As the men-folk sat down to dinner last night, ready to spear a quarter of a cow each, and I was eating my potato, I realized I didn’t place their must-have meat condiment on the table: the omnipresent A1 Steak Sauce. Apparently, no slab of protein is complete without this mystery blend of ugh at the Heck dinner table.
“Oops! Forgot the magic sauce,” I said, as I jumped up to grab it.
My younger son:”Come ON, lady! You’re better than that!”
“What? Dad says that to you all the time!”
“You know you shouldn’t repeat anything your father says except, ‘Mom is awesome.’”
Epiphany: these kids grow up to parrot every freaking thing we say. It’s almost beyond their control. It’s like brainwashing. If they hear me say, “The world is your oyster! Don’t screw it up!” or “You play with the bull, you get the horns,” enough times, sure as I’m sitting here eating Poppycock, they will ultimately repeat it. But of course, I blame their father.
My daughter is a nurse in Baltimore. She has a long drive to and from work so she uses that time to call me on her hands-free device. Usually we talk about nothing, sometimes we discuss emergent topics, like my irritable bowel. During every conversation, she will bellow, “Come on buddy! Didn’t you ever learn that the left lane means passing?!”
I’m always stunned, and I jump a little, because this speech pattern is not my daughter’s usual cadence.
I will then continue my conversation, and in the middle of my diatribe on intestinal cramping, I hold the phone away from my ear because she’s once again barking, “The right pedal is the gas! The left is the brake! For God’s sake, man! Go back to driver’s ed!”
“Honey,” I chastise. “What is happening to you? When did road rage replace your brother-rage? I don’t like it! You sound just like … like …. your father!”
“Well, this is what he modeled for me, so it’s not my fault if I repeat it.”
“You’re an adult! You don’t need to emulate your father! You’d be much better off emulating your mother!”
“Oh please, Mom. We all repeat plenty of your quirks, don’t you worry.”
She was right; they all mock copy my Maria-isms. They constantly use the hand gesture that symbolizes talking as they reprimand, “You’re doing a lot of this, Maria. And we need you to do more of this!” and they clamp their hand shut. You know, the exact body language I used to encourage quiet during times of concentration, like during my mustache wax?
Well, karma, baby.
And recently, while we were watching a movie, my son shushed me. He told me we were playing “the quiet game.” Well that sounded familiar. I sputtered. His exact response was, “Use your words, Mom. God gave you diction for a reason.”
Huh. That did sound like me. What have I done?
I don’t care. I still blame their father.
Two weeks ago I introduced my younger son to an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in awhile. Unprompted, he shook the man’s hand and said,” How are you, sir? Good to meet you.” And then went on to make polite and innocuous small talk to this stranger. He behaved better than me.
Well. Sometimes it turns out all right. Sometimes, something good sticks. Sometimes, what we model turns out to be OK.
I was proud of him.
I blame their father.
Maria Jiunta Heck of West Pittston is a mother of three, a librarian and a business owner who lives to dissect the minutiae of life. Send Maria an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.