The Things Parents Say

Some days I feel like I keep repeating the same phrases to my kids.  Here are a few of them.

We’ll see.

What I really mean when I say this is, “I don’t feel like saying no right now but maybe if I put your request on hold you’ll forget about it.”  This never works and I usually just end up saying, “We’ll see” again a few minutes later.

In a minute, buddy.

The minute here is never literal.  It’s probably closer to an hour.  Maybe this is why my kids are struggling with telling time.

You can do it.

This one is my favorite.  Most of the other phrases just come out.  They’re mindless.  But this one actually means something.  When used right, it’s shaping my boys into men.

A lot of us grew up hearing this phrase being used the wrong way.

“You can be anything you want to be.  You can do it!”

But, of course, the day eventually came when you figured out that you really can’t do anything that you put your mind to.  Sadly for some, that day happened on national television during American Idol auditions.

I give my kids a lot of jobs.  Nothing too big yet.  Just small tasks to help them learn what it means to finish a job and to be responsible.  When the assignment is given to them, they almost always respond the same way.

“Dad, can you help me?”

Sometimes they get a little bolder.

“Dad, can you do it for me?”

Sometimes they let go of all restraints and go for the gold.

“Okay, but can you go get me a drink first?”

No matter what format the question comes in, my answer is always the same.

“You can do it.”

It’s not that I’m trying to teach them that they don’t need anyone.  Instead, I want them to know that part of being a man involves working.  And sometimes that work is hard.  There will be some who don’t want to do it and would much rather get by on the fruits of another man’s labor.  Others won’t be able to do it.  They will need someone to step in on their behalf.

When I remind them of what they can do I’m not trying to inflate their egos.  I’m preparing them to be men.  Every trip to a dark room to put up dirty clothes, I pray, is shaping them for a bigger, maybe even scarier, job that they will need to do somewhere down the road.

Last week a guy was doing some work under our house.  When he came back out he had a weird look on his face.

“You don’t happen to own a cat, do you?”


“Okay.  Well, there’s a dead one under your house.”

Apparently, dead cat removal wasn’t in this guy’s job description.

But, as the leader of a wife and two small sons, it is in mine.  By the way, the funeral for Lucky the Cat is tomorrow at 2:00.  Come by if you can make it.  It’s what he would want.

As they grow up, my sons will think about all of the silly things that their dad used to tell them.  Eventually they’ll see that some of those things don’t make any sense.  They’ll probably even have a laugh or two at my expense.  But along their way there will be times when there are things that need to be done.  Things that require sacrifice, courage and leadership.  And while others are either looking for a way out or for some much needed help, I hope that my two boys will remember what their dad told them.

“You can do it.”