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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"If You Cross Your Eyes They Will Stay Like That!"

Today's guest post is by Danielle Smith, owner of the website Extraordinary Mommy. Danielle is a wife and Mommy to two young children. In her 'free time', she balances work as the founder and primary author of ExtraordinaryMommy.com as well as co-anchoring two in-the-works blog talk radio shows. She is also the Editor for StLouisKids.com and is a regular contributor to FamilyFoodies.com.

Picture this:

I am about 8 years old. I have lots of freckles and a strawberry blond ponytail. With my hands on my hips and a flip of my hair, I look my parents directly in the eyes and I boldly announce, "I will never say that to my kids when I have them."

Fast forward a whole bunch of years.

Now picture me, 30-something year old, mother of two small people, with a foot planted firmly in my mouth. I can honestly say, I never dreamed I could be so-very-wrong. What, you are wondering, was I so intent on banning from my parental vocabulary? Let me give you the rundown.

*Because I Said So - Surely you remember hearing this when you were little? Why can’t I spend the night at Sabrina’s house? Because I said so. (Because I don’t trust Sabrina’s parents one little bit) Why can’t I have another piece of cake? Because I said so. (Because the sugar contained in one piece will already keep you up until 9pm. I’d rather we both get some sleep tonight) Why can’t I ride my bike to Marie’s house? Because I said so. (Because I am too scared thinking of all the things that could happen to you along the way like kidnappers and erratic drivers) Let’s be honest, because I said so is code for because I am not going to tell you why – though I am laying down the law.

*Can’t you two just get along? – I used to wonder why my parents were always so bothered about my brother and I fighting. I mean, really? What’s the big deal? The big deal is that I want my little ones to love each other, to protect each other, to stick up for each other. How are you supposed to do that when you are mean to each other? Now that I am a mommy, I realize that there is something so painful about watching the two people you love most in the world fight. Plus, the bickering hurts my brain. I’m sure my mom would agree.

*Just do as I say. When I was little this was the end of the line. This phrase was usually uttered through clenched teeth and often when we were misbehaving in public. There was something about the look in mom’s or dad’s eyes that let me (and my brother) know we needed to cease and desist immediately. This was the moment when we stopped fighting, quieted down or ate our dinners. I hate to admit it, but I think, as parents, we have to find ‘that look’ or ‘that phrase’ that lets our kids know when they are getting out of hand and need to straighten up – right away.

*I don’t care who started it, it needs to stop. This falls into the same category as ‘can’t you two just get along?’. It clearly applies to the fighting. I always cared who started it – especially if it wasn’t me (if it was me, I was glad mom and dad didn’t care!) but I now understand that both kids are equally responsible (at different times, of course) for the chaos throughout the day – that’s why I truly don’t care who is initiating the little squabbles, I do however, care to make them stop.

*Don’t make me pull this car over – I was always afraid, very afraid when my dad reached this point. I could never picture being angry enough at my kids to utter this phrase. I have only said it once. And, I was definitely as angry as I remember him being. Though, I don’t think I provoke the same level of fear. As soon as the words sprung from my lips, I glanced over my shoulder, wondering who had just expelled these foreign words. Yep, it was me. Can’t imagine this will be a common phrase in my car, but I never dreamed I would say it even once.

*If you cross your eyes, they will stay like that/Sitting too close to the TV will hurt your eyes/cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis – Let’s be honest. These aren’t true. (Right??) But, having heard phrases like these as a child, I always have the small fear niggling in the back of my brain Just the other day I told my daughter she was too close to the TV – and yes, I did say it would hurt her eyes. I think sometimes we need reinforcement. It feels better to invoke the threat of danger, so your kids don’t think you are bossing them around arbitrarily. Though, I have to admit, I always thought my parents were making it up.
Quit crying or I will give you something to cry about – This was a threat that always snapped me to attention. I never knew what might happen – if I might lose my favorite toy, be forced to go to bed hours before the neighborhood kids, or be fed only vegetables for a week. I have never actually said this to the kids, but I have to admit I have thought it. Lately, I have an easy-crying 4 year old and a perpetually whining 2 year old. It has never in my mind been a physical threat, but I am aware it could be taken that way, and wouldn’t want the kids to think I would ever harm them. So – this is the one phrase that has allowed me to keep my word!

*She’s my little girl – Admittedly, the older I got, the more I bristled at this phrase. Who are you calling little? I’m almost 10, I’m a teenager, I’m off to college. But now, even though the kids are only 4 and 2, it is crystal clear that I will always view my children as my little ones, my small people, my babies. It is part protection, part territorial, part reminiscent.

*You will understand when you have kids – this always seemed so abstract. I knew I would have children some day, but the lessons didn’t seem to apply to my future. When you are a kid – you can only focus on the circumstances you are experiencing – it doesn’t register that your parents just might know what they are talking about. How will it ever make sense to me that my curfew is so early, that I can’t drink soda when everyone else can, that my parents have to know everywhere I am going and with whom, that forgetting to call home is unacceptable and that fighting with my brother really is a big deal? But it does make sense. All of it. And 25 years from now, it will make sense to my small people. Though I don’t yet say this to my kids very often, I think it all the time. And, I know, as we grow together, it will be a common utterance in my home.

And, finally, my personal favorite:

*Because I am the Mommy – I always thought, "I know! Big deal!" I figured, much like, ‘because I said so.’ that it was a cop-out of sorts. But now I know. Being the Mommy is a big deal – it is huge, gigantic, enormous and powerful. We carry children around for 9 months in our stomachs. We re-arrange our internal organs for their well-being. We labor, sometimes for hours. We bring these beautiful little people into the world – we give them their life. And then we give them ours. I think that deserves some respect – if not a pedestal and tiara.

Because we are the Mommys, that’s why.

It is amazing to me that most kids never wanted to turn into their parents. And now, understanding their challenges and sacrifices, I know I will be lucky to be half the Mother mine was. (and is!)


Smelling Coffee said...

So true! We mommys do use these phrases - for the very reasons you stated. Thanks for making me smile and bringing back lots of childhood memories! ;-)

Christi said...

Yes, my foot has been in my mouth since my oldest was born - over 6 years ago!

ServinGsus said...

I've said several of those in the last 5 years of parenting ... and gotten various degrees of the responses I gave my mother when she said them =) I've also added a new one that (thank you, Lord, for giving me this one!) actually seems to penetrate: Because God made me your mommy and He trusts me to make this decision. For some reason, my daughter's heart responds to this; she loves God so much for such a little one. Thanks for a great morning thought!

Jacquelyn said...

years and years ago I was in Italy and overheard a mother say, "Perché io dico". I didn't have to know any Italian to know that she was saying, "Because I say so!" or something close to that ... some of these things are universal :)

The Queen Mommy said...

I LOVE this post - it is absolutely true!!! I said I would never say these things, and then over the weekend, out of my mouth blurted, "Because I said so!" and then I chuckled. It didn't hurt as badly as I expected - and I KNOW why my mother said it to me. LOL! There are some age old gifts of wisdom that never stop working!!!

Isabel said...

So funny and so true! I used to get all that stuff told to me! Even the crossing your eyes one!

Mike said...

I have another version of the "Because I'm the Mommy/ Daddy".

My kids love Star Wars. So I tell them: "Because I'm Jedi and you're not."

My other version, which I tell my 6-year old or 3-year old: "If you can tell me the square root of 90, then you could do whatever you want."


Twitter: AboutParenting

Pajama Mama said...

too funny! i love the irony of me screaming to my kids to stop yelling,

Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates said...

It's nice to see you here! Oh, it's all so true!! I use the Because I Said So a little too often and my son can't stand it - he wants an explanation (which is exactly how I was!).

There are so many things that our parents did for us that we don't fully "get" until we are parents ourselves. Thanks for a great post!