Thursday, March 25, 2010


One day I'm tearing my hair out with this little monster that has taken possession of my daughter, and the next, I am sitting on the porch swing with her, wordlessly enjoying the sounds of the birds singing their odes to spring in trees still barren from winter. Except for the swaying, we were still. It was perfection. 

So now I'm back to full-on gushing mode: My daughter is the best! Of course, as you can tell from my last post, that isn't always the case. Some days are harder than others, and some kids more difficult, so what do we say then?

I overheard a conversation on my commute the other day between two women who were exchanging stories about their kids. “Lizzie loves to paint…Jim Bob can say his ABCs” (real names withheld, or more accurately, forgotten), and I laughed to myself. It's not that I was amused by their kids’ mad skills – knowing their ABCs by age two is nothing to scoff at since, you know, Harvard looks for these things on the application—it’s the way these parents were talking about them. They weren't just trying to keep up with the Joneses, they were trying to be them.

See, my career in marketing has honed my ability to spot BS from a mile away. Using euphemisms (and sometimes flat out lying) are very useful tools of the trade, and I have to admit, I use them unapologetically in my line of work. So, when this conversation took place, I heard words that raised all kinds of flags on my BS-o-meter. It made me think about my own past conversations, and I realized that while marketers have their own jargon, we parents have ours too.

Here’s a sampling of the lingo used to negotiate tough situations and what I think they actually mean: 

What we say  -  What we mean                   
He’s strong-willed  -  He’s a brat
She’s independent  -  I can’t ever get her to listen to me
He is energetic  -  Hide anything in the house that breaks, including your grandma
She can be bossy  -  She's the playground bully
He is happy as a clam  -  He is a little slow on the uptake
She knows what she wants  -  Have you seen her temper tantrums?
He has a healthy appetite  -  He is the childhood obesity poster child
She is a picky eater  -  I’m forcefeeding her
He does XXX for the most part  - He really isn’t getting it. At all.
When she's ready  -  When I have the time and energy to spend on this
He is complacent  -  He is very dull
She is boisterous  -  I can't take her anywhere. Seriously.
He can be a handful  -  He has one foot in the Juvenile Detention Center
She is very creative  -  She loves hiding my jewelry in the kitty litter bin

Of course, I've taken some liberties here. And I'm not saying that everyone does this. Most parents are pretty honest about their offspring - and kudos to them because it isn't easy to do, especially when the truth forces us to face our reality head on. But they may also be the same parents with manageable, even great, kids (I'm told they do exist).

As for those who don’t – well, now they have this cheat sheet.

(Today, Little Miss is the best)



  1. You know we're all raising perfect, alphabet-saying kiddos who will get into Harvard one day. (Is your BS-o-meter going off yet??) =>

    PS: That sweet face just melted my heart.

  2. Love this! And what a perfect cheat sheet. (Wish I'd had it years ago. I know marketing-speak, but when it came to kids, I generally used weary-mom-speak. 'Twasn't pretty.)

  3. Stacia my BS-o-meter is on overdrive. I think I've alienated my "mom friends" because no one is talking to me about their kids now. Just to be safe, I think. Shot myself in the foot with this one.

    Big, so glad to have you here - I'm such a "big" fan of yours (Sorry, that was pretty bad. That's what happens when I'm gushing). Weary-mom-speak begins at about 4pm at our house, and then it tapers off to unintelligible at about 8, so I totally know what you mean. Marketing-speak is saved for special occasions, like when you're hanging out with a mom you don't like. :)

  4. Hmmm... I've used many of these on your list. What does this say about my boy? What does it say about me? A great laugh! Thanks!

  5. Wonderful post, JT. Competitive moms are such a drag. I think there is a way to be really proud of your kid - and even brag about him a bit - without it turning into a contest with other moms. I think I default to not talking about my kids with some other women because I don't want to give them the opening to judge and compete - but then, if we're not talking about our kids, I realize we don't have anything left in common!

  6. Kerry, it says some days our kids are great, and some days...not so much. And we do what we can to survive those.

    Kristen, I have to agree with you. I think it's healthy to exchange notes about our kids, but I've seen it happen where moms take that too far and it gets ugly when the kids themselves are treated like some sort of trophy.

  7. hey Justine, wow...time flies. you're actually back in your "home" country already? just read all your previous posts. lovely writing and makes everyone fall in love with Little Miss. :) for all that BS talk, tonnes here in the land of "kiasuism." I just hope I don't get caught up in it, but I admit sometimes I do.

  8. This is a great post and one that I might link back to this week. It's been a hard week at my house and can totally relate to the emotional roller coaster you hint at. It is a crazy time of life. I do have to admit that I use parentphemisms, but usually when I am trying hard to remind myself that there are positives to these insane qualities. Does that make sense? I rarely gloat about my boys to keep up with others, what's the point, right? But staying positive is definitely a goal of mind, and not always easy to do when getting yelled at, whined at, or even hit many times in an afternoon.

    And on the Joneses front...I remember this mom whom I nicknamed "Competive Jane" (not her real name) because all she did was ask, can your boys do (blank) my son is? Ugh!

  9. Martha - sometimes, depending on the company, we can't help but get caught up in it. It's frustrating, but I guess at the end of the day, knowing that we don't need our kids' amazing abilities to validate our abilities as parents should help us sleep well at night.

    Once Upon, Competitive Jane sounds like a couple of moms I know who arrange playdates just to see whose kids can do what. It is irritating. We do the best we can, and even then, when people make these comparisons, it feels like it just isn't enough. Like parenting isn't difficult as it is, now they have to make it into a competitive sport!