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Parenting Is So Cliche

November 29, 2010

I’m a person who prides herself on the art of articulation, on poetry, on recognizing the beauty in language. On deep thoughts, if you will.

So why, lately, am I finding myself saying things like, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset”?

Because I have a three-and-a-half year old. And he’s teaching me that cliches were invented for a reason. Duh.

When Mr. B wants his breakfast and I’m in the middle of making it, I tell him to be patient. Waiting in a line, again, “Patience.” This is because patience is a virtue, people. And if he knew what a virtue was, you can be sure I’d be saying that phrase every half hour.

Next up, the word “never.” If I tell him he can’t have his car-shaped lollipop right now, at seven in the morning, he’ll respond, “But I’ll never get to have my lollipop.” If a trip to the park is not in the cards, it must mean he’ll never get to go to the park. Ever. When he is admonished for grabbing a toy from his friend’s hand, it must mean only that he’ll “never” get to play with it. Life is dramatic when you’re three. One must speak in superlatives. This is why someone dead, buried, and brilliant invented the phrase, “Never say never.” It freakin’ works.

Soon, I’ll be saying, “Mind your business.” Perhaps that same day I’ll complain that he “only thinks about himself.” He’ll wonder about these conflicting messages, as did I, yet there is no cliche that helps explain it. Except “suck it up.”

When he’s facing the existential dilemma of adolescence, witnessing women marrying their brothers-in-law, I’ll wistfully utter, “To thine own self be true.”

Yes, even Shakespeare becomes cliche when you’re a parent. Despite my earlier thinking, it is all about the poetry–rhyme, alliteration, simile. In fact, talking to kids is easy as pie.

Not only have our phrases become cliche, but so has our lifestyle in the deJana household. According to Mr. B, all girls either are or want to be princesses. I don’t talk or think about princesses at all, yet I was supposed to be one for Halloween. What else would a girl possibly want to be in this stereotypical, gender-constructed modern suburban existence? (And really, if a prince or one of his courtiers would take me to dinner, feed me strawberries and let me get my nails done, I surely wouldn’t complain.)

He is all–”Fireman to the rescue!” “Superman!” “Daddy, going to work” in his makeshift tie.

I am all–”Welcome home, you must have had a hard day,” while I change the sheets and sort the laundry in my faux satin slippers.

So in order to keep our creative, original juices flowing in chez deJana, we’ve taken to making up stories at the dinner table instead of focusing on the vegetables he’s loathe to eat. Mostly, the stories involve giants and princesses. They tend to begin and transition with the phrase, “One day.” They end with “happily ever after.” My husband throws in a bit of Marxism (“The giant works in a hotel as a launderer and learns the value of a dollar”), while I take a romantic twist (“The mirror on the wall tells the giant that he is really handsome, and finally he has the confidence to ask that waitress for a date”). In Mr. B’s version of events, the whole crew of lions and princesses and giants and bad guys goes to Madagascar.

Maybe there is hope for us yet.

Image: “Superhero, on a break” by shaferlens via Flickr using a Creative Commons license.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin Margolin November 29, 2010 at 9:42 pm

wait, do you have that Pinkalicious book at your house too? I say that line all the time: “you get what you get & you don’t get upset.” So ironic, isn’t it? This whole parenting biz. I also hear my own mother coming out of my mouth daily. Frightening, actually.

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Jana November 30, 2010 at 8:21 pm

We have all the liciouses. I like the pink one best. But I’ve also heard this phrase from other family members…. Guess it’s getting around….

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Becca November 29, 2010 at 10:37 pm

I wanna come eat dinner at your house.

But then again, I guess the grass is always greener. ;)

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Sandra November 29, 2010 at 10:44 pm

You guys are hilarious and fun! I’m coming for supper!…just so you know, the “mind your business” is coming…you have another year or two before three year old starts saying, “Why did you tell so-and-so on the phone that we’re busy today and can’t go over? We aren’t busy? We’re just sitting here.”….”Mind you business!”…

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Jana November 29, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Apparently, I’m so creative that I can recreate the rules of mechanics. I originally wrote “brother-in-laws” rather than “brothers-in-law.” That’ll teach me to type while watching a movie.

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marketingtomilk November 30, 2010 at 2:25 am

Don’t forget the most important of literary tools – repetition!
great post – and so very true.

M2Mx

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Christine November 30, 2010 at 10:30 am

Indeed. I’m quite shocked by what I hear coming out of my mouth these days. Things like “I’m warning you…” really, what am I warning them, and what truly is the threat. And the ominous counting to 3. What would I do at 3? Is he really worried I’ll get to 3. And the ever important, “Because I said so.” I remember HATING that as a kid. Now I’m using it regularly. Because really, I don’t want to have to suffer through an interrogation everytime I say no.

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marketingtomilk November 30, 2010 at 11:48 am

Oh god, count to 5, you need to count to 5, 3 is too easily reached!

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Jana November 30, 2010 at 8:19 pm

That is a truly brilliant piece of advice, M2M!

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Jana November 30, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Where were you when I was trying to think of all of these examples? You have just named so many of the ones I should have mentioned! (Good to know we’re not alone. And that we think alike. Great minds, and all that.)

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Stacia November 30, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Today, for the first time, I said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!” Oy. Maybe I need to go to Madagascar …

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Jana November 30, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Another good one! I have probably said that already. (My memory is not so strong lately.)

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Kristen @ Motherese November 30, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Is it possible that our three year old sons are in fact one in the same? My little guy’s lack of patience is driving me batty these day, especially at mealtimes. And, yes, the phrase “You get what you get and don’t get upset” has become my new mantra. I think I need to take a page from your storytelling playbook.

Sigh.

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Mom2Miles December 1, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Me too!! I find myself saying SO many things I never thought I’d say. Like “life isn’t fair” and “Mommy only has 2 hands.” There’s just no way around it, I’m afraid.

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Ameena December 1, 2010 at 10:39 pm

I love that you quote Pinkalicious just like I do.

I could have written this entire post…from patience to never. I find myself saying way too many things that I said I’d never say. I guess it’s inevitable.

PS – We were both in first class. I was too embarassed to reply in my comments section…

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Kameron December 2, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Having a 3yo is fun and frustrating. They exert their independence the only way they know how and it is usually the opposite of what we want them to do. If Nate survives to see 4 it will be a miracle. You wanna talk about the word never?? When I ask him to do something the reply is, “NO! Never!”. Oy.

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Jen @ Momalom December 7, 2010 at 12:23 pm

So many challenging parts of life–parenting included, of course–can be made better, more fun, entertaining by a good story. In our house we go round the table one sentence at a time. Most of the time the “yucky” food just gets cold, but sometimes it gets eaten (quite by accident, I’m sure) in the heat of the story. Sometimes I think these story moments are the only time my children listen to a word I say. And, really? They’re not listening as much as trying to patiently wait their turn to talk.

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Melissa (Confessions of a Dr.Mom) December 9, 2010 at 2:39 am

Oh the joys of parenthood! I have said so many things that left me wondering…who am I?

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Will S. December 9, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Some other good ones:

“Since when is life fair?”

“Quit that crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!”

“Because I’m the Dad (or Mom).”

And this one is really meant more for all of us relatively new parents:

“The older I get, the smarter my parents are.”

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Jana December 9, 2010 at 2:52 pm

These are all good ones, Will! Obviously, my memory is going, too, since I couldn’t remember to include any of these. But I’m glad you did!

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