Growing up, I remember my mother being busy pretty much from dawn ‘til dusk. Ya see, she was a stay at home mom, and my dad traveled a lot for work. She managed the house and six extremely rambunctious kids.
Below is a list of some of her Mom-isms; things she said often, and why. I’m sure you’ve heard some, if not all of these. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy this little stroll down memory lane.
Go outside and play, interpreted as one of multiple things. “I cleaned the house and would like it to remain that way for more than five minutes.” Or, “You are all driving me crazy with your bickering. If you don’t go outside—away from me—I can’t be held responsible for what might happen to you.” I guess both of these could also be considered Mom-isms.
Like a herd of elephants. Six kids, with at least one friend each, running through a house, do indeed sound like a herd of elephants. Fortunately for mom, we were usually running towards the door to go outside and play.
Were you born in a barn? This was shouted at us whenever we left the door open. Which usually happened because we were in a hurry to get outside, as per instructed. Once, with the saged wisdom of a ten-year-old hoping to garner a laugh from her friend, a ten-year-old with an apparent death wish, I responded, "You would be the one to know the answer to that question. Wouldn't you?" See, here's the thing about sassing back to my mother, you knew it was a grievous mistake the second the words flew from your lips.
Don’t run in the house; often used in conjunction with some of the above. Example: Go outside and play. Don’t run in the house, you sound like a herd of elephants. Were you born in a barn? Shut the door!
Though, often, my departure was delayed by the next Mom-ism…
Not until you clean your plate, interchangeable with, You will sit there until your plate is clean. This was often followed by her cleaning the kitchen, starting the dishwasher, and turning off the lights. Often leaving me in the dark with a half glass of room temp milk, and staring down at a plate covered with creamed tuna fish. Can you say, battle of wills?
Uck, my stomach clenches just thinking about that nasty stuff. Canned tuna, peas, and hard-boiled eggs, all held together by a sort of gray, thick, gravy-like substance. Did I mention it had PEAS … and HARD-BOILED EGGS? Canned tuna was my childhood four-cans-for-a-dollar nightmare. It’s what happens when you grow up in a big family.
She would pour that gray, lumpy mess over perfectly innocent biscuits until you could no longer see them. Biscuits that never hurt anyone! I distinctly remember sitting there, scraping the stuff off the poor, now-smothering biscuits, as if saving a small child from a cave in. Let me just say, if I came home and saw the double-boiler sitting on the stove, I immediately started looking for dinner options.
Sorry, got a little off-topic for a second. What can I say, I'm passionate about my lifelong disdain for and dislike of creamed tuna.
We’ll see; which really meant, “You know better than to ask me if your friend can spend the night when she’s standing right next to you.” She was usually leaning toward “no”, but she didn’t want to be the bad guy and say that in front of my friend. Yet, being a kid, I ignored those subtle little signals. I would come back later and prostrate myself at her feet to ask again. By then, she had either come to the conclusion of what’s one more kid in the house, or she would say “No, we have things to do in the morning”.
We have things to do in the morning. This ALWAYS meant we would be busy dusting and vacuuming our bedrooms, working in the yard, cleaning out the garage or the gutters, or any number of other manual labor tasks. My mother had a built-in work crew and she never hesitated to take advantage of it.
Clean your room. This order was usually given when the weather drove us indoors. It was her way of keeping us busy and out from underfoot—away from her. The three big boys shared one room, and you could hear them arguing about someone encroaching into their territory. “Mom, his junk is on my side of the room!” was not an uncommon refrain. I had my own room and it was usually pretty tidy. Growing up with five brothers who had zero respect for boundaries, and an inability to keep their hands off my stuff, I learned to put things away very early on. Especially after one of them slapped an ugly Gilly's Western Bar bumper sticker to the side of my toy baby carriage. The two little boys shared a room. They spent more time playing with their toys than they did actually cleaning. But they were little and cute, so they got away with it. Always. It wasn’t really about cleaning, anyway. It was about giving our mother space.
Settle it amongst yourselves. I would yell through the locked screen door, "[insert any brother's names here] hit me!" To which she would respond, "Settle it amongst yourselves". Well, since I was almost always outnumbered by at least three to one, sometimes five to one, this typically didn't end well for yours truly. I guess it was a sort of gritty street justice for being a tattletale. If there was such a thing as gritty street justice in the quiet, tree-lined middle-class suburb we lived in.
Wait until your father gets home. I don’t remember ever hearing this from our mother. Probably because her silence was far more terrifying and intimidating than any physical punishment our father could dole out. Seriously. With one look, the woman could convey anger, frustration, pity, disgust, and worst of all, disappointment.
My mom was a powerful force to be reckoned with. She was strict, stubborn (a trait I inherited), freakishly organized (hello! six kids), had eyes in the back of her head (again, six kids), and she possessed an iron will and quiet intelligence.
She was emotionally aloof, not the lovey-dovey type, or a big hugger. And the words I love you were almost said under protest as if they caused her physical pain. Looking back, none of that ever really bothered me at the time. I always just assumed I was loved. It's what was expected of parents. They loved me, and I loved them. Those were the rules. Right?
Now that I'm an adult with a family of my own, I understand her better than I ever did as a self-absorbed kid. I know she loved us and showed it in the only way she knew how—by staying married to a man she no longer loved because she had six children to raise. Remember, back then, women didn’t have the options they do now, so she had become trapped by the very life she'd spent twenty-five years building.
Eventually, she divorced my dad and went to college to become a nurse—a dream she’d set aside when she got married right out of high school. After putting her own needs and wants on hold for so long, she finally said, “It's my turn, and I'm taking it."
At the time, I thought she was being selfish. I really did. And maybe she had the right to be. Gradually, as I gained some emotional maturity, my attitude changed a bit. Through her actions, without even meaning to, she showed me I didn't have to settle for what life handed me, that I could make the life I wanted. And I did. I married a man I love, who loves me back (stubbornness and all), and we have built an amazing family and life together.
In hindsight, "It's my turn, and I'm taking it," turned out to be the most powerful and profound Mom-ism she ever uttered.