If you look up the dictionary definition of momism, Webster paints a rather dark picture of overprotective mothers who unconsciously prevent their children from emotionally emancipating. It also has Freudian overtones. Other definitions include helicopter parenting, and questions a mom asks their child after school. These are all more negative than what I had in mind for this week’s post, which is really about common things moms said to their children when they were growing up. So our definition will be as follows: momism, noun. Something a mom commonly says. Or in this case, said, to her offspring. My memories are from the 60’s and 70’s, but many of them have become classics used on succeeding generations.
I am not sure how these phrases became so well known. It’s almost as if some moms got together in the late 50’s for coffee, and developed phrases to use during their child rearing years. It must have been quite a feat of networking, because these are so common most people will recognize them. Or maybe they were written about in one of the women’s magazines of the day. Whatever happened, they spread. So here they are, in no particular order.
You had better stop looking like that, or your face will freeze with that expression. See that grumpy teenager in the photo? A prime candidate for this classic. I was kind of a master of grumpy expressions between ages 13 and 18, and am happy to report that my face didn’t ever freeze. But I had many chances for it to happen.
Children should be seen, and not heard. I mentioned this one in a prior post about laughing at the wrong time. But it didn’t apply if you were introduced to a long lost relative or your parents had friends over. You could be seen and briefly heard under those circumstances. You were expected to greet said guests, call them by an appropriate name ( Mr. and Mrs. Smith- no first names), answer any questions ( usually your age and grade in school) and then excuse yourself for the duration of their stay.
Don’t sit too close to the tv or it will damage your eyesight. Television was the new fangled technology of our growing up years. My mother was convinced it would damage her older children’s development and didn’t buy one when they were first available. They were also very pricey. But by the time my brother and I came along, she dropped her opposition. But you had to sit far away, and leave the lights on. Because low light was a hazard too.
Eat your food. There are starving children in (insert country). Not to make light of a real concern, because hunger is a problem, but this just didn’t work. None of us could figure out the connection between our not eating some despised vegetable and hunger in another country.
If your friends were jumping off a cliff, would follow them? And its cousin, I don’t care if Susie’s mom is letting her do that. You aren’t. These commonly popped up in the early teen years, when doing things with friends, and plotting ways to get out of the house to see friends, became paramount.
We all have to do things we don’t want to do. Maybe, but that didn’t stop kids from complaining about chores or anything else that interfered with being with our friends. And because house cleaning, and bedroom cleaning, were so incredibly dull and boring, this one was also used a lot.
Many hands make light work. This one was actually true and could cut down on the complaining about cleaning the house. It was especially true in large families where you needed a lot of help just to get everyone fed and dressed, much less have a clean house.
When you have your own house, you can do whatever you want to in it. This also fits with the not wanting to do any housework scenario. I have a clear recollection of not making my bed unless forced to, and this was the reasoning. I can also report that still don’t typically make my bed. Just doesn’t interest me unless I am having company and someone will see the room. So I did eventually get to do what I wanted on this one. True story about my messy teenage room- my parent’s house was burglarized and the police thought they had created quite a mess in my room, when it was actually its natural state.
Santa is watching. Long before Elf on a Shelf, parents used this one from fall to Christmas to get better behavior out of their small children. It must have worked since it was a classic we all heard.
Because I said so. The ultimate end to the conversation. See the little guy pleading his case in the above photo? His parents were probably past the point of reasoning or explaining. Some kids are very, very persistent. This may serve them well later in life, but when it comes to asking to stay up later, or stay outside, or not do whatever they have been asked to do, it can wear a parent down. Then this phrase comes in handy.
Shut the door, we aren’t air conditioning the whole neighborhood. I didn’t hear this one much because we didn’t have central ac until I was in sixth grade. But I heard it at friends houses, and it actually made sense. The cool air was really nice in our muggy Nebraska summers. It made sense to keep it inside.
It’s way too quiet up there. If you had a two story house, and kids were upstairs without making any noise, this was not a good sign from a mom’s perspective. Something wasn’t quit right if there wasn’t a certain amount of noise. It usually involved a trip upstairs to uncover the unusually quiet activities. I remember going upstairs to check on my too quiet child and a friend, and they had filled a bathtub and two sinks full of water and bubbles, and were playing some sort of water game that also included the shower and toilet. Quite a mess.
We’ll see. The ultimate momism of all time. It diffuses the child’s allegation that you never let them do xyz, or that everyone else is doing it, etc etc. The mom isn’t saying no, so it gives the appearance that she is actually considering the request. But as any mom knows, it is the equivalent of no way, not going to happen. But is is so cleverly packaged it can prevent some negotiations with a persistent child.
As parents, it is easy to slip back into using the same expressions you heard growing up. Even if you swore you would never use them. Feel free to share any gems I missed in the comment section below Leave a Reply. The more the merrier!