Thursday, 4 August 2011

Things Mothers Say in Arguments

Tonight, our house was rocked by a family domestic.

Don't ask me what started it, or who. It's not important, because it ended as all family arguments tend to end; with a frustrated mother complaining, loudly, with much stomping and slamming of the salt and pepper shakers, about the same issues that have rattled the kitchen windows for years.

Her sound-offs would have more gravitas if a) I hadn't heard it 420 times before, and b) my friends hadn't confirmed, long, long ago, that their mothers all say exactly the same things.

So, with the latest round of "None of you care!" ringing in my ears, I canvassed Twitter. Humour me, I said, what are your mother's favourite lines in an argument? And you know what? It all sounded very familiar:

"When you're my age / a mother / have children you'll understand"

It seems to me that fathers, sons and daughters will always let a mother down consistently in one area: we don't understand. And god dammit, they're right! Because I don't understand what's going through a 60 year old mother of two's head any more than I'd understand a book on nuclear physics written entirely in hieroglyphics. And thank god, because with all the woes they betide, it sounds bloody mental.

    "If you don't [insert command here] I will [insert threat here] and that is NOT an idle threat THAT IS A PROMISE"

    Yahuh. Yep. Promise. Not threat. Sure. Completely. No! Really, mum, we believe you. (everyone else, see below)
      "I might as well just leave you all and go live on my own"
      "I'm leaving" followed by much storming around the kitchen, but no leaving.  

      Let's be honest. After 26 years of the same threat - oops! sorry, promise - you'll know for certain: they ain't goin' nowhere. Think of the mess we'd make of the kitchen. Speaking of which...

      "Well if I don't do it, no one else will" 
      "I'll just leave you to live in your own mess shall I?"

      You've just finished cooking up a feasty din dins. Pots, pans and vegetable bits abound. As you settle down to eat, in walks the mother. Having eyed the cluttered surfaces, she begins to clear up. "Leave that" you say, "I'll do it". Oh, no, you, sodding, won't. Quite whether you're supposed to let the food go cold in favour of cleaning up isn't clear, but one thing's for sure: a sink of unwashed items is the red rag to the proverbial bull. @cjwalker concurs: "we get the 'leave you to live in your own shit' line too." Don't we all.

       "When I was your age I was married with three children, isn't about time you grew up?"  

      (See also, "In my day...")

      Ah, the great generation gap. This is akin to me telling the Post Office "if an e-mail can get from London to Australia in 5 seconds, why does a letter take three weeks? Time you grew up, Post Office. Time you bloody grew up." It stands to reason that what with times changing and everything, a portion of your parents' lives would have taken place in an entirely different cultural, social, economic and technological era. Some call it progress. (M)Others use it as a line in arguments.

      "You treat this place like a hotel"
      - the entire world

      To prevent structural damage, do not follow with "...and with customer service like this, just be thankful we don't rate our stay on TripAdvisor, arf arf". @rabbitinahat adds "My Dad was a fan of that one. He also referred to my friends as my "cronies"". Ah, when it comes to belittling your children, nothing wrinkles those youthful foreheads like an 18th Century term of address.

      "If you don't like it you can always move out"

      Usually prefaced by "It's my house, my rules", this is the ultimate threat; the child silencer. Unless, that is, you have indeed already moved out. Although as Leigh continues, "She forgets that she would only eat beans on toast and cry without me". What's that about being careful what you wish for?


      So you see, this is overwhelming evidence that in an argument situation, the best thing to do is just smile, nod and shut the hell up. Because you don't understand. You can't understand. You won't understand. But my guess is, the minute you find yourself uttering any of the above phrases - you probably will.

      PS.  More corkers included: "If I had my time all over again I'd have had 3 German Shepherds" - @daisytoo, "Not my mum, but my dad likes: '...with your track record' quite a lot. Usually in ref to something I did up to 20yrs ago"- @tommyflisher,  "You may think you're right, but I KNOW I'm right." - @MissPickle109 and "When I'm dead and gone you will wish you had washed the dishes/hoovered/babysat for your poor mother" - @EllaBeCool.
      Brilliant. Feel free to add yours below.


      Miss Milk said...

      "You treat this place like a hotel" - this was my mother's basis for kicking me out at 18.

      She has since mysteriously forgotten the whole thing.

      Breeza said...

      Mothers! I'm totally stealing the "you need to grow up and settle down"- whole post office thing. Love it!

      Anonymous said...

      I was in labour for 40 hours to give birth to you.

      modelofamodernmajorgeneral said...

      My gran still says many of these things to my mum.....

      AFC 30K said...

      My mum moved out when I was sixteen. I hadn't spoken to her for a tear before that. That was 24 years ago. My dad and I had a really strong bond; no arguments at all, just wise words of wisdom which I listened to (Most, many years after he said them I admit but there you go...)

      I'm glad I missed out on all of this crap.

      Amy said...

      I wish — I WISH — my mum would say things like this to me.

      Instead she goes into a deadly quiet silence that lasts for two or three days. We know from experience that saying or doing the wrong thing will cause a massive explosion akin to Eyjafjallajoekull last year. However, we don't know what this wrong thing is. It could be leaving a pan on the side, or it could be asking her what she wants for dinner.

      Either way, it's terrifying. Completely and utterly

      Anonymous said...

      I have to say all the quotes here make your parents sound like a right bunch of gits.

      My mother decided to walk out when I was eleven years-old. It would have been nice if she'd taken the time to mention that and ask if my sister and I wanted to go with her. Apparently it slipped her mind or, like so many, she put herself first - after that's what you're supposed to do, right?

      Two years later I came home from school to find my sister gone with a note to say mum had come to collect her (secretly) whilst I was at school and she was off to live with her. Nobody asked me if I wanted to come too. Someone had to look after my father who was in the clutches of alcoholism at the time. He's better now - in the sense that it does not rule his life although it cost him a later marriage before he got his head around it.

      My father always used to say "because I told you to" whenever he gave me some order or other which I questioned. I never say that to my daughter. I also checked the list of things here and I don't say any of them either. I'm not sure if it makes me a good parent - but I'm not as crap as many that prove the point that the required skill level to *become* a parent is much lower than the level required to be any damn good at it.

      All true...unfortunately.

      Paper-Rock-Scissors said...

      This is so enlightening, I never knew all mothers say those things. My sister and I used to also get "I wish I'd had boys" in response to bringing our boyfriends round who would of course be on their best behaviour. We would just roll our eyes across the dinner table at each other and say.."so do we mother, so do we."

      Paper-Rock-Scissors said...

      Oh I almost forgot the best one I ever got "You know your birthday is not just about you, I went through a lot that day, so it should be as much about me" - I nearly fell off my chair with that one.

      Anonymous said...

      I'm not being deliberately horrible (honestly), but you'll look back on this post in two decades and realise how childish, petulant and ungrateful you sound. My husband's mum died when he was 20 and he would LOVE to have her around to say all those things to him. [Anonymous to protect his privacy, not me getting flamed.]

      Anonymous said...

      @Anonymous - I don't sound childish or petulant so saying "you all sound" is a bit of a generalization isn't it?

      Apart from me - nobody has said "and because of this I hate my parents and wish they were dead" (incidentally I don't hate either of my parents either, everybody has the right to be human).

      You're linking, anonymously "to protect your husband's identity" the light-hearted comments about daft sayings of parents with the fact your husband's mother died. MAJOR GUILT TRIP emotional blackmail.

      It's a light-hearted blog about parents saying annoying things - not a denigrating slight on your husband's dead mother and to suggest otherwise is ridiculous. It made me think back about my childhood and realize that I didn't really get that kind of commentary from my mother (although my dad did and does come out with some classics) - but that doesn't mean that anyone else is being "childish and petulant" you judgmental skulker.

      modelofamodernmajorgeneral said...

      "judgement skulker" - for the win!

      I'm not going to scribble on Jo's blog - it's a bit rude - just going to say I think the vast majority of us understood the tone of the original post.

      Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...


      I'd like to second what Punctuation says, and also add this:

      Read my final statement. This isn't about mother bashing. It's not disrespecting anyone who's lost their mum. It's me being 26, and acknowledging that when I'm a mother myself I'll probably know exactly what my mother is on about when she says these things.

      This is a personal blog. Are you saying that if I have an argument with my mother, I'm not allowed to blog about it in case someone who's reading has lost a parent and I come across as not realising how lucky I am?

      Do you ever say you hate your job? Well, please don't. Because I'm unemployed, and you'll look back one day and realise how ungrateful and petulant you sound.

      See how ridiculous that is?

      In fact, you know what? I'll read this blog back in 20 years and go "God, I wish I had time to sit down and blog like this. But I don't, because I have to clean up after my ungrateful kids. No one ELSE is going to do it"


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