“Is this cheese still good?” my daughter asks me while holding a container of shredded Parmesan.

“I don’t know,” I reply. “Maybe.” Then I do what moms so often do in a pinch, add a little dose of practical and float an answer that should work – especially in those times when we don’t know the answer “…. Smell it.

“What?” she gasps standing with the refrigerator door still open. “You always say that. What if it’s rotten and I eat it?! I could get sick! I might die!!”

“Oh my word.” I grab the container. I open it, smell it, and hand it back. “It’s fine.”

Smell it works with most dairy products and sandwich meat. I’ve also used it with clothing, as it relates to worthiness of wear. Smell it promotes independence and responsibility as it encourages a child to rely on themselves and to maybe re-think lazily putting something back in the frig that should have been thrown away, lest they be forced to smell it in the future.

Such Classic Mom responses have served families well throughout the generations. Sure they drive us crazy in all their nonchalant glory. And, yes, they’re delivered like a knee-jerk reflex. But, in all their not-making-one-bit-of-sense glory, they actually make all the sense in the world.

Along with “Smell It,” here are a few more – just from dinner last night.

A Little Gas

“I’m not sure I feel so good.”

“What’s wrong, Honey?” concerned mother asks.

“My stomach hurts.”

“I bet you’re okay…. You just need to eat something”

“Nahhh… I think it really hurts.”

“You probably just have a little gas, Sweetheart.” I reply. Then add for good measure another tried and true standard,

It Will Pass

It will pass.

“You always say that…” moans kid, looking for a little compassion, and maybe some help. … Best to avoid this response in the presence of kid friends. It could prove embarrassing.

Well …. stop

Across the table, a sibling adds his ails to the pot.

“Mom, I need you to look at this,” says kid pointing at his leg.

Engrossed in the momentary pleasure of a meal while sitting at a table, I don’t hear. Okay, so maybe I hear the sound of words being spoken, but I’m not paying attention.


Still no response.


“What?!” I give in.

“Look.” Again, he points at his leg. Then adds, “It hurts when I move my leg like this.”

I check. See nothing. Move it around for good measure. “I don’t see anything wrong.”

“Well,” he says. “It hurts when I move it like this.” And he re-enacts the motion.

“Then,” I offer one of our standard remedies, “Well, stop.”


“Yeah, don’t move it that way.” I conclude. Crazy how that works!

 Tastes Like Chicken

“Ewww… What is this?!” protests child as he stares at the food on his plate.

“Why are you complaining? You haven’t even tasted it.”

“Because it looks gross … and smells! Ohhhhh…. Ewww!”

“Quit complaining and try it,” I retort.

The kid eyes the food suspiciously.

It tastes like chicken.” I promise, employing the classic Mom response to entice consumption of any suspicious food.

 Just One Bite

“Listen, just eat one bite,” I say. “Try it. You need to learn how to eat new things.”

“No..ho..ho..ho… It looks gross.”

Just one bite,” I persist.

The kid begrudgingly takes a bite and the meal continues. Within minutes, he tries to escape the dinner table.

“Where are you going?” I ask.

“I’m done.”

Looking at his plate, I beg to differ, “I don’t think so.”

The kid protest, “But I ate one bite!!” …

Just One More

“Hmmm… Yeah,” I inspect and conclude, “Just eat one more.” It’s a mother’s prerogative.

“But – Uhhhhg – I already ate one,” he protests. “You said one!”

“Yeah, but … I meant one more.” Maybe two.

And, on this beautiful summer day where our kids should be outside playing, here’s a little take from Tim Hawkins for good measure, in case you’re feeling weary on the mom-response track. A good laugh always soothes the soul, knowing that the most heart-felt and well-worn response is our ceaseless reminder, “I love you!” – even when we just can’t stop ourselves from yelling it from across the parking lot at the public pool. (Yes, I did. It just came out. LOUD! … definitely embarrassing)

Thanks for walking the road with me.



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