From the time I turned 12 until I was about 24 or so, Mama mumbled “this is why animals eat their young” at least twice a day.
I don’t know if she was reminding herself of some odd nature fact or making an observation about her self control.
Whatever it was, those words were uttered daily.
I found it odd until I discovered the reason later.
“You were a horrible teenager,” she said. “Your mouth was always sassing off. If I had said half the stuff to Granny that you say to me, you wouldn’t be standing here.”
“I don’t see the correlation,” I sassed.
“You wouldn’t be standing here because I wouldn’t be either,” she said. “Granny would have sent me to Jesus.”
True. Granny was a big believer in threatening to send you to your maker anytime you didn’t say something that was pleasing to her ears.
I knew that for a fact because my sassy mouth gave me several near-death experiences on a number of occasions.
“Most of your problems in life is gonna start with your mouth,” Granny prophesized one day. “You always a-running off at your mouth when you need to be quiet. It’s gonna get you in trouble. Mark my words.”
Of course, I had something incredibly sassy to say in response.
“That right there is what I am talking about,” she said, shaking her head.
I was sarcastic and quite cutting with my remarks, venturing beyond snarky into downright mean territory.
It’s something I can still do when I get angry or hurt.
Part of growing up is you start to learn more empathy and when to temper your tongue; keeping your mouth shut becomes an important soft skill.
But it is not a skill I use at home very often, sometimes saying things that maybe I shouldn’t and letting my sassy fly free.
I thought there was nothing wrong with it being that I had a son and not a daughter. Boys are supposed to adore their mothers and not have that smart mouth that girls can sometimes have.
Granny had cursed me once by saying I would have 10 mean, sassy little girls to best me as an adult.
I thought I was safe and had been shielded from Granny’s utterances when instead I had one little boy.
One little boy that was so cherubic as a toddler, a precocious little imp that never said an unkind word to anyone.
Until he hit his teen years, and suddenly I had unbridled and freestyle sass coming at me at all times.
The things that flew out of his mouth.
“Stevie Nicks is just the best female singer,” I commented one day when one of her songs came on.
“Eh, she’s no Billie Eilish,” my child replied.
“What did you say?” I thought my child had been raised with better musical taste than to refute anything Stevie Nicks.
“I said: Stevie Nicks is no Billie Eilish.” He gave me a solid stare as if challenging me to dual.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said. “What kind of stage name is that? Billie Eyelash?”
“Eilish,” he enunciated each syllable. “Not as bad as Stevie Nicks. Besides, Billie Eilish will be an icon; your old hippie music isn’t.”
I thought I was going to have a heart attack right then and there. Not an icon? Was he serious? How dare he take the name of Stevie Nicks in vain!
“Get over it, Mother,” he said.
Oh, I hate that. Mother. When he is being particularly sassy, I am mother. Not Mom, not Mama. Mother.
A few days later, we were driving home with dinner situated precariously in his lap when he started kicking at something in the floorboard.
“Please stop,” I said.
He rolled his eyes. “I am not doing anything wrong; I am trying to move something.”
“You’re not holding onto the food. Whatever you are trying to move can wait; we will be home in two minutes.”
I got the insolent stare in return.
His sass is sometimes stealthy.
“Here.” I handed him the wrapper from the piece of candy I had opened. “Put that in the bag please.”
“You can hold on to it,” he said. “We will be home in two minutes.”
Jesus, take the wheel.
“Child, you better take this wrapper. It is sticky. And one day, you will want something — something big — and I am going to remember this.”
“So, you are going to use it to get out of buying me a car or something? Because I didn’t take a sticky candy wrapper?”
“You got it.”
He still refused so I tucked the wrapper between him and the food.
He rolled his eyes so hard they almost stuck.
After we were home, I got served some sass again.
A heated discussion ensued, with him finally rolling his eyes and putting his earbuds in to shut me out.
“This is why animals eat their young,” I mumbled.
“What was that?” he asked.
How is it his species with their earbuds perpetually in cannot hear me say anything else but can suddenly hear my snarky remark?
He gave me a disapproving look. “Uh huh. I heard you, you know. That is a terrible thing to say. Almost borders on cannibalism.” He rolled his eyes at me and put an earbud back in.
Unlike my generation that created the loud, exasperated sighs as an example of our angst, complete with a heated door slam, this one is all about trying to destroy you with facts and logic. And silence. He is all about the silent treatment. At least until he thinks I can hear a healthy perspective.
A different kind of animal indeed.
Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist residing in the North Georgia Mountains among the bears, deer, and possibly Sasquatch. She lives to disappoint her mother, or at least that is what she has been told. You can connect with her on Facebook at Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Humor, and Deep-Fried Wisdom.