As the mother of three teenagers I am an expert in angst. First theirs, then mine, then theirs, and soon. As a result I’ve developed an offense I’d like to share. Keep in mind that I’m just an everyday explorer into the teenage mind, like Lewis & Clark, and Marco Polo, I’m navigating as I go.
#1 – remove the words ‘you said’ from their vocabulary. Our children do not understand that when you said you would finally take them to Disney World you were trying to figure out the bills, your stomach was growling even though your pants were too tight from stress eating all week, the dog just threw up on the carpet, the TV was too loud and the one person you don’t want to talk to just showed up on your Caller ID. Of course you agreed! You would have agreed to anything just to stop the noise … and your kids will not forget that that you did.
#2 – it’s unacceptable to start a sentence with s/he. I hear them going at it like two angry cats in a closet. Then it’s over and one of them comes to me in a rage. “Did you hear that?” she says. “Yes,” I reply. At this point they are forbidden to start any sentence with the word ‘she.’ This sometimes gets them so angry with me that they forgot they were mad at each other first. One of them once told me that is was their combined frustration with me that will make them bond forever, so score one for mommy.
#3 – you must never ever say the words ‘at least’. Recently one of my kids found a stain on her pants. We were on the way to school and it was too late to change. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me and I thought about saying “at least it’s small” or “at least it’s not on your shirt,” but I was silent. Had I said any of those things she would have sent a death ray from her corneas to the spot between two eyes because she is certain of only this. The stain is all anybody will talk about for weeks to come and there is absolutely no bright side. Just look at her with empathy and say nary a word. Even though her unhappiness gnaws at you, don’t do it, and resist the urge to buy her new pants. It won’t solve the her problem and you now have to take her shopping which wasn’t in the expense budget for money or your time but, if you do make this mistake I hope that you have already removed the words “you said” from their vocabulary like I suggested in tip number one.
I wish I had more, and I wish I was better at being the referee, therapist, doctor and credit card donor in my family but I’m doing my best. Is it worth a try at least? Maybe, but I can’t say that either, since I’ve already vowed to at least never say the words ‘At Least.’