You know how you’re warned when you become a parent that what you say and how you say it will come back to haunt you? Well that, of course, is true. My mother was sarcastic and mouthy with me and I, in turn, became sarcastic and mouthy with her when I hit my teenage years and knew I was too big to spank with the wooden spoon any longer. I am still sarcastic and mouthy, and now I have two sons. I’ve tried to curb my sarcasm around them so that I might avoid hearing my words echo back at me. Sadly, I know I have not been highly effective in that arena. Although my boys haven’t yet become too obnoxious with me verbally, I’m sure that is because they are still smaller and weaker than I am and know that the punishment for backtalk in this house is swift and ruthless. They’re scared. I know, though, that won’t last forever. Sarcasm patterns tend to repeat themselves.
What I’ve noticed lately, though, is a different curse gained through my excessive use of sarcasm. Tonight I walked into the boys’ bathroom after they’d been asked to get into their pajamas and brush their teeth. Joe’s clothes were scattered on the floor, as usual, dropped exactly where he had taken them off. I called downstairs and told him that his clothes were not where they belonged. Then, I went back to doing what I had been doing and forgot all about my request. About a half an hour later I walked past their bathroom and was pleasantly surprised to discover that Joe had actually picked up his clothes and put them in the hamper after my first and only request. This is borderline miraculous. I was shocked. I wanted to believe it was true, but I started scanning my brain to try to remember if perhaps I had done it for him. I do that sometimes, and my brain is not what it used to be so I forget. After pondering it for a bit, I decided that he had in fact come upstairs and put away his own clothes. I called downstairs to let him know how happy and proud I was.
“Joe…thanks for putting your clothes in the hamper, buddy. I appreciate it.”
“Mom, I did put my clothes in the hamper,” came his whining reply.
“I know you did, sweetie. That’s why I said thanks.”
“Oh…I just thought you were being sarcastic again,” he said.
So, this is what my sarcasm has gotten me. Damn. Now my kids don’t even believe a simple statement I make. I guess I never thought about that possible outcome when I let sarcasm rule my home. I’d like to say that I’m going to work harder to cease my sarcastic ways, but that would be like asking Porky Pig not to stutter. It’s just not going to happen. So, I will merely try to appreciate their efforts genuinely and more often so they don’t assume obnoxiousness over honesty. That should help. Or, at least it won’t hurt.