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Karen Adragna Walsh: ‘Because I said so’ needs no explanation

Fast-forward 25 years and my daughter, Kara, is a testament of my motherly care. To future mothers, I have listed a few scenarios that might also happen to you. Just don’t do what I have done. And if you have, change it up a bit, like I should have done.

Why do I belong to the only species that, when giving parental advice to the young, must first choose words carefully and then explain away why such advice should be followed? I’m guilty of giving into the phrase, “Because I said so,” right from the get-go.

It started early with, “Just take two cookies. You can’t have the whole box.”

Daughter, “Why?”

“Because I said so.”

The conversation should have ended here but, no, I let child diplomacy override my authority.

“Why can’t I have more?”

“Because it’s not polite.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s too close to dinner.”

“Why?”

You’ll get a stomachache.”

“Why?”

“Because I said so!”

“You let Daddy have more than two cookies.”

“All right; but don’t blame me if you get sick.”

I wonder if animals have an easier time teaching their young, or if they, too, are met with defiance. Second chances are slim because the consequences are often a life-or-death situation.

Realizing it’s a jungle out there, I wanted to impart the importance of safety issues to my daughter at an early age. Perhaps instead of reading fairy tales that ended with everyone living happily ever after, I should have fabricated a new version. I should have told stories about mother animals and their offspring that fell under the category of scare tactics. It would have gone something like this:

Baby snake, “Do I have to eat the whole thing?”

Mother snake, “Yes, now swallow but don’t chew.”

Baby snake, “Why?”

“Because if you don’t eat it quickly, it will eat you.” Baby snake hesitated, and was devoured.

Mother chameleon, responding to a predator approaching, “Quick, change your color.”

Baby chameleon, “But I don’t look good in green.” Baby chameleon was buried in his brown suit.

When my daughter became a teenager, my opinions often invoked psychological warfare. Applying curfews was taken as an insult and as a mistrust issue. “Because I said so,” was not only laughed at, but “so and so’s mother lets her do it” and a few others were added to the list.

I dug deep into my intellectual arsenal. Naturally, this included using some of my mother’s own words: “Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it right.” Not wanting to lose face or risk having my daughter resent authority, I started to rationalize. Maybe a little civil disobedience wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

What if young Michelangelo had taken his mother’s advice when she said, “Get off your back and get a real job.” Or what if young, finicky Marco Polo had complied with his mother’s words, “Just stay put.” We wouldn’t have had art treasures or that swimming pool game, now would we?

I’m envious of all mothers who have been blessed with more than one child because they got to hone their parental skills. I had only one child, so I was forced to get it right the first time. So far my daughter is still toeing the line. I would love to think it’s true, because I said so.