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When did this happen?

February 13, 2011

There is an old expression that says that, eventually, we all become our parents.

At what point does that occur, exactly? Once we become parents ourselves? Not only do we become the parents of our children in a physical sense, but somehow we transcendentally morph into what our parents are/were?

This is not a knock on my parents, nor on parents in general. I am one, after all. I’m simply curious.

We as kids have all been on the receiving end. Been given the same tales of woe by our parents, been given the same life-warnings by our parents, been told by our parents how good we have it and how lousy they had it- what with walking to school uphill in the snow with no shoes and all. And we as parents have sworn we’d never say those things to our kids, yet we still do.

I’m not referring so much to weird things you as a parent have said to your kids that you’d never think you’d ever say (or, more specifically, HAVE to say), like “Keep your face away from the dog’s butt”, or “That’s called your SCROtum, and that’s called your RECtum.” And yes, I have said both of those. I’m talking about the goofy things that all parents say to their kids, and conversely, that all kids have heard from their parents.

Things like:

  • “Don’t make me pull this car over!” (“Don’t make me turn this car around!” is an acceptable variation.)
  • “If it were a snake, it would have bitten you.” (a knock on a child’s look-for-things skills, typically used when the object for which they hunt is pretty much in plain sight)
  • “I’m not paying to heat the whole outdoors- close the door!”
  • “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!” (Yeah, THAT often works. Nothing like the threat of physical harm to stop a 3-year-old’s tears.)
  • “Be quiet when I’m talking to you, do you understand? ANSWER ME!” (This one always sent me into a whirlwind of confusion as to how to respond.)
  • “If you keep making that face, it’ll stick that way.”
  • “If your friends jumped off of a bridge, would you do it too?!”

These are but a few. So how does it come about that, once we become parents, we involuntarily spew out these and other completely ridiculous platitudes even after promising ourselves we never would? What causes that? Is the omnipresent Parenting Handbook somehow turned to the chapter on Ridiculous Things All Parents Must Say To Their Kids and osmosed into new parents’ grey matter, to be spoken at will without them even realizing they’re getting ready to say it?

I have found myself rattling off such eyeroll-inducing swill at my kids lately. A lot. My go-to lines are apparently, “When you have kids, then you can be mean to them“, and “The fair is in August” (stemming from one of them screaming, “THAT’S NOT FAIR!” at me). It really kind of sounds condescending, to be completely honest. I hate being condescended to, and I genuinely feel bad when I condescend to someone else, especially my kids. But for whatever reason, they’re simply things parents say to their kids. Why? Nobody knows- they just do.

Again, I’m really not knocking parents or parenting in general. I’ve learned in the last 10+ years that it’s the hardest, most thankless, and certainly worst-paying job there is. I just am at a loss at the phenomenon of how every parent whips out those same tired lines on their kids without thinking. And I know I had a well-above-average childhood, and I know that, at least subconsciously, all parents want their kids to have things better than what they did. Still, it’s going to be interesting to see what our kids and our kids’ kids use on their kids. Will it be the same ones we used (and heard), or will there be new, updated, 21st century lines available to them? Something like:

“Hey, I didn’t get a Blu-Ray player and cable in my room (or an iPhone, X-Box, etc.) until I was 7!”


“Stop your complaining. The first car my parents gave me still used *gasoline*!”

Hardly a fear-inducing threat, either one. But then, maybe I’m just cutting off my nose to spite my face.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Marjorie permalink
    February 13, 2011 7:34 pm

    Until I got to the bottom of the column, I thought you’d left that one out.

    • Johann permalink
      February 14, 2011 10:31 am

      There is no way I would- or could- do a post like this and NOT include that classic gem of yours.

  2. DBeau permalink
    February 15, 2011 12:45 pm

    So true! The one I always hated when my father would say it was “Silence is golden”. But now that I have a 15 year old that likes to listen to music at a decible that would wake the dead and both of my children if they dont have a tv on, music on or the computer on or in general noise of some kind they cant seem to function. I have found that my father was right, silence is golden. I love riding in the car with no music, I love coming home to a house with no noise and I love being at the office when no one else is there. I enjoy the sound of silence.

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