My friend Donna came up with this amazing idea and asked me to help her with the organizing. She wanted to host a storytelling night for parents who are writers. Her idea was to have a place for parents to come together and share their experiences through stories. It was a fabulous night, I will write a post later about the experience including the details for the next one. We called the event "The Witching Hour" and the theme was "Because I said So." Each storyteller had ten minutes to share a true story and this is how I filled my ten minutes.
There are so many things my mom didn’t tell me about being a parent. Like, she didn’t tell me that after you have kids most days you either forget to brush your hair or put on clean underwear.
And why would YOU put on clean underwear, when you only shower once every couple of days?
She Ab-so-lutely forgot to tell me how you can never sneeze again after giving birth without peeing in your pants. And obviously, she never warned me that the more kids you have, the more sleep deprived you are.
And why didn’t she at least give me a hint about how honest kids can be, especially when your muffin top is hanging out.
Most importantly why didn’t she tell me that some days you just feel like running away. And there is no where to go, except maybe to the toilet, the only room in the house with a lock.
I could go on forever. But honestly, I understand why she didn’t tell me these things. I think if she had told me even a few of these things there would be a VERY big chance I would be the 40 year-old CEO of Google right now, wearing Vivienne Westwood on my 20 year-old hot body and attending galas all over the world with my husband who thinks I am the bees knees.
Instead, she didn’t tell me, and I have two kids, my career is on hold, I barely fit into yoga pants on a good day and I rank at a close number 4 on my Baby Daddy’s love list, just behind my kids and a cold beer.
Yep, she actually knew what she was doing when she held back all this info from me.
But you know what, she may not have told me, but she definitely taught me a few things. For one, she taught me how to recognize when my babies need a mommy hug or how to love life even when it doesn’t seem to love you back.
Come to think of it, I could go also on forever listing the things she taught me. I will spare you the sappy stories of how much I appreciate my mom finally after 40 years. But I will share with you the most valuable tool she gave me for motherhood: the Parental Power Phrase.
I think all you parents out there know what I am talking about. Those really cliché phrases our parents used to say. So cliché it made your skin crawl everytime you heard it.
However, in most cases, it’s the most powerful phrase that comes out of a parents mouth. It can potentially end battles, disputes and stand-offs that probably even the big man upstairs couldn’t resolve.
And what I learned from my mom wasn’t really what she said, but how she said it.
My mother’s parental power phrase was Don’t make me stop this car. Oh my goodness to this day, the mere thought of these words makes me shiver.
You see most of time my two brothers and I got along, but there was something about the car.
Every time we got into the car it was like Saturday Night Smackdown was taking place and the backseat was the cage match. My brothers would hit, slap, argue, you name it, once the seat-belts were clicked and my mom was backing out of the driveway. It was ON!
And the first time I remember her using the parental power phrase, wow that was something.
We were all three buckled into the backseat of our Pontiac station wagon. Me, being the oldest and
the only girl, I was ALWAYS commanded to sit in between my two brothers to keep them from fighting. Yeah…that worked well.
My middle brother was the one leaning over first, instigating the fight by pinching my little brother. They were arguing back and forth. I had tried to stop the fighting by grabbing their arms, I was almost three years older and much stronger. This only made it worse and I remember hearing from the front seat, “Cut it out kids”.
But this time it was intense, they just wouldn’t stop. I could feel the car rocking from side to side each time they attacked.
My mother, gently turned off the 8 track and said in a firm voice “Don’t make me stop this car.”
Then it happened. The ultimate sin when riding in the car: My middle brother accidentally in his fighting frenzy kicked the back of my mom’s seat.
Before we knew what happened (must have been from the whiplash) my mom had pulled the car over on the side of the road.
On the way out of the car she somehow turned into this Wonder Woman like figure. She had superpowers that I couldn’t understand. I believe all three of us were thinking the same thing: Who was this woman? You could feel her frustration and anger radiating into the back seat.
My middle brother made it worse. He tried to hold the door shut when she went to open his door.
She used her superhuman strength and pried the door open. In a flash of light, she grasped my brothers face in one hand and held herself up with the other as she towered over him.
Her face was glowing red and her eyes were bulging from the sockets. She was twice her normal size, you could see the veins on the side of her head pulsing so rapidly. I thought her head would explode into a million pieces.
She held his face for a few seconds, but to us it felt like an eternity. I think we didn’t know what she was gonna do at this point. My sweet little ole mama had turned to the dark side.
After a deep breath, she asked probably the most important question in my brothers life at the time.
“Are YOU gonna make me stop this car again?”
My smallest brother and I were looking at my middle brother, pleading with him through our thoughts, just say no, just say no, just say no.
My brother immediately started crying and apologizing over and over like a broken record.
“Good,”my mother said. She gently shut his door and on her way back to the drivers seat she had morphed back into my sweet, calm mommy, who wouldn’t hurt a fly.
I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed. For the first time, I looked at my mom and thought, wow this woman is BAD ASS. And from then on every time my brothers would even THINK about fighting in the car, my mom would simply say “Don’t make me stop this car.”
Of course, as we grew older, the phrase changed with our phases until we grew up and the Parental Power Phrase was no longer needed.
So this brings me to the part of my story when I tell you about how I first tried to use my very own Parental Power Phrase.
It was back about a year ago during the Penis vs Vagina war in our house. My son had somehow become obsessed with the fact he had a penis. I don’t know, maybe it’s a genetic thing with men, but he loved to talk about how he had a penis.
One night it was pajama time and my son was getting undressed. Once he was in his "nakkie" he started taunting my daughter, "You don't have a penis! You don't have a penis! You will NEVER have one! HaHaHa!"
This was the worst thing you could say to my daughter at this point in her life. Just before the Penis War had begun, she realized she was different from her best friend, her brother. For 3 years she thought she was just like him and when reality began to set in, she really had a hard time accepting it.
Anyway, my daughter was (and still is) one tough cookie and immediately fought back, " I don't have a penis, I have a...what is it called Mama?" she said.
I said "Sweetie, it's called a vagina and we love our vagina's. It doesn't matter if we don't have a penis, a penis and vagina are equal, they just look different."
Of course I try to stay out of their battles most of the time, but all I could see was my son in 30 years: woman-less desperate, lonely. And my daughter in less years than that: A woman always feeling inferior to men. A little dramatic, well maybe, but I wasn’t taking any chances.
I was shocked at how aggressive my son was and I could see it in his eyes that he really thought everyone should have a penis because they are the most awesome things to have, next to maybe Legos or a T-rex.
Then he started chiming, "MAMA doesn't have a penis, MAMA doesn't have a penis."
Ok, so much for me being the Switzerland of the house, I felt like I had to set him straight. Not only for his future self, but also for his future girlfriends.
"Honey, a penis is the same as a vagina, they are just shaped different. Just like a T-Rex and a Velociraptor. They don't look the same but they do the same thing, eat meat. A penis and a vagina do the same thing, they both pee-pee." (I know not totally representative but I was hoping to save that convo for a few years later.)
It was like I had not said a word. He kept on dancing around, wiggling his little willy in the air and now, not only taunting my daughter, but he was taunting his very own mother.
"You don’t have a penis, you don’t have a penis.”
I'm not sure what happened to me, I guess it was my time to feel the superhuman power of being a parent.
At that same moment the tears began to roll down my daughter’s face and she said in almost a whisper “Mommy why cant I be a boy.”
And then it happened, the words popped out of my mouth like a piece of toast from a toaster: “Well Luca if there were no vaginas, then you would have never been born.”
Oh my god, I thought to myself. Did I really just say that to my five year old? What the F? Did I really go there? What kind of parent was I? Yes I did and I had to get myself out. Oh god I wasn’t ready for the whole where babies come from convo.
“Mama, babies come from vaginas?” My son asked with his eyes twinkling with curiosity.
Here we go I thought. Where is my “How babies are made book.”? Oh yeah, they are five, I was gonna buy it when they were like 16. Me and my big mouth.
“Yes Luca, babies grow in a mommies belly and then when they are big enough, they come out through the mommies vagina.”
I know not the best explanation, but remember it was on the fly.
And then the questions came from both of them, why this and why that and how did they baby get in the belly?
“Can a man have a baby?”
“No, Luca men cant have babies.”
“Like I said Luca the baby comes out of the vagina.”
“Why does it have to come out of the vagina? It can come out of the penis too Mama. It has a hole on the tip.”
And that’s when it came…my very first time using a parental power phrase.
“Luca because I said so!”
I had had enough. I was exhausted. I was defeated. And I needed out. Yes mama you taught me well.
Not sure if I had the force my mom had when she used the phrase, didn’t really matter as long as it was effective.
He shut up. The debate ended. Case closed.
However, I looked over at my daughter and could see the twinkle in her eye. I would like to think
for those few seconds she was proud to have a vagina.
And, wow, how those four words had actually done the almost impossible. I had the power and it didn’t stop there.
“Mama, why do I have to clean my room. Because I said so.”
“Mama, can I take my light saber to school. No, Because I said so.
“Mama, can…..NO BECAUSE I SAID SO.
I was on fire!
I know, I know, it won’t last very long. It wont take long for them to catch on. One of them will figure it out and will tell the other one and then my super powers will vanish.
But until then, I will rule the world, well at least my 85 square meters of it!
You might be wondering am I out of control? Yes, I am out of control.
Does it bother me? No I am loving this power.
And you know why? BECAUSE I SAID SO!