We’ve all been there. Especially towards the end of the summer holidays or when you’re struggling to cope with early starts once the kids are back to school. One minute you’re exasperatedly trying to persuade your kids to do as you ask, and the next you’re uttering one of the ridiculous phrases that peppered your own childhood. It’s a parenting rite of passage that comes to us all.
Here are five of the silliest things from my own childhood that I’ve heard myself say to my own kids this summer…
Wait until your Father gets home
We’re not exactly an old-fashioned household wherein Dad brings home the bacon while Mum keeps house all day, so what exactly am I inferring might happen when Daddy does get home? When I was a kid this seemed to simply mean that my Mum had lost the will to deal with whatever shenanigans my brother and I had been up to.
But when we were little, smacking was deemed good parenting in some households, so to some kids this was also a thinly-veiled threat; stop misbehaving or at least get ready to run when you hear Dad’s key in the lock. These days - thankfully - it mainly means that Mum has run out of steam and is counting the minutes until another adult can help hold the fort. And open the gin.
I am going to count to three
My older kids are 7 and 9 and I STILL routinely use this ridiculous sentence on them. Bizarrely, it actually works, despite the fact that no parent ever actually gets to three, and thus no child has ever discovered what mean and terrible fate awaits them on the other side of three. Who really cares though. It works, ergo I’m going to keep using it. If it aint broke, don’t try fixing it. (I’m not sure what that really means either but it’s another staple statement from my childhood…)
Walk up and down in them
I caught myself saying this to my kids in a shoe shop this week, during a particularly fraught attempt to purchase new school shoes without having a breakdown or a financial crisis. And yes, I get that the point of this pithy little phrase is to check that the shoes your child is trying on actually fit them properly. But we all know, having obediently plodded up and down in a shoe shop as children ourselves, that a kid who r-e-a-l-l-y wants the shoes they’re trying on knows just how to make it look like they’re the comfiest, best-fitting items of footwear ever to be created. And then they’ll spend the next three months crying that their toes hurt and deliberately trying to scuff them in the playground to justify a new pair of shoes that actually fit as opposed to just seemed really cool in the shop.
You’re about to get an iPad ban
Ok, so this isn’t one from our own childhoods but I reckon it’s the 21st century equivalent of 'Go to your room!' These days the average child’s bedroom is infinitely more exciting than Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, so bedecked is it with must-have toys, treats and state-of-the-art technology. So much so, that for modern kids being sent to your room is practically a reward rather than a punishment. Thus, when modern parents get mad they’re all about resorting to banning screens. Which is all well and good except I felt like a right prat when I heard myself barking this across the multi-storey car park recently. Few things make you sound more like a pretentious parent to over-indulged brats. Still, I suppose that's an improvement on being sent to bed without any dinner, which happened to some of my friends when I was a kid. Never me, though. I was obviously never *that* naughty.
‘Ask Daddy’… followed by ‘Don't play us off against one another!’
Sometimes (not very often, mind) I actually feel sorry for my kids. One moment they’re asking my permission on something that I can’t quite make up my mind about, so I wave them away with an authoritative ‘Go and ask Daddy’. The only flaw in this otherwise excellent strategy is that my kids use it against me when they know that my answer to their question is going to be ‘no’ or indeed when I’ve already said ‘no’ and they’re hoping to find a way to circumvent that.
Off they go to Daddy, smiling sweetly and adopting their best innocent faces. Invariably in our house Daddy says yes, which leaves me outraged at my children’s insouciance and irritated with my husband’s inability to read my mind and establish that I would have said 'Not a snowball's chance in hell, kiddos'.