Insert Cliché Here

Miriam kicking it

If there’s one thing that makes me itch more than excess jollity, it’s clichés. I try not to use them in writing or in speech, and I cringe a little when I hear them from other people. Call it residual English Major snobbery. I’m fine with that.

But I know what you’re going to tell me. You’re going to say, “The reason it’s a cliché is because it’s true.” And I know that. But first of all, “the reason is because” is redundant (see? Snobbery). And second of all, I’d say that’s no excuse to not try to say things in a new way. That’s why we have poetry. And those teabags with quotes on the tag (and by the way, sentence fragments are okay if they establish style).

Of all the clichés that are trotted out, the most bothersome are those that have to do with children. Here are some:

“Boys will be boys.” Seriously, what does that even mean? Girls will be girls too; why isn’t that a thing?

“Well, you’ve got your hands full.” Heard while shopping with any number of children greater than one. No comment.

“I haven’t seen you since you were knee high to a grasshopper.” Actually, that’s more of an idiom than a cliché, and it’s kind of good. Don’t hear that often enough.

Here’s one, though, that gives me some trouble: “They’re growing like weeds.” I want to dismiss it offhand, because you could easily say my children are growing like…something else that grows really fast. “They’re growing like bamboo?”

But the fact is, weeds not only grow fast, they do it when you’re not paying attention. They do it whether you are involved or not, and even if you’re paying attention to other things in the garden, and trying to keep bugs off them (I try to keep bugs off my children as well).

Nevertheless, children actually do grow that way: inexorably, relentlessly, ruthlessly. They can’t stop, won’t stop. In fact, that’s a related cliché, and one just as undeniable: “They just won’t stop growing.” Tell me about it!

And that leads to the ultimate parenting cliché, and one to which my resistance, in spite of my best snobbery, has broken down completely.

“It all goes by so fast.”

That one just stops me in my tracks (“in my tracks:” is that a cliché? I’m going with it). It brings me up short. Takes the wind out of my sails (well, now I’m doing it).

Is there a phrase in the English language that packs more punch than “It all goes by so fast?” That punch is to my gut. It opens up a veritable steamer trunk of feelings, encompassing regret, nostalgia, panic, pride, helplessness, resolve.

That’s one true cliché, and I let it stand. With a child in the double digits now, and a “baby” who just turned five and can prepare toast with all the fixings unaided, I can’t think of a more pithy or succinct way to express what’s happening here. It’s so solid, in fact, that I find myself saying it to first time parents.

No, really. Listen. You just have no idea. It all goes by so fast.