I didn’t really see it coming, and it’s been a gradual progression rather than a sudden trip to Oddville, but it’s evident in the words that now leap from my mouth in an effort to
nag motivate my child to do—or not do—certain actions. They are phrases that I’m sure most moms say, but ones that I specifically remember being delivered via the lips of my own mother. I have adopted them into my own vocabulary and wield them without a second thought nowadays, and whenever I hear myself repeating one of these sayings that peppered my childhood, I’m always a little taken aback. When exactly did I become my mom?
Here are a few examples of “momisms” that my mother used to say to me—and which I now preach to my own daughter, unfounded (and occasionally even untrue) as they may be:
“Let’s dry your hair. You’ll catch a cold if you run around with a wet head.”
Really?! Cold germs are spread through droplets expelled through the noses and mouths of affected people when they cough or sneeze, or by touching surfaces contaminated by such. No medical journal I’ve ever read has mentioned wet hair as a cause for susceptibility to a cold. Yet I say this to my daughter constantly even though I know it’s completely illogical, as though the hair dryer emits invisible waves that create a force field around her little head and somehow this will prevent her from getting sick.
“When I was a little girl, I would never have done/said __________.”
When Harper is acting up, these words come flying out of my mouth so fast, I don’t even have a chance to consider the fact that they are utterly untrue. My mom and I have always been extremely close, but I am wholly aware that I was not an easy child. I know that I’ve said and done many things to her that were simply awful—and those are just the examples I actually remember. But my mom spent a lot of my childhood convincing me that she NEVER acted or spoke to her mother in such a way—even though I somewhat doubt that now that I’m a parent. And now my daughter hears the same one-sided tale regarding the child version of myself whenever she’s being a total stinker to me: how I never acted that way to my mother when I was little. Absolutely not! I was sweet, considerate, and never ill-behaved, and I polished my halo before bed every night. Riiiiiight.
“How do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it?”
“But I don’t like it!” is perhaps the most annoying thing you can say to a chef before your taste buds have even had a chance to play the jury. I was a picky eater as a child, and I would often decide not to eat something based on the mere sight of it, so I get why my mom said this. Even more-so now that I have my own little food diva at the dinner table.
“We can argue about this until the cows come home, but the answer is still no.”
Couple an intense personality with my being an only child for the first eight years of my life, and you can bet that I didn’t accept the word “no” easily. Fiercely debating my position was pretty commonplace when I was younger. As luck would have it, my daughter is similar: an only child with shark-like determination who genuinely believes her opinion carries equal weight to mine and my husband’s. So, her arguments are often met with the exact same saying my mom used with me, despite the fact that I don’t even understand it. Where exactly are the cows? Have they traveled somewhere far away from their home? Are they ever coming back? And that aside, why is the cows’ return our measuring stick, here?
“Look at this room! It looks like a pigsty in here!”
For being a city woman with no farming experience whatsoever, my mother sure enjoyed inserting barnyard animal references into her sayings. And apparently I do, too, because I routinely use the pigsty comparison when addressing the state of my daughter’s play room. It’s silly because it makes no sense whatsoever—unless pigs are known to leave their pens scattered with princess dolls and dress-up clothes, of course—but that doesn’t stop me from saying it.
“‘WE’ do not __________.”
No doubt there are dozens of articles out there that discuss the psychological benefits of prefacing a command with “we,” but this is not why I do it. Rather, it is simply out of sheer habit from listening to my mother word things this way my entire life. Admittedly, it does sound better: “We don’t run inside the house” is easier to accept than “don’t run in the house.” That little “we” adds this sense of camaraderie and uniform rule—e.g., we’re in this together! What’s funny about it is that two people must be involved to comprise a “we,” and yet the sentences that I’ve begun with “we” when dealing with my child entail things that I, as an adult, would never do. “We don’t drop miniature princess figures into the toilet, do we?” “We don’t put jellybeans in our nose.” “We don’t ask for cookies 15 minutes before dinner.” “We don’t have a meltdown at HEB because we don’t get what we want.” “We don’t eat food that has fallen on the floor.” All right, I confess: that last one might be legit. Mommy honors the five-second rule on her own floors.
“Back away from the TV a little bit. You’ll ruin your eyes.”
When I was a child, before the age of flat screens or wall-mounted TVs, before we had computers in every room, before the Internet or iPad or cell phones (are you feeling old yet?), I sat Indian-style and watched Saturday morning cartoons about six inches away from our living room television set. Threats of ruined eyesight loomed, despite my having 20/20 vision growing up. And now I catch myself saying the exact same thing to Harper, even though I’m 99% sure there’s no medical proof that one’s eyesight is affected by watching TV up close as opposed to, say, 20 feet away. Also? Here’s a wonderful example of irony: I usually say this to my daughter while I’m perched on the couch catching up on emails, checking Facebook, or perusing Zulily…with my laptop or smart phone screen merely inches away from my face.
“You better change your attitude, young lady.”
If I had a nickel for every time this was said to me when I was little and every time I have since repeated it to my child, I would be a millionaire. OK, I would at least be able to blow a couple hundred dollars at Target.
“Call me whenever you get there just so I can know that you’re safe.”
Ever since I’ve been old enough to carry a cell phone, my mom has insisted that I check in whenever I reached my destination. I’m 33 years old, and she still says it—even when I’m leaving her house less than 10 miles away to return to my own. Granted, my daughter is only five years old, so to my knowledge she is not yet driving anything besides her Power Wheels dune buggy, but I catch myself echoing my mother’s words and sentiments whenever my husband leaves on a business trip. “Text me when your plane lands, OK? Call me whenever you check into your hotel, all right? Text me whenever you get back from your business dinner, deal? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, JUST CALL ME SO I CAN STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOU, MMMKAY?!”
Contrary to the hope that it implies, “we’ll see” was a phrase my mother reserved for two occasions: (1) when the answer was absolutely, unequivocally “no” but she had little desire to fight that battle at the current moment; and (2) when the outcome depended solely upon my completion of something (e.g., “Mom, can we go get ice cream after dinner?” “We’ll see how well you eat your pork chops.”) I, too, have adopted this phrase and regularly turn to it in the exact same circumstances. More often than not, though, “we’ll see” serves as my code word for “not a chance, my precious little one.”
“I love you more than anything in the world.”
She said this one a lot, too—enough for me never to doubt how special I was to her or how much she treasured being my mom. And now, when I tuck my five-year-old daughter into bed every night, I tell her the same thing, in hopes that she always knows that, despite my quirky sayings and motherly nagging, my love for her is constant and consuming, and she will always be at the center of my world.
It may give me pause to think that I am starting to sound just like my mother, but when I think about my mom—who she is, what she stands for, what she values, and what she has taught my brother & me—I realize: Becoming like her is a pretty cool thing. In fact, it’s an honor.
Happy Mother’s Day to my mom and ALL the moms out there!
What are your favorite “momisms” that your mother used to say? Do you ever catch yourself repeating these to your own kids?