“I’m thirsty!” “I need a snack!” “What’s for dinner tonight?” “I don’t eat that.” “You unwrapped my cheese slice, and now it’s broken!!!” “I asked for grapes 10 minutes ago!”
I’ll wager that any parent with children over the age of 3 has heard at least half of these declarations from at least one small person in their household (and mostly likely all within the past 24 hours). All of these are, in fact, direct quotes from the gorgeous little geniuses that I grew in my uterus.
They are usually split into two categories—the demands, and what I like to call the “customer service” complaints. The customer service complaints are my favorite—when the little darlings complain that I have not adequately provisioned the household (FYI kids, I’m not psychic. You need to actually tell me when we are running dangerously low on your favorite toothpaste/snack/tissue/favorite fruit du jour). Or when they complain that food items, responses to questions, or requests for assistance with something that usually involves a freakish amount of masking tape, are not served up as quickly as desired.
And then there are the playdates, when a child you have not gestated and birthed delivers the same demands, complaints, and declarations.
It is all enough to make a mom completely lose her shit.
That is, until I invented my, “Yo bitch!” rule. It’s simple, really. Any statement, question, or declaration that could possibly include the term, “Yo bitch!” needs to be rephrased. Period. Full stop. I don’t care who you are or where you live. You don’t talk to me like that. And you know what? It works almost 90 percent of the time. Which is a pretty decent amount. Enough, at least, to keep this mama from doing anything that might bring family services to the door.
If you look at any of the statements, declarations, or questions in the first paragraph, you will see how it works. “Yo bitch, I’m thirsty!” Not cool. “Yo bitch, I asked for grapes 10 minutes ago!” Equally not OK.
So then what? Whenever someone under high school-age violates the “Yo bitch” rule in my home, I take a deep breath and use a phrase a wise mama friend taught me a long time ago: “Try again.” Other variations include, “Can you restate that in the form of a question that doesn’t make me feel like your servant?” or, “Can you ask for that a bit more nicely, and maybe with the word ‘please’?” And I apply it across the board. It takes a village, and even a visiting child is not exempt; I look at it as a service to humanity.
Two important things to bear in mind when applying the “Yo bitch” rule:
1. The kids must NEVER know about the “Yo bitch” rule. Ever. Maybe when they graduate college. Maybe. Knowledge is power and they WILL find some way to use it against you. (Remember the time they caught you sneaking M&M’s right before dinner?)
2. This only works with kids age 3 and up. A toddler or 2-year-old doesn’t give a crap about your feelings and will most likely not have the language skills to either comprehend or rephrase anything they say. But, you can still use the “Yo bitch!” rule in these circumstances as well. Just a bit differently. When my little princes were younger and issued royal proclamations that violated the “Yo bitch!” rule, I would just rephrase their royal commands under my breath. “I want juice now!” became, “Beautiful Mommy, can you please get me some juice?” A sippy cup tossed at my head while driving with a loud, “Take my cup, I’m finished!” became, “Can you please hold my cup, Mommy? I’m done drinking for now,” followed by a somewhat stern lesson about projectiles in a moving vehicle.
It has been rather liberating actually. I’m not saying my boys have turned into perfect little gentlemen or that there aren’t times when I go all Exorcist on them or use the Mommy Laser Death Stare, but things have definitely improved.
Up next—setting and clearing dishes from the table. To date, this has been a miserable failure, but I’ll keep trying. Because we don’t have a butler.