"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mommy Lingo

Lingo—mommies everywhere use it. We repeat particular words and phrases to our children like a Gregorian chant. The sayings my mother chanted incessantly are ingrained in my memory, and unwittingly, I’ve reiterated a few of them to my own children. Perhaps these will sound familiar to you as well.

Tee-ee-eemwork—This sing-songy expression Mom gushed during any type of chore to make it seem more fun because we were working together. She coined this original “clean up” tune before Barney created the official “Clean Up” song.  You know the one I’m referring to: “Clean up, clean up; everybody, everywhere. Clean up, clean up: everybody do your share.” Unfortunately, we didn’t buy into her effort to make weeding the flower beds, dusting the bookshelves or raking the shag carpet a joyful event.

We’re making a memory—The first occasion I recall mom using this phrase, we were traveling by train through the desert of California when the air conditioning quit working. Mom hadn’t anticipated entertaining three young, cranky children in a sweltering train car for hundreds of miles.  However, she turned a sizzling situation into an optimistic opportunity. We never forgot the trip and have uttered these words many times when plans go awry.

Go ahead and do what you want; you will anyway (said with a sigh)—Mom voiced this expression specifically during our teen years when one of us wanted to participate in some activity of which she didn’t wholeheartedly approve, but couldn’t think of a good enough reason to tell us no.  Activities such as attending a dance after a football game or driving to the big city with friends weren’t scandalous, but simply made her feel a little uncomfortable. Most of the time, the sigh at the end, designed to invoke guilt, didn’t achieve its desired results. And, even when we felt a slight twinge of guilt, we took part in the endeavor anyway! 

If ________ jumped off a bridge, would you jump off a bridge?—Mom spurted this when we tried to persuade her to allow us to partake in an activity our friends were allowed to do. Spouting “Linda’s mom lets her _________” didn’t fly in our house. I take this a step further with my own kids by asking, “Do I look like __________’s mom? Guess you were just born in the wrong house.” At first glance, this phrase appears similar to the one above; however, the major difference is that this saying was used to clearly define actions that mom felt crossed the line, such as watching questionable movies.

We’ll see—Basically, these two powerful words mean “no” but are said not only to stall the inevitable but also to give moms a reprieve from the whining and pleading that ensues when the word “no” is used. This short expression may be a mom’s most frequent utterance, discharged subconsciously a hundred times a day to a badgering toddler, tween or teen.

Go Ask Your Dad—Most of the time, we asked our dad first anyway! Dad, a big mush, would consent to our desires more often than mom, who vetoed more than President Roosevelt (FDR). However, when the two finally deciphered our game, they plotted together foiling our attempts to get away with any shenanigans. Before long, “go ask your dad” resulted in “what did your mom say?” Ah, shucks—we knew the answer to that! I’ve used these words plenty of times as a stall tactic and to pass the buck.

Mommy mantras abound, don’t they? We’ve heard and verbalized multitudes of phrases. I’ve declared, “Do your best”, “be polite”, “don’t touch”, “brush your teeth”, “and remember to say thank you”, “drive carefully”. The list is endless and is no respecter of age. For some reason, we continue to reiterate long after our children are grown, married and parenting our grandchildren. It’s a habit from years in the trenches of motherhood when we are training and teaching our children to become responsible young men and women.

I know this to be true because of the words my 92 year old grandma said to my age 70-ish aunt who lives with her. Rain pelted the ground in the San Luis Obispo area where they resided. As my aunt was preparing to leave the house to pick up my mother at the airport, my grandma said, “Be careful driving in the rain!”
As sure as the sun rises and sets, moms around the world will drive their children crazy imparting short nuggets whether their children are age 5 or 50—or even older than that!       


  1. Nice post, A! How do you remember all of that stuff? I'm very impressed. Keep writing! Love you! xo

  2. You remember and related this very well. I'd like to hear what your kids say...in about 10-20 years. :-) Love you...