Like the parental broken-records we are, we all have phrases that we are forced to utter to our children, sometimes several times a day, in the hopes that one day they might stick, and be absorbed and adhered to on a more permanent basis. Will our children ever hear us, really HEAR us, where these things are concerned? In my experience, probably not. But we can dream, can’t we? We can dream.
And so, in the spirit of dreaming, here are the phrases I hate the very most, and would love to not have to say ever again to my children. Some of these come out of me several times a day, others every so often, but the frustration is still as palpable, no matter how often they make an appearance.
1. “It’s not a contest!”
For my children, EVERYTHING is a contest. This is the most frustrating thing ever, because it means that 75% of the fights that my children have are fundamentally ridiculous and make no sense, because they are based on unspoken contests that my children create in their minds in a constant quest to be better than their sibling. Today I actually had to console my daughter after my son said, provocatively, “Well, I guess I’m the one who held this bubblegum in my mouth for the longest!” My daughter collapsed in immediate tears, because, of course, she wanted to be the one who held the bubblegum in her mouth for the longest. And then it falls to me to help them sort out these nonsensical arguments with compassion and sensitivity to their tears. This, predictably, is quite difficult after the billionth time it has happened.
2. “A, please don’t take advantage of your sister.”
This is one that usually changes a bit, according to the situation. Yesterday, it was this: “A, please don’t try to sell the food in the cupboard to your sister!” This situation came about after A decided to build a “vending machine” out of items he scavenged from our recycling bin. After creating a giant mess of tape and cardboard while constructing this, he tearfully decided that he did not want to use his leftover Halloween candy for this venture, because that was “his candy.” I mentioned to him that he might have to go to the store then, and buy some candy for his machine. Instead he came up with the great idea of having his sister, his only customer, empty her piggy bank on the stuff he could simply find, for “free”, in our kitchen cupboards. Genius. Even better, both kids were SUPER KEEN on doing this, so I had TWO crying children to cope with after I nixed this, my son’s very first capitalist venture. S: “But I WANNNA give A all my money from my piggy bankk! Unghhhhhh! (Cries inconsolably).”
3. “S! Get off your brother!”
It didn’t take long for my second child’s brute strength to surpass her older brother’s. And so, if playing together ends in fisticuffs of any kind, I always know which child is going to come out on top, literally. I realized that this might end up being the case when he was almost three and she was three months. I wandered into the family room to find him perched on top of her, using her as a “rowboat,” while she smiled gleefully at him, unfazed by the fact that his entire weight was on her. That occasion marked the last time that she ended up as the “rowboat.”
4. “Please be gentle/mindful!”
I know I am not the only one who uses this phrase on the reg, but this is one of those ones that would be amazing if it would just STICK after the first hundred times we’ve said it, am I right? Sometimes I feel like my children are tiny, weaponized robots with heat-seeking, elbow-missiles whose job it is to find their way to the most tender and vulnerable areas of their parents’ bodies. I have been jabbed several times a day with these missiles, usually in the same tender area—and I have the bruises to show for it—while they have climbed on me, putting their full weight on whatever horizontal surface of me that they can find. I know they mean well, and that they just want to get as close to me as humanly possible, but it is my goal, my destiny, to teach them where they end and where I begin, and also that I do indeed have nerve endings and am not just a bean bag chair who brings them snacks. This … is a work in progress.
5. “Quiet contest starting now!”
This is a feeble attempt, and I know it, and it only works for a few seconds anyway. But why not use their penchant for contests as encouragement to give me 3.4 seconds of peaceful silence while I drink my coffee? I have weighed the consequences, and those 3.4 seconds are worth the fight that happens afterward over who has “won,” trust me. Besides, Mommy is the winner of that contest, anyway. Every time.
There you have it! Those are mine, what are yours? Please share them in the comments below! You’ll feel better—trust me!