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     Everyone has an angry catch-phrase. Everyone. And you know what I’m talking about, too. That string of words that inadvertently flies from your mouth in a fit of panic or rage… the go-to mumblings that pour out of your mouth with no warning whatsoever. It’s the set of words you yell and then instantly look around, hoping to God that no one else other than the Almighty himself was around to witness your less than holy spewings. If you’re reading this and you’re feeling your cheeks burn with shame, then you know what your angry catch-phrase is! But if you’re sitting there feeling angelic, patting yourself on the back for not being a slave to the evil tongue that afflicts everyone else around you, I challenge you to complete this one task: Ask your children what your angry catch-phrase is. Because if anyone will know, they will. Trust me. If they haven’t pointed out your flaw yet, it’s because they’re too busy parroting your words at their siblings (only to get scolded by you for using unkind words…. Come on, you know it’s true.).

     Stupid Idiot. That’s mine. There are others I know, husbands even, (whom shall remain nameless) that require some bleeping out every time they get upset. You know who you are and I’m not here to judge. (Just remember that I’m a better person than you.) But never once did I realize just how much I say these words together until my children brought it to my attention. For one, I’m a bit ashamed of myself - partially because I shouldn’t be yelling this constantly (how old am I, anyway?), but largely because stupid idiot is just redundant and not a good use of the English language. The writer in me would’ve hoped I could come up with a wittier retort to my momentary distresses, but alas, I have fallen prey to impulsivity and reactionary behavior yet again!

     When I’ve spent 20 minutes searching for the car keys? Stupid Idiot. When I’ve lumbered to the top of two flights of stairs with an arm full of laundry, only to realize that the one article of clothing I need must still be in the dryer? Stupid Idiot. When the food scorches to the bottom of the pan, filling the kitchen with smoke, because I was too wrapped up in quizzing a little person on this week’s spelling words? Stupid Idiot. Honestly, I couldn’t even tell you if I’m meaning that the inanimate objects such as the keys, laundry, or pan are the recipients of my tongue-lashing (because once again, that would just be silliness) or if I’m reaching deeper and aiming the words towards myself for not being able to find the keys, the shirt, or for scorching the pan. The two words, in and of themselves, are not all that terrible. However, when put together – and then directed at my adopted, emotionally-challenged, self-loathing, anxiety-ridden children – my “go-to” becomes a “gone-too-far” pretty quickly.

     Two weeks ago we had an incident. It was a frigid morning, too cold for the kids to stand at the bus stop. The big kids took off in a sprint across the icy sidewalk, racing to see who would get the coveted front seat for the short trip down the driveway. Cameron won the race (despite being about as sure-footed as a duck – seriously, he runs like his thighs have been sewn together or something). With a big flourish, my oldest child flung the door open, hip-checked his sister to the side as he lunged into the van, and then slammed the car door in victory. Sadly, he didn’t check to make sure that his sister’s fingers were cleared before doing so.

     I watched as the look of horror changed to horrific pain on Taylor’s face. Her eyes were wide as saucers. Her mouth was open in a silent scream. She tugged her arm, but her hand remained stuck in the door. I swallowed my gag as I ran to her as quickly as my slippers on the ice would allow, ripping open the van door and frantically removing her winter layers until I could get to her hand. It was then, while I was inches from her face, that she found her voice. She let loose a scream that would’ve scared a ghost. After a few seconds, I was half-tempted to put her hand back in the door, just so it was quiet enough to think!

     Once I was sure that her fingers were all still attached, I looked at Cameron. He immediately began to jabber…. “It was my turn for the front! I didn’t know she was there (despite hip-checking her seconds before slamming her tiny nuggets in the door)! She should’ve moved!” And then it happened.

     “Stupid Idiot!” And no, this wasn’t directed at the van door, nor was it directed at myself. This was a full-fledged insult toward my 8-year-old. Other things followed (all the while, Taylor is wailing in the background) like “Why can’t you ever just think? Why do you always have to put yourself first? Can’t you ever just pay attention to your surroundings???”

     Ok, so now there are two crying children, I’m in pajamas with no coat and it’s like -25 degrees outside, the baby isn’t strapped into his seat, the school bus is coming, I don’t know if Taylor needs to go to the ER or not, and, oh yeah, my mother-in-law had the pleasure of witnessing the entire thing. Having an audience for your screw ups is fantastic, is it not? If Children’s Services could see me now…..

     Fast-forwarding a few hours….. Taylor lived, as did her fingers. Cameron made it to school. The baby got buckled in. I didn’t get frostbite.

     I spent some time talking with my son that night. “Cam, I am so sorry I called you a stupid idiot.” He began to cry. “That’s ok,” he sobbed. “I was stupid.”

     “Well….. ok, yeah, that was really stupid. But it doesn’t make you a stupid idiot. We all do stupid things. Take me, for example. I yell stupid idiot every time I get upset, even if it’s at my kids. Now THAT’S stupid.”

     He smiled as snot ran down his face. “Yeah, that is pretty stupid,” he said.

     Two days later, Cameron and Taylor were running for the van….. Cameron won….. the door began to close while Taylor was still in the way….. “CAMERON!!!!!!!” I wailed.

     The door halted.

     “Sorry, Mom! I’m not trying to be a stupid idiot,” he hollered.

     “Yes he is, Mom!” Taylor hollered back. “I saw him!”

     I’m a fantastic mother. Stupid Idiot.

 

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