I Told My Kids They Suck

I swear, all ll I need is seven more minutes to finish cooking dinner. But it’s the witching hour so 2-year-old Lilah has me spinning. She eats the dog’s food then plays in the water bowl. She demands that I acknowledge all her animal sounds — “Yes, that’s right! The cow says moo!” — she rummages around in the junk drawer which is full of exciting items like purple duct tape, old batteries and pruning shears. This is when I wish I’d baby-proofed the kitchen but then remember what a pain in the ass it is and congratulate myself for not having fallen into that pitfall again.

I pull her away from the drawer and set her firmly on the floor, ply her with pretzels, crayons and paper, my iPhone, plead in my most soothing mama voice, anything so I can just finish making dinner. Nothing is working. It’s time to call on the back up.

I sling Lilah onto my hip and go into the TV room where Ella and Ruby are playing with the Barbie camper. Ken seems to be in the middle of dissing Barbie’s marshmallow roasting skills. “Girls,” I say. They don’t even look up. “Please keep an eye on Lilah for a couple minutes so I can finish with dinner.” My voice is high and tight. I reek of desperation and chopped onions.

“We don’t want her in here!” they wail. “She’ll mess up our game! She’s such a pain!” Eye-roll. “Why do we have to look after her?” Wah, wah. Double wah.

I’m definitely having a Sixteen Candles moment: it’s like I’m Samantha and I can’t believe everyone’s forgotten my 16th birthday except I’m me and I can’t believe my girls aren’t going to help me out.

I stand there with chewed up pretzel stuck to my t-shirt, my hair flung back into a messy ponytail. I am defeated.

“You guys suck,” I say, and walk out of the room.

And then I wince.

I curse plenty, believe me, especially when driving or having stubbed my toe but those invectives are mostly directed at strangers who can’t hear me or inanimate objects without the luxury of ears. If the kids hear me cursing, they usually say, “Mom, language!” which is what I told them to say to me when they hear me curse. Then I say, “Yeah, I know. I shouldn’t curse, but I’m a grown up and these are grown up words so sometimes I’m gonna say them. But YOU should NEVER say them.”

This time is different. This time I actually told my girls they suck! I wait for them to come tearing out into the hallway, indignant and accusing. But they don’t. I wait for a few more seconds then hear Barbie say, “I’m going to a hotel!” I slink back to the kitchen.

It’s not my proudest parenting moment, but somehow I’m not being called out on it by my usually quick-to-back-talk kids. Hmm. Suck is still a bad word, right? I know it has several different meanings — as in “You know what sucks? That I have to make dinner. Again.” — but in some basic sense, it’s still rather vulgar.

So I look it up on Urban Dictionary and find this break down:

“(For those under 30 years old) An intransitive verb indicating a negative state of affairs. Could be poor performance, bad weather, illness, general dislike, or any of innumerable negative thoughts.”

“(For those over 30 years old) Always a transitive verb. Colloquially used as a shorthand for suck d*ck with the noun d*ck understood. Used as an insult.”


Even though I am not under 30, I whole-heartedly intended the meaning of the first definition — I was definitely responding to the negative state of affairs. However, because I am over 30, I cannot pretend I don’t know that the word suck also implies a blow job.

The good news is, Ella (11) and Ruby (8) are both well under 30 and, as far as I know, have little or no idea what a blow job is (that’ll change soon enough; hello Middle School) or that when you tell someone they suck, not only are you saying that they’re bad at something but you could also mean that you think they do, in fact, suck on a physical appendage that belongs to one of the male persuasion. This explains their lack of outrage and utter disinterest in my retreat. Nothing nasty went down, as far as they know.

Still, I don’t like the way I felt after I’d said it. It didn’t feel empowering or intelligent or witty, because it isn’t. It felt wrong, even if the kids don’t know enough to think so. Plus, I certainly don’t want my kids running around telling me that I suck so I decide to set an example, or at least make the attempt: I hereby solemnly swear to try extra special hard to refrain from saying the word “suck” in reference to and around my kids.

Wait a minute, does this mean I have to stop saying “crap” too?

4 comments on “I Told My Kids They Suck

  1. So glad you could relate — and always happy to help a fellow mom with the freedom and vulnerability that comes with using, thinking and writing potty-mouth words!


  2. Well this is just dreamy. Thank you. I needed to read this on today of all days. The day when I locked my baby who was “trying to take a nap” (aka crying) in the house so that I could run around the block with my 4 year old in a jogging stroller while grunting like a drunken lion–all in an attempt to “work my anger out” because aforementioned, rage-y 4 year old had thrown the baby snot sucker thing onto the floor after which I stepped on and broke it. At that moment, he SUCKED SO MUCH. I’ve been using that baby snot sucker every damn day since ye olde baby has a cold. So thank you for writing this, and for your vulnerability about how it felt shitty to say it in the end. And for giving me the opportunity to write “suck” so many times.


  3. Thanks Joyce. I’m definitely working on bringing it down to a mutter.


  4. Joyce Moskowitz

    Lisa, I love this story! It’s true, it’s honest; we’ve all been there, perhaps with different motivation, but the end result was all too familiar. Here, the ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ rule kinda flies right out the window…but that’s okay as I’ve been witness to the gazillion times you’ve been Mother Nature and not the Mutha’ from hell. So this too shall pass.


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