“Don’t look behind you!” “The call is coming from inside the house!” “Get out of there right now!” These and other phrases are designed to create tension in scary stories and movies; but when people become parents, they acquire a new vocabulary of horror:
“Don’t Look Over Here”
When they are very young, you can ask them “Why shouldn’t I look over there?” and they will reply, “Because you’ll get mad if you do.” It’s best not to have this dialogue–just look, and get ready to control any violent impulses you may have after seeing the damage. Remember, homicide is bad parenting.
“I Have a Surprise for You!”
The terror in this one comes from the fact that, rather like the Chance cards in Monopoly, the surprise could be something nice–your kid just cleaned her room, or drew you a picture. Or she could have captured a venomous spider and is holding it in her bare hands for you to see, or has painted the walls of her room, or “made lunch” by taking all of your pantry ingredients and turning them into an expensive bowl of inedible globs. There’s nothing quite like the little thrill of apprehension you get when you plaster on a smile and prepare to see what the surprise is.
“I Didn’t Do It”/”I Didn’t Do Anything”
This phrase is only frightening when it is said out of the blue, not in response to your inquiry as to who’s left the light on or spilled the cereal all over the floor. If your child comes in and announces that he hasn’t done it (or anything), it is safe to assume that he is guilty of something.
“Look What I Did All By Myself”
Like “I Have a Surprise for You,” this could be something nice the child has done. Often, however, it involves either “cleaning” that is in reality property damage, “cooking” that has created an enormous mess and wasted ingredients, or some really neat feat of skill such as climbing up the outside of the stairs and jumping several feet down that may send the child to the emergency room.
There’s almost never a good ending to this phrase. Usually, you have either a hurt sibling, or someone has been behaving badly–generally the sibling being tattled on AND the tattler. And getting the true, complete story of what happened works just as well as it did in “Rashomon.”
“Hey Mom! Look at That Man/Woman! Why Does He/She…”
This phrase is always uttered at the top of the child’s lungs, and all present are about to hear about others’ obesity, lack of mobility, vitiligo or other skin condition, or other physical peculiarity or behavioral difference delivered in the most tactless way imaginable.
“My Tummy Doesn’t Feel Good”
Is appendicitis involved? Will you be spending the next several hours cleaning up vomit and diarrhea? Who knows?
Eat your heart out, Freddie and Jason and company; you can’t scare me. I’ve got kids.