The other day, my sister-in-law and I sat down to swap mom stories. We talked about the cute and funny things our kiddos had done lately, and we shared the guilty moments when we yelled too much. Then I asked her a question I’ve been meaning to discuss with someone for a while.
“Do you ever tell your kids completely ridiculous things just to get them to obey?”
She had no idea what I was talking about. Luckily, my 10-year-old daughter chose just that moment to walk up to the table and lick her sister. It was then that I decided to tell her that if she didn’t stop licking random things and/or people, she was going to end up with a tapeworm.
It’s anyone’s guess why those words came out of my mouth, but there are some moments in motherhood that cannot be explained.
Maybe the better question is why my 10-year-old thinks she should lick things in the first place. Her siblings. Her mother. Random tables. Stuffed animals she’s decided to claim as her own. OK, I know why she licks things — it’s because she knows it drives me crazy.
My sister-in-law suddenly understood what I meant. Which led me to confess other white lies that might be affecting my kids’ future adult lives.
For instance, I’m a stickler about my kids wearing socks in public places that require them to take off their shoes. My children hate this rule. They can climb play equipment better without socks. Their sweaty, sticky feet have just the right kind of traction to handle tubes and rock walls and ball pits. My solution to this, since they were very little, is to tell them if they take off their socks in public, they’re going to get a foot fungus. Now, I hear them warning each other, anytime one of them risks going without socks, “You’re going to get a foot fungus!”
Pair that with the number of conversations I’ve had to explain what a foot fungus is, and I’ve created a totally irrational fear in my children that they might carry with them their entire lives.
I’m not the first mom to use this tactic. I grew up with all kinds of crazy ideas running through my head. For instance, if I crossed my eyes for too long, they would get stuck like that. Or that if I swallowed gum, it would stay in my stomach for seven years. My personal favorite from my mom is that techno music is trying to hypnotize me.
I still get antsy when someone turns on a dance anthem. My husband makes fun of me often for demanding we change the channel if I feel vaguely hypnotized.
Wrong or right, white-lying to our children for their benefit is a regular mom right of passage. One day, they’ll become parents of their own, and either pass along these gems of mine or come up with new ones of their very own. But I guarantee, once they’ve worked out the possibly therapy-inducing consequences from their own childhood, they’ll find plenty of ways to make up random reasons for their kiddos to obey.
And when I’m a grandma, I’ll be happy to back them up.
Rachel Higginson is a married mom to five kids. She is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has received a Utopia Award for Best Contemporary Romance and Penned Con Award for Best Novella Series. She lives in Omaha.