There are certain words in our vocabulary that I hate (which is one of them). Like, whatever, actually, yeah, uh-huh, huh, shut up, really, seriously, and “just a sec.” My daughters have become fluent in this phraseology, which makes the hair on my arms stand at attention.
Ava, you need to get ready for school now.
“Just a sec.”
Maryn, put the computer away. You’ve been on it long enough.
“Just a sec.”
And where did they get this language? Wait just a sec and I’ll tell you.
“Mom, can I go outside to ride my scooter?”
Just a sec!
“When are we going to the pool?”
In just a sec.
But the term is more than a time buyer. It’s the beginning of backtalk. And I hate backtalk. My girls don’t try it often, but I’ve noticed that they’re starting to protest a little more. They’re testing limits again. The exchange doesn’t go on long, I assure you, but it’s a frightening flicker of what’s to come in advanced teenage years.
Growing up, I wasn’t a bad kid, but I had a smart mouth. When I got into high school, I discovered my voice and used it quite often to argue with my mother on virtually any topic. I was determined to get my point across, and when I think of how I used to talk to my mother, I feel terrible. But, we were so much alike that we crashed into each other on every coming of age issue. I fear that I’ll “get mine” — as it’s said — when Ava gets to that stage. I’m ever so sure that I’ll get a dose of what I put my mother through. And I hate that thought, too.
But even though I was an expert at backtalk, there were moments when I held my tongue because I knew what would happen if I sassed her. My mother passed away almost 13 years ago, so I think it’s now safe for me to ask what ran through my mind during those heated exchanges:
“I tell you these things for a reason! There’s a reason I’m saying no!” Ok, then. What is it?
“Do as I say, not as I do.” Then why do you still do it?
“Go ahead and do your thing!” Does that really mean I shouldn’t?
“You’ll be sorry.” But why?
“Don’t come to me. I warned you.” You really won’t help me?
“Your father is very disappointed.” Because you told him to be!
“Nothing good comes from being out at 2:00 a.m.” Well, now that is correct…
“You’re going to outgrow each other one day.” You couldn’t be more wrong.
I blame my sharp tongue on erratic pubescent hormones, my mother’s 50-something menopause, and my father’s purchase of a very small house. We lived in a petite Craftsman-style home that had two bedrooms, one bathroom and one living room. If I wanted to walk off to cool down, I was still a thin wall away from my parents and their commentaries of my meltdown. When it was apparent that I should back off, I would slam a bedroom door instead. That prompted a “Don’t you do that EVER again!” reaction, and then my mother would….slam the same door.
Those were the days that my dad worked later and later at the office. The man literally ran out the door in the morning, leaving black tire marks behind his Ford Fiesta.
Eventually, the demonic teenager melted into a pleasant young lady who suddenly feared her mother because more could be taken away. I grew up rather modestly, so punishing a child (or disciplining a child…take your pick) was verbal in nature. There were no iPods, iPads or iPhones to confiscate. And my parents didn’t dare take away the television because we only had one, and that meant they wouldn’t be able to watch The Love Boat. When they couldn’t withhold material possessions, the next best thing was to withhold communication. The silent treatment was miserable.
It was a battle of wills and a fight for control for five years. I loved my mother, but I was entirely too much like her. Two positives make a negative, and we were the classic, textbook example of that fact. I’m ashamed of how badly I behaved back then, but I can only hope that my actions later in life corrected those mouthy mistakes. In many ways, she was a single parent trying to find her way through adolescence, too. And when I pressed her for answers and she didn’t have any, she’d throw up her hands and sigh.
“One of these days when you have children of your own, you’ll understand.”
Say no more.