Did you ever notice how men tend to get marginalized in the family? Everyday, a man’s ability to correctly assess a situation and make the right decision – skills we sorely lacked in first place – diminishes. It’s led me to my latest epiphany – utilizing the acronym WMMS – “What Would Mom Say.”
Let’s take a brief sociological overview before I explain the wondrous and liberating powers of WMMS. Back in the early days, dinosaurs ruled the earth and man had to go kill things with clubs for the family. We were tough guys back in the day, doing battle with a T-Rex or slaying a saber tooth tiger with nothing more than a loincloth, a primordial scream, and some truly gruesome b.o.
We’ve gotten soft since then. It started when some idiot went and spurred the industrial revolution. The next thing you know, we’re buying our T-Rex at the butcher shop and snoring the days away on our lazy-boys.
The softer we got, the less reliant women were upon us. The T-Rex was now available in the meat section of the local grocery store, and since they could get their own high-powered jobs, the only real purpose men served was running out on a late, winter evening to fetch a missing ingredient. That’s a far cry from strangling a saber tooth tiger.
In this de-escalation of masculine responsibility, power has slipped through our hairy-knuckled fingers. A common sight in any household is the Chief Operating Officer – that would be the mom – barking out orders to the family.
“You, boy, swallow this vitamin.”
“You, girl, eat this nutritious wheat-germ thing.”
“You, man, the toilet needs plunging.”
On occasion, you as the husband might open your mouth to inquire about someone’s diet, medical care, education, but this is dangerous territory. You may actually really be interested in what’s transpired in your children’s lives. However, if you do dare to say a word, it will become immediately apparent that you’ve been paying more attention to the football playoffs than your child’s well-being.
Example: “Hey, when did Billy get that big cast thing on his leg?”
“Last week when he broke it, you idiot. Remember? The screaming?”
“Well, no. But I do remember the Patriots false start penalty nearly cost them the game.”
See? You’re screwed. We’re screwed. As a result, many of us fathers are fading into the woodwork, soon to be replaced by an app or an outsourced caveman.
The only thing that keeps us afloat? It’s the simple fact that we, from time to time, are trusted to be alone with the children. It’s in this capacity that my epiphany comes to light.
Beating Them at Their Own Game
Men on their own are dangerous. Left to our own devices, we choose to engage in some self-serving activity of no societal value and of poor moral caliber. I won’t get into details, because I might inadvertently admit something I shouldn’t, but you know what I’m talking about.
Men with their kids are a few degrees less dangerous, but still a threat. An example: My son wanted to drive the car to his friend’s house the other night. He has had his driver’s license for all of three months, and we’re trying to ease him into driving in the different weather-related scenarios you encounter here in Wisconsin.
For me, “ease” is a two-way street. He can ease into the driving scenario, and since he’s on his own, I can ease onto the couch to watch an NBA doubleheader.
My wife’s definition of “easing” has nothing to do with my throw-him-to-the-wolves approach. She requires a satellite-monitored, probationary period of twenty-three years in which the boy must encounter every type of weather condition known to man (rain, snow, meteor shower) before he is allowed to leave our driveway.
Now on this particular night, the lad wanted out, and since my wife wasn’t there, I tossed him the keys and told him to have a good time.
My wife returned an hour later and promptly began beating me with a broken tennis racket. It was broken, because she’d smashed it on my head last week after a similar lack of good judgement.
“Didn’t you look at the Weather Channel?” she glared at me. “There’s a chance of flurries tonight!”
“Flurries? The only place I saw ‘flurries’ was in Utah?”
“CLOSE ENOUGH,” she screamed, then administered a Serena Williams backhand to my abdomen.
I survived the beating, and somehow, miraculously, the boy survived the car ride. The truth was, he’d only ventured to the end of the driveway and then called for a ride from a friend, so fearful was he of my wife’s wrath.
It was his fear, and my own, that has inspired the saying, “WWMS” – “What Would Mom Say.”
WWMS in Action
I noted that my son did the right thing. Why? Not because of anything I said. It was because he imagined what my wife would say. It occurred to me that this was a great opportunity.
As you will recall, a decade ago there was a very popular acronym, “WWJD,” which stands for “What Would Jesus Drive.” I believe this was a cheap ploy by Chrysler to appeal to evangelicals, so I came up with my own, more moralistic take: “WWMS” or “What Would Mom Say.”
By simply uttering, “WWMS,” the child would immediately picture his/her mother, providing detailed, safety-conscious, non-toxic, safe, predator-resistant, safe, injury-free, and safe instructions on specifically what they should do, when they should do it, and who they should do it with.
That meant I didn’t have to say a damn thing. No risking giving bad advice, which I am proficient at. No fear of tennis racket beatings when my bad advice was discovered. No need to even think, a function which really takes a lot of energy and is hard to do when you’re watching TV. Thus, I began to use WWMS whenever I could.
My son asked if he could go hang-gliding off the roof of the house, which I initially thought would be a great idea.
“WWMS?” I said.
He immediately sold his hang-glider and went to volunteer at a soup kitchen.
My daughter asked me if she could go on a Harley ride with a guy named Virgil, who I guess had been hanging around the parking lot at her middle school.
She immediately loaded up her backpack with pepper spray and flame-throwers, then called the authorities, who had Virgil arrested and de-masculated.
This was tremendously great. For the next few weeks, I was flying high. The kids were staying out of trouble, and my wife’s tennis racket was collecting dust.
My wife seemed perplexed by this rash of sound-decision making of my part, although she still wouldn’t promote me into any type of family management-level jobs. I remained relegated to all things sewage – toilet plunging, dog crap scooping, anything fecal in nature.
As you would expect, my vacation aboard the epiphanal cruise ship “WWMS” soon ran aground.
I was supine on the couch one afternoon, prepped with snacks galore and an afternoon of March Madness, when my daughter smarmingly said, “Hey Dad, WWMS?”
The sounds of the play-by-play guy were immediately replaced with, “The handle on the screen door is broken.” “The upstairs sink doesn’t drain correctly.” “That popcorn is loaded with salt.”
Involuntarily, I rose to my feet, clicked off, the TV, and soldiered to work. My children gave me an empathetic look, as they were mired in their-own homework-ridden, sound-diet-laden, WWMS world.
Here I thought I’d adapted to the new world, and instead, I had only unleashed another tennis racket beating to my manhood.
And WWMS to this?
She’d say, “The toilet’s clogged. Got that plunger handy?”