Famous parental sayings…

Let’s clarify: I am not a parent. When our younger sister came along, I saw—with the wisdom of being an over-thinking ten-year-old—that being a parent was not as much fun as I thought our parents were having with the three of us—sister twelve and brother eight. I mean, first of all, there’s where babies come from. OUCH. I couldn’t (still can’t) fathom the notion of that happening. With my mom and two aunts pregnant at the same time with their various shapes and sizes, I did a whole lot of assessing in my pre-adolescent brain.

By the time I was fourteen and babysitting this trio of toddlers, I declared: I’m never having kids.

Well, that was a smart choice for me to have made. When later I moved to Montana and got to spend time around my niece (6) and nephew (3), I realized the wisdom in knowing that I did not have the parental gene required to be good at the job.

Even relishing my time as an aunt, it is with deep regret that I never got to use but a couple of these really great phrases because only a parent can deliver them with the right swagger:

“I’ll give you something to cry about.”

What the heck kind of phrase is that for a parent to use? Did we as kids stop crying in order to think: hmmm, wonder what he means by that? Did they ever provide something that brought us to greater tears? I think not. But stop we must have done because we heard this more than once.

“Go play in the street.”

We grew up on a dead-end road with maybe, I dunno, a dozen homes on it. We literally could play in the street—and rode sleds down its icy surface many a time—but still we’d look at Mom and think: huh? We’ve got acres upon acres of land around us, backed up against Cramer Mountain, can’t we play there?

Our dead end "street" in Western PA

Our dead end “street” in Western PA

“Don’t come home until lunch time.”

Always spoken as Mom handed us lunch bags. This was a signifier of summer. While Mom packed school lunches, we went to a rural two-floored school in Wehrum, an interminably long bus ride away (at least when you’re a grade schooler) and didn’t come home until late afternoon. No, these packed lunches were meant to keep us rambling about the outdoors as long as possible.

“Don’t come in until dark.”

This command was usually stated in summer, after supper and was easily accepted by us. We were busy playing games of Tag, It, or Hide’n-Seek—always best when played at dusk with the several cousins that lived on said dead-end road. We’d keep whooping it up, running around like a pack of puppies until deep night settled in, popping stars out above us undiminished by any street light. Then our folks couldn’t get us to come inside.

“Go outside and get the stink blown off you.”

What a brilliant mom-phrase! Mothers everywhere, I urge you to adapt this one. It would make us laugh, check our armpits, remember that yes, we had the requisite bath before crawling into bed the previous night, and yet, out we’d dash, happy as could be to unleash ourselves on the neighborhood.


Acres around us & the best metal slide. Wax paper anyone?

Acres around us & the best metal slide. Wax paper anyone?

“Don’t come in from building a snow fort until you can’t feel your toes.”

Okay, I’m pretty sure Mom didn’t say this, just checking to see if you’re paying attention. But build we would. Before the days of gortex and down parkas for every kid, we’d put on tights and a couple of pairs of pants and winter coats and colorful hats and off we’d go. Snowmen with families, igloo outlines, and sled riding down the huge hill our granddad rented to a local farmer. How none of us got frostbit is a bit of a wonder. Much like surviving raucous games of Lawn Jarts—back in the days before Maranda made them safer with blunted heads.

“Do you want me to build you a friend?”

This one was mostly used on the youngest of us for. With eight years between her and Joe, let alone the ten and twelve between me and Jackie and her, we were all off doing big kid and teenage things while she was hanging around in need of ready entertainment. It retrospect, she says it was a fun phrase for helping her to learn independence. I’ll buy that.

“Behave or I’ll rip off your head and spit down your neck.”

Thankfully neither niece nor nephew took their dad, my awesome brother-in-law, seriously with this one, nor did he ever say it in public where an adult might have thought—I’d better report this guy. They’d pause in whatever rambunctious activity they were involved in and stare at him for a moment, maybe considering the reality of this happening. Then off they’d run and happily play together. 

“Knock it off or I’m turning this car around and going home.”

On our way to a store and three kids invariably start fighting in the back seat. Jackie behind Dad, Joey stuck with the hump (I don’t think these spots are as problematic in modern cars) and me behind Mom. Dad would stop in a random place and glare over the seat at us, firmly stating that phrase. Since we didn’t go shopping as a family for boring things like food, this would have cancelled our adventure. We usually piped down.

“Go play for twenty minutes, then you can come back and bother us again for twenty minutes.

That’s the closest I came to a good aunt-phrase. The kids couldn’t yet read a clock, so sometimes Seester and I had an hour of peace for talking and others, five minutes. Either way, it was yet another good lesson in being an aunt that those children taught me—the joy of being around their latest creative venture when they’d run in the room to present it.

“While you’re under my roof you’ll do as I say and not as I do.”

This was an oft spoken Gilbert-daddeo phrase and usually in response to him telling us not to stupid things like smoke or start fires with gasoline instead of lighter fluid or—I dunno, think of something that your larger than life dad used to do but would never let you handle. Yep, there you go.

“What’s a ‘yabut’?”

This was also mostly spoken by Dad and if you didn’t read it aloud, you might not get that this is what “yes, but” sounds like when a little kid says it super fast, trying to change her father’s mind when he has commanded one thing or another. It would go like this: Dad: “Do as I say and not as I do.” Kid: “Yabut, I wanna climb the oak tree and jump out of it.” He’d distract us with the question, get us off on a tangent and we’d soon forget the silly thing we were attempting to convince was wise to do. At least in the short term.

Parents, aunts and uncles, we’ve got to make these little munchkins in our lives laugh and ponder and think and of course, behave.

But why do it with boring and normal phrases? Let’s keep these classics going and teach kids that being good does not equal being unimaginative! 


Read: Teach kids solitaire – the real version