“Shut the front door!” My best friend’s step-dad said that all the time when we were growing up. Goober said “Sha-zam.” George Bush Jr. said, “Make no mistake . . .,” but I really preferred Doc Holliday’s version when he said, “No, make no mistake . . . it’s not revenge he’s after; it’s the reckoning.”

But my love of Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday in Tombstone will have to wait for another day.

We all have our little phrases that we’re known for. Some of them are funny or annoying or both. Some don’t make sense to anyone else. Most of the seemingly odd remarks I make are quotes from movies or television shows. If you know what I’m quoting, it’s funny; if you don’t, it’s probably annoying.

Three of my favorite things to say to my girls are:

It will make you stronger.

Everything in moderation

If you have to say it, it might not be true.

I use these phrases with them a lot. If they weren’t annoyed in the beginning, they are now, simply because they are tired of hearing them, but to that I would have to say, “it will make you stronger.”

One day they will look back at all my quirks and realize that I was just possibly doing more than trying to annoy them (although that definitely plays a part in my reasoning). Maybe, just maybe, I was also trying to teach them something in the only way I know how.

It will make you stronger is typically said with, let’s call it, playfully smug sarcasm. When they have to do something they don’t want to do, or aren’t allowed to do something they want to do, or for whatever reason, I typically throw in that it will make them stronger. I say that because 1.) It irritates them and 2.) It’s true . . . if they allow it.

We have choices every day: either learn from your experiences or be a victim. Look for the good in a situation or what can be used for good, or pout because you didn’t get your way. Or I suppose there is always indifference. I try to look for the good, and it’s usually simple enough to pull out some good from the less desirable. And sometimes I just want to lie in bed and feel sorry for myself. But I have responsibilities, so I get out of bed and feel sorry for myself.

Regardless of my immediate reaction, I know that things will be better for me and everyone around me if I just go ahead and suck it up. And if I make the decision to learn something from it (which might just be that things could be worse), it will literally make me stronger for the next go-round.

I don’t know why the old “everything in moderation” slogan is such a negative for them. Maybe it’s because they hear it so much, but it’s not just about food. It’s about daily choices – food, money, cleaning, talking, TV watching, exercising, and on and on and on. See? There are definitely some things on that list that are preferable in smaller portions.

But even the best of things should not be overdone. It’s like when the radio station has a new song and they play it over and over and over. You go from loving it to loathing it. But when you hear a song that hasn’t played in a while, you crank that up and sing at the top of your lungs. It’s supply and demand. You appreciate more what you access less.

I paraphrased If you have to say it, it might not be true from an episode of The Office, when Darryl says, “You don’t have to say it if you’re doing it.” I hear a lot of “I’m so awesome” at the house. And I agree. I think they are all amazingly awesome human beings and I am proud to be their mom, but I also love to point out that if they have to say it about their selves, there might be something missing.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to hear them speak well about their selves. It’s great. I’m more like just make sure you don’t start telling everyone else how great you are. Let them see it and maybe they will tell you about it and maybe they won’t. But it doesn’t matter because you already know. And that non-arrogant confidence will take you where you need to go.

And finally, for the BONUS: It’s like looking in the mirror. This doesn’t really teach them anything, I just like to annoy. Plus, I usually say this when I am doing their hair, so we are literally looking in the mirror. My oldest hates hearing this more than the younger two. She will argue that she doesn’t look like me at all. Well, in some ways we look very different: I in my auburn hair (with chestnut highlights) and dark eyes and she in her blond hair and light green eyes. But her expressions resemble mine, no matter how much she fights it.


So with exception of the BONUS, the overall theme that I that these lessons carry is individual responsibility. Every move they make; every word they say is a decision they make.

Choose, but choose wisely.