having a “parietal eye” ” a third eye located toward the back of its head. Human mothers, no matter what they may tell you, have not been endowed with this particular trait. But it usually doesn’t take a parietal eye, or even a pair of binoculars, to figure out what your kids are up to.
2) “No one gave me a manual on parenting!”
If they had, my mother wouldn’t have read it. She had her children during the years when the writings of Dr. Benjamin Spock were in vogue, but they made no impression on her. She consigned her copy of “Baby and Child Care” to the furthest recesses of the living room cupboard ” I know, because I found it there a couple of decades later. She admitted that someone had given it to her, but by the time she got to page two, she was already fed up with his advice on motherhood and decided to wing it instead.
3) “I’m not supposed to be your best friend ” I’m your mother!”
My mother used to say this to us all the time; in fact, she sometimes still shakes her head wonderingly and tells us, “I don’t understand why all these parents nowadays say they want to be a friend to their children. They’re supposed to be PARENTS!” I believe that modern parents take a different approach today, but to children of the ’60s, the lines of demarcation were more clearly drawn.
4) “Don’t talk to your mother that way!”
Sometimes “that way” can be encapsulated in a simple “yes” or “no” ” it all depends on the tone of voice (see No. 5, “whining tone”).
5) “I don’t have to have a reason ” I’m your mother!”
This, of course, is the standard Mother Answer to the perpetual Child Question, “Why?” The frequency of this Mother Answer depends, naturally, on how frequently the Child Question is asked ” particularly when put forth in a whining, wheedling tone (see a No. 4).
6) “As long as you’re living under my roof, you’ll do as I say, or you can find someplace else to live!”
I always wondered where that “someplace else” was ” and during moments of heated conflict, often wished I might be sent there, as it would possibly constitute an improvement over present living conditions.
7) “I’m not the maid around here!”
Obviously not, in our house. My mother came from a long line of non-domestic goddesses. Since I’m one myself, I can’t fault her here.
8) “Money doesn’t grow on trees!”
If it did, kids wouldn’t be asking for a hand-out ” they’d be asking for a six-foot ladder and a bushel basket. But stating the obvious ” and often ignoring the answer ” seems to be part and parcel of the daily grind of motherhood.
9) “Someday, someone’s going to knock that chip off your shoulder!”
Luckily, moms are usually the only ones who discern that chip, and since they usually knock it off themselves, it rarely survives into adulthood. When it does, it’s only because it was so bad that even a mother’s love couldn’t get rid of it.
10) “One day, you’ll look back on this and be sorry that you spoke to your mother that way!”
Fortunately, like most grown children of parents, I can’t recall any circumstances where this has been the case. This particular phrase is often used in conjunction with “I hope one day you’ll have a kid who treats you exactly the same way!” ” which, as I mentioned earlier, has inspired generations of children to grow up calculating revenge on their own hapless descendants.
11) “I don’t have to answer to you ” I’m you’re mother!”
Of all the stock phrases in a mother’s tool kit, this one is the most indefensible. There has never been an answer to this one, and there never will be.
12) “Do you want to catch pneumonia?”
This falls into the category of those standard “Do You Want To…?” questions that mothers ask without expecting an answer. Other popular questions in this category include, “Why don’t you turn on a reading light ” do you want to go blind?” and “Why don’t you wear something nice ” do you want people to laugh at you?”
13) “Why don’t you bring your friends here ” are you ashamed of your parents?”
There’s no way to give an honest answer to that one. If you say yes, you’ll never hear the end of it, but if you say no, then you’re condemned to TV nights with your best friend sitting between your mother and father, answering questions about school. It’s a no-win situation, and the best thing to do is to try to distract your mother’s attention ” perhaps by knocking something over.
14) “Those dishes aren’t going to do themselves!”
Another, albeit more graphic, way of saying No. 7.
15) “You’ll always be my baby, no matter how old you are!”
Scary, but true. Motherhood has no conception of biological age. This is guaranteed to be annoying, especially when said in public, to anyone under the age of 30. But oddly enough, by the time you’re in your 40s, it’s actually rather comforting to know that you’re still someone’s baby, and always will be ” no matter how old you are.
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