'Wait Until Your Father Gets Home!' And Other Things My Parents Said To Me, And Now I Say The Same Crap To My Kids

by Elizabeth Broadbent
MariaDubova / iStock

Your grandmother spouted them at your mom. Your mom spouted them at you. And now, three generations later, you hear them coming out of your mouth. You’re aghast. You’re frightened. Are you turning into your mother? Rest easy. You’re not saying these things because you’re morphing into your mommy — you’re saying them because they’re true. Parental platitudes exist for a reason: They tell us something important about kids and parents and behavior. They might be annoying. They might be offensive. But that doesn’t take away from their timelessness.

I’m not your maid.

My mother told me this on an almost daily basis. She felt like she had to clean up after me, and while cleaning up after kids is part of our job, there’s a limit. You are not responsible for the swords in the dining room, the Legos in the living room, the couch cushions that somehow got dragged back to the bedroom, or the clothes on the floor. Hampers exist for a reason, rugrats. Use them.

Were you born in a barn?

The snitty answer to this is the perennial, “Jesus was born in a barn.” The snitty answer to that is “And he never left his clothes on the floor.” I always got this when I left the door open — children, of course, being incapable of door-shutting by some quirk of maturity or design. This saying works well for cups left in the living room, table manners gone awry, and clothes left on the damn floor.

Wait until your father gets home.

This is not because Dad is the head of the family, the primary disciplinarian, or some other patriarchal functionary. It’s simply because it means Mama’s gonna wait to bring the hammer down — and when she does, little Jimmy will be outnumbered, outflanked, and outyelled. We get the satisfaction of hearing our partner say, “He did what?!” and the kid gets the terror of 1) hearing that phrase from another room, and 2) knowing his ass is grass (another great mom-ism).

Mama needs a drink.

#truth #allthetime #passthewine

Seriously, no one needs a drink on the reg more than mothers. No other job asks you to deal with open revolt, screaming, feces, urine, blood, cooking, and reading Goodnight Moon for the 2,543rd time, all in one day. Then someone screams at you again.

You deserve something alcoholic, preferably with a little umbrella. Utter this phrase when someone does something so ridiculous you’re flabbergasted into surrealism. This should happen on average of once a day.

You’ll understand when you’re older.

Traditionally uttered when the catechism teaches about lust and adultery, this is a catch-all encompasses everything from sex to why you can’t let them snarf sugar to why we can’t run a zip line from the roof. Your dear child will fume at this phrase. You’ll feel slightly smug above your annoyance because this one only gets deployed when you’ve got nothing else. In fact, you might as well be the parental equivalent of throwing up your hands and yelling, “I got nothing!”

It is what it is.

My dad favored this one as a way of explaining the world. This dime store zen is meant to soothe the savage beast while making you look wise. That’s bullshit. Basically, it’s code for “STFU. I’m not changing my mind.”

You’ll ruin your eyes.

If I ever sat too close to the TV or read in the dark, my grandmother would snap at me, “You’ll ruin your eyes!” Really, it’s code for stopping something that’s driving you batty, because reading in the dark and sitting with your nose pressed to the TV is super annoying. Mothers can’t say “You should stop that because it’s super annoying,” so they revert to the ol’ ruin-the-eyes platitude. Then, if the kid needs glasses, you can always say …

I told you so.

Nothing — nothing — feels so good as “I told you so.” Mothers, in their superior wisdom and knowledge of the world, tell children the same thing over and over and over and over (like, “you’ll shoot your eye out”). Then when it happens, the trauma of the event is mitigated by the fact that I told you so (mitigated for Mama, at least). It makes things worse for the kids, and carries a “maybe you’ll listen next time, Sunny Jim.” That’s all we want, kid. For once, just freaking listen.

Just wait until you have kids.

If anything feels better than “I told you so,” it’s “Wait ’til you have kids.” It says your child is being so horrid you can’t wait to sit back and laugh at them when their child is horrid — which is, as both you and your child know, inevitable. It’s a last-ditch phrase, the parting shot in a losing battle. You’re not fighting to win at this point; you’re fighting to annoy. Still, it scores mega-points for dooming the future, condemning the current behavior, and pissing everyone off.

I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of it.

Of course, you can’t. But it seems to promise that you can. We can all agree that this phrase, like most of the ones above, constitutes shitty rearguard-action parenting. But they’re so satisfying, and this one most of all. It’s the parallelism and reference to labor that does it. You’re probably not spitting this at your kid. But take it from a platitudinal pro: It feels really, really, really good. Plus, if you utter it at misbehaving children in Target, old ladies will approve. This is some real fucking discipline, people! This is what children need today!

You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.

It rhymes. That makes it triply annoying. But it also tells a kid that they aren’t getting what they want, and they can’t do a damn thing about it, so sit down and STFU. This is your excuse for giving your yellow-loving kid the green cup, buying the second-favorite backpack at Target, or making them eat a PB&J when they wanted those damn octopus hot dogs. The sing-songy nature of this one means it works best for toddlers, but deploy it on teens for extra bitchiness.

Yes, they’re annoying. But they’re timeless, if only for their desperation to shut your kids up. Your mom used them. Your grandma used them. And now, you hear them come out of your mouth. That’s because they’re true. Don’t worry. They’ll come out of your kids’ mouths some day. You can point that out if you want to be a real a-hole.