Wednesday 8 August 2012


When you become a parent, something very strange and unsettling happens. Suddenly all those things your parents used to say - okay, NOT all, but some - begin to make sense. You know those gems they used to toss out in your youth that would make you stop and say, ‘Huh? What the heck does that mean?’ [Like when my mother would ask me 'is this how you'd behave if the Queen was over for dinner?!' Oh how I appreciate her Englishness now, I truly do]. Or those statements that would illicit a vociferous, petulant grunt from you and an eye roll – usually in one’s teenage years - and cause you to swear on that very spot that you would never ever say the same thing to your child when you became a parent.

AH, the circle of life.

Numero uno of my mother’s parental gems that used to drive me bonkers (and yet I now use): ‘Because I said so.’ Oh how this used to make me crazy. Because I said so; it was just so infuriatingly final, no discussion, no negotiation, and no room to think of a hundred excuses why you just had to do this or that. Once that statement was unfurled, the discussion was over. And yet NOW, OH how I love that phrase – and will continue to love it with every passing year. I’m not even sure the King understands what the heck I’m saying and certainly can’t talk back in a majorly coherent manner, but I happily trot it out and wield my parental power with that nostalgic gem. And what have the two years of parenting taught me about this phrase? Why, it’s sheer genius and makes me understand my mother (and mothers world over) all the more. Because what ‘Because I said so’ really means is, I’m tired. I feel old and weary, and I don’t have to give you an excuse as to why you can’t eat your shoes, or jump off the sofa, or wear Mommy’s bra to the playground (even though there are many), because I’m your mother and I said so, end of story.

The next verbal gem I find myself using with my mother’s British tones ringing in my ears: “you know better than that.” Yes, at two the King certainly doesn’t – or he does, but that phrase in its non-specificity is certainly not going to stop him from trying to dive off the sofa and land on the coffee table; but it doesn’t stop me pretending, or hoping that he does no better and I can just leave it at that. Let’s be honest, when most kids hear this phrase, they either don’t’ know better, don’t want to know better, or know better but just don’t care. Yes, it sadly is that simple, especially when the King hits his teenage years and gets up to all sorts of mischief. I can almost hear myself now hollering, ‘Come on King (by then I’m assuming I’ll use his real name), you know better than that?!’

My other favorite: “I’m very disappointed in you.” Can I tell you how many times I heard this in my youth when I got in trouble? I swear to you, it was worse than being yelled at. In fact, in it’s muted way, it was one of the strongest things that my mother could say to me (NOTE to any parent: it must also be accompanied with THAT disappointed look. The look is everything) because you weren’t just in trouble, you didn’t just screw up, you let her down, and she expected more of you. At the moment, disappointed doesn’t quite feel strong enough for when the King thinks it’s funny to go darting into the road like a Tasmanian devil. Mommy isn’t exactly disappointed per se. Mommy is scared out of her wits that a ten-ton lorry is going to turn you into a pancake. But I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunity to practice my ‘disappointed’ stare as the years march forward.

Then there are the little idiosyncrasies or habits (if you will) of my mother’s, that I never quite understood when I was kid, but boy are they crystal clear now. When we were driving in the car, she would always have the windows down, or at least her window. It would of course blow air all around the car and in my face and drive my sister’s and me crazy. Then just as we thought we had hit the ‘unfair (!)’ limit she would turn off the radio and say ‘that’s enough!’ We’d always think she was being a dreadful bore, as she was not finding singing to Rita Coolidge as fantastic as we did (it was the 70’s people). And of course, years on, I get it. OH I GET IT. Bizarrely as you age, suddenly you need the windows open. I am not sure if it’s to keep you awake (my mom had five kids, I’m gathering she was very very tired) or to remind you that there’s a world out there and yet you’re stuck in a car playing chauffeur, but now I can’t enter a room, or any moving vehicle without a window open. As for the music, where once there was no understanding, now it is crystal clear. My mom had five kids. Silence was nonexistent. The woman clearly did not want to add any more noise into her brain. I have one kid and my dream vacation is locking myself in a dark soundproof closet with a duvet and a bottle of wine.

So you see, it does all go full circle. I suppose this is why most grandmothers always have that blissed out, amused look on their faces. Not only do they know they can give their grandkids back at the end of the day, but they hear their own children having to dole out the discipline just like they did – often using the exact same phrases - and it must amuse them to no end.

HAPPY HUMP DAY MOM (p.s. I’m wearing my slippers)

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