My 7 y.o has just started lying. It’s over small stuff, pathetic stuff really, and the lies aren’t benefitting her at all (I mean, come on, if you’re going to lie, make it count). From a developmental perspective I’m not bothered, I figure it’s one of those shitstorms greeting her at preteenery, but boy does it ever sh*t me.
She’s unlikely to take it into adulthood – not a given, of course. I was a terrible liar as a child and happily (or painfully) I’m now quite the opposite. The lies/fibs were mostly for self-preservation, but I had a vivid imagination as a child so I daresay I also did it for sh*ts and giggles. Like the time I told my Grade 3 class I’d been to Disneyland over the holidays and gave them a blow-by-blow description of what I did there. I don’t think at that age I’d even been in a plane, let alone another country.
As a child, I defied my mother’s theories on how she could tell if we were telling a lie. For example, “You can’t look at me IN THE EYE and tell a lie”. WRONG. I also had a really good memory and could pick up the crumb-trail of any woven lie and make it consistent. My brother on the other hand, would crumble if faced with mum’s accusatory “eye” and rarely remembered what lies he’d told so would always be called out. This is how my brother and I played out our childhood.
But when Scout lied to me the other day I flicked out the “Look at me in the eye and tell me that wasn’t a lie”. Her eyes dipped a little and she looked off to the side and said “I’m not lying”. She was clearly lying (I know it for a fact), but she insisted on saying “No” whilst being unable to look at me in the eye. I marvelled at an old theory proven.
It got me thinking about all the repeat-offenders that my parents used to whip out to bring us into line as kids. Many of them are seriously dated, or quite ridiculous, but I use them, in spite of it:
1. “Don’t care was made to care”. My husband doesn’t understand this phrase, so I like to use it where I can. It was what my mum said whenever I whined “I don’t care” and was a veiled threat that I’d get a wooden spoon whoopin’ or something. I never found out what “made to care” actually consisted of – it was a hollow response to something that annoyed the crap out of her I’d imagine.
2. “If you had another brain it would be lonely”. I was a pretty vague kid, a daydreamer (clearly dreaming my way over to my faux Disneyland) and my mother was the antithesis of it. She didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand her. There was a lot of love but not a lot of empathy. Ironically, Scout is exactly the same as I was as a kid and I’ve turned into a bloody “adult” who has forgotten what it was like to just look out a window and think.
3. “If the wind changes, your face will stay like that forever”. Yeah right. As if that meant anything.
4. “I’ll stop the car and you can walk home”. My parents actually did this to my brother when we were on holidays one year. We were in the middle of a foresty part of NSW, and Mark and I were pissarsing around in the backseat and mum and dad made this threat. I stopped whatever I was doing, but Mark kept on going, so they stopped the car, put him out on the side of the road and drove away. For about 100 metres before turning back. Taught him a lesson, but I just can’t see myself actually following through on this, even though I’ve said it on occasion.
5. “If you’re going to fight, go outside so you don’t get blood on the carpet”. My brother and I used to torture each other. Fairly typical for 2 very different siblings. Mum used to pick us up and throw us out of the house (semi-literally) where, by the time this actually happened, the heat had gone out of the argument.
6. “Money doesn’t grow on trees”. My parents were deadset savers, not spenders, and HATED waste. It is something that I brought with me into adulthood, a real appreciation for money. I use this with Scout often, along with my other favourite:
7. “There are kids starving in Africa who would LOVE your food”. I hate it when Scout turns her nose up at a perfectly good meal. It’s an ego thing as I’m an awesome cook (just ask me) but her ingratitude really gets to me. I use it a lot when I’m premenstrual and it’s usually accompanied by a high-pitched cry and sobbing. From me that is.
8. “I’ll wash your mouth out with soap and water”. I’d like to see you try that. Actually, wait, it was done to me when I was about 9 and I swear I stopped mouthing off for, I don’t know, a day. I said this to Scout once but then I realised how ridiculous I sounded.
9. “If [blah blah] jumped off a bridge, would you jump off too?” The answer when I was 13 was probably “Yes” so epic fail, mum. Works on my 7 year old though.
10. “Don’t come the raw prawn with me”. My dad was a paragon of archaic Australianisms and I’ve used this with Scout a couple of times, more out of frustration than anything. She’s never asked me what it meant and I doubt I’d even be able to tell her.
This list makes my parents sound like rampant disciplinarians which wasn’t really the case, but these were the kernels that I remember. I use them, not often, but it’s like a reflex action, a bout of rhetorical tourettes. Ah f*ck it – if it works, then bring it.
What phrases did you pick up as a child that you use now with your kids?