When I was a kid…heck, when all of us were kids, our mothers had a stack of aphorisms for any occasion. When I was 10 years old, I was convinced that all new moms were given a handbook of Snappy Sayings for All Occasions as they were packing their bag in the maternity ward, because all the moms said all the same things.
Moms knew what to say about helicopter parenting: “Someday you’ll be lying face down in a ditch and you’ll be glad that someone is worried about you!” They also had fashion covered: “Wear clean underwear, in case you’re in an accident!” And the finer points of group dynamics: “Oh, so if all your friends were jumping off a bridge, you’d jump too?”
Mothers would invariably take a pass at getting us to eat our dinners by invoking the starving children in (insert country filled with children who would have been grateful for, but perhaps a bit confused by, the torrent of Brussels sprouts they would have enjoyed had I not been hogging them all).
I am no exception to this meme that has transcended generations. When my children were small, we were all horrified at the images of the starving children in the Sudan.
Several of the kids participated in fundraisers for Darfur, so I guess it isn’t surprising that one day, when one of the younger children was complaining that he couldn’t have his favorite cereal for breakfast, I lost my patience.
I sat him down on the couch, pulled out my laptop, and together we looked at pictures of little children his age who had real problems, problems far deeper than not being able to do a face plant into a bowl of Lucky Charms.
Kind-hearted soul that he was, and is, it only took about four pictures for him to promise that he would never, ever complain about cereal again.
Well, I’m pretty sure he tried never to complain again. But he did. We all did, and still do. It’s gotten to the point where, when one of us whines about having to clean the pool or the fact that the DVR failed to record “Mythbusters” again or any other first world issue, the standard response from the rest of the family is: “Yeah, I bet that the moms in Darfur are saying to their kids ‘Do I have to show you the pictures of the dad in Ahwatukee who has to wait in the drive-thru at Starbucks?’ and the kids all cry and promise to never complain again about being hungry.”
Right now, those moms are probably threatening to show their kids the pictures of the mom who has to fly on a plane that doesn’t have Wi-Fi, and is sitting wedged into a seat that would provide insufficient leg room for a hobbit, which has placed her within reluctant, intimate proximity with a nice man who is clearly suffering from Ebola and is no doubt infecting her and everyone else with some mutant flesh-eating virus.
Not that I’m complaining. After all, my mom is this very moment worrying about me lying in a ditch somewhere. And she was right: I am very glad to know that she is.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Elizabeth Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.