Sunday, 29 May 2011


Can’t imagine why I ever took English in university.  I don’t use more than ten phrases now:
“Stop that.”
“Not now.”
“Say please.”
“Go to sleep.”
“Ask your father.”
“Pick that up.”
“Drink your milk.”
“Don’t hit your sister.”
“Who forgot to flush?”

In particularly lucid moments, I have been known to utter:  “This place is a loony bin,” and “That’s it – I’m joining a convent.”

Janet is visiting with her toddler who is learning to talk.  I am critical.

“You’re making a big mistake, Janet.”

She looks worried.  “He only puts two words together, and he’s nearly eighteen months.  You think I should take him to a speech therapist?”

“Heck no.  I mean encouraging him to talk.”

Let’s face it.  We spend the first twelve months coaxing our kids to talk, and the next twenty years telling them to shut up.

“But I want him to read,” she explains.  “They say early talkers are early readers.”

“I used to read once, “ I say dreamily.  “Once I read Milton.  Now I read Munsch.  And cereal boxes with free prizes.”

She doesn’t look convinced.

“Do yourself a favor, Janet.  Wait until he’s eighteen.  What do you want him to talk for?  Once he talks, he’ll argue!”

I know all about it.  I have two daughters.  We spend every morning reworking arguments.  Practicing for perfection.  This is our quality time.

All my arguments with Natalie seem to conform to a predestined format.  Thinking there might be a way to circumvent such tiresome repetition, I have devised a shortcut.  Argue by Numbers.

Conversation should go something like this:

“Why can’t I No. 37?”

“Because Nos. 3, 5, and 17.”

She answers with a classic 34.  “Everybody else’s mother lets them…”

I counter with No. 51.  “Go ask your father.”

He abstains with a gutless 22.

I get angry.  “That’s it – I’m joining a convent.”

“Too late by about twenty years,” he smirks.


  1. Let's see, my #1 is "It's too dangerous." #2 is "It's too expensive." Making #3 "Maybe when you're older." #5 could be "It's a school night." Am I close? #22 is brilliant and has to be the classic "It's okay with me if it's okay with your mother."
    Yup, I can definitely identify with this article.

  2. You definitely pass the 'parent of a teenage girl' test! Right on the button with 22.

  3. My daughter is 21. I still use many of these phrases...even if only in my head.