You can poke an eye out with that

I stopped being a sensible mom the day I told my kids, “You’ll poke an eye out with that.” I started to giggle as soon as it came out of my mouth. I said a lot of the same phrases my parents said to me. “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach. Close the door, did you grow up in a barn? Look with your eyes, not with your hands.” I seemed to say that last one most frequently at the grocery store. Each time I meant what I said. And then I thought about what it would look like. I thought about it rolling around on the floor, stopping, and staring up at you without a body, all naked.

I learned it was a powerful, useful phrase. I’d find something silly like a pillow and declare, “You can poke an eye out with that.” I got a range of reactions like a blank stare, an eyeroll, or a headshake. I couldn’t help giggling every time which just confirmed their suspicions that there was something wrong with me. But it always distracted them so they stopped fighting, or whining, or being grumpy. I loved that I didn’t always have to act like a mom to get them to behave.

One Saturday we packed the car to go skiing. I explained that you always put things in the car with any pointy end facing away from people. When I was 14, we were in a car accident and a ski pole flung forward, cut my head open, and knocked me out. It was not an effective teaching moment because I said, “Yeah, but seriously, if I was looking backward, I might have poked an eye out. Seriously.” And then I began to giggle.

Every now and then there actually IS something that could poke your eye out. And it’s never what you think it will be. Tommy had a bug fly in through an open car window and smash into tiny pieces that stuck under his eyelid. I’ll never forget the eye doctor telling us that he saw little legs. Tommy was older when it happened so he took it all in stride during the few months before that finally cleared up. I’m certain I joked about it here and there.

I used another phrase quite a bit too. “I know you are but what am I?” It still works, especially if it’s completely unrelated to the discussion. When a topic gets too heated, this phrase stops all conversation as everyone looks at me and questions my sanity. Then, Kay is usually the one who comments that I’m a juvenile. She’s right because I’ll be sitting there grinning from ear to ear. Just like farts, these phrases are always amusing.

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