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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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