When you have kids, expect to have the ends played against the middle and at some point, expect to hear the phrase "But Mom said!"
How do you handle this phrase when it’s tossed on the ground at your feet like a dare to be picked up? In my case, it depends, plain and simple. It depends on whether it’s an area in which I defer to my wife because of better skills. It also depends on whether I expect that she really has a clue as to the reality of the situation. And finally, it simply depends on whether or not I’m torqued at the child, period.
In tonight’s case, one of the kids wanted to ride back around the neighborhood in the failing light of a 9 PM evening. The initial exchange as I returned home was whether or not the child mounting his bike had actually finished doing the dinner dishes. When I had to dig, it became apparent that he hadn’t finished the dishes but instead, only "the dishes"; in his logic, all of the dishes were rinsed and in the dishwasher but none of the pots and pans had been touched. The argument started with the demand to return inside and finish the job and the phrase "But Mom said!" was dropped. But Mom said what? That you could ride because you’d finished your narrowly defined segment of the chores? That you could ride in the failing light and risk a serious accident on the street? In this particular instance, my response was a simple "I don’t care what your mother says, go back inside and finish!" Chagrined and surly, he returned to the house to finish the job.
So how do I typically handle the phrase?
- First, I never simply accept the excuse without further questions. Precisely what did Mom say? What did you ask her permission for? What information did you give her?
- Second, God made cellphones for a reason and my response if things are still unclear is to pick up and call her to verify. The reality is that kids will give incomplete information, whether inadvertant or by design, and it’s helpful to check.
- Third, if it pertains to something about which I clearly disagree – like riding a bike with no headlight at night – I’ll simply refuse. And Mom has come back to me on several occasions to determine why I refused, but she’s always honored my refusal. Likewise, if she has real reservations, then I’ll honor them if they make sense.
In tonight’s case, the bike stayed in the garage as even the teen realized that it was simply too dark to ride after finishing his chores. And boy, am I torqued.