I wasn’t one of those people who used the phrase “we’re pregnant.” For one thing, that phrase diminishes the role the mother plays in childbirth, and considering that the mother’s role encompasses pretty much the whole enchilada, saying “we’re” seemed disingenuous and potentially insulting.
For another, saying it makes me feel like a douchebag.
Aside from including myself as a member of the Miami Dolphins (the 12th man!) or the Boston Red Sox (but I’ve never liked the “Red Sox Nation” thing), I’m not one to use “we” for much of anything. I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel. But I do find myself invoking some mysterious, all-encompassing “We” when explaining something to my son.
I don’t know where “we” came from. And we don’t like it.
“We don’t throw our food.”
“We don’t scream like that.”
“We don’t get to play baseball if we don’t take our bath!”
I guess, as a member of the Universal Parenting Collective, I’m calling on the We that is every other mom and dad who has ever needed to impress some lesson upon their kid. Being able to refer to some collective standard is helpful, even if my son has no idea what “we” I’m referring to and probably thinks I’m insane since I’m the only one around. At the same time, it comes in handy, because it’s basically peer pressure, and peer pressure is effective.
But I have two problems with my recent use of what people often refer to as “the Royal We.”
1) I don’t want to be a part of the Universal Parenting Collective. I hate parents. We’re not all the same, and what’s right for “we” may not be right for me. I’m a firm believer in retaining your individuality when you have your kids, and that there is no blueprint for how to raise them, regardless of how many books and websites are devoted to the subject. Deferring to some collective consciousness or assumed expertise is not how I roll. If I wanted to be in a cult I would join the Bronies because at least they’re hilarious.
2) It makes me sound like a condescending asshole.
One of the things you learn pretty quickly as a parent is that you’ll do whatever it takes to get through the day, no matter how certain you once were that you would never do that particular thing. When you’re in the midst of the terrible twos, you do whatever you can to keep yourself sane. Sometimes that means lying, sometimes that means drinking (it almost always means drinking), and sometimes that means being a prick to your kid. Because you’re the parent and you know best and even if you don’t you could snap his little neck like a chicken’s so he’d better get in line.
Sorry about that last one. But I’m no stranger to threats. Where I try to draw the line is at condescension, which the “we” thing definitely connotes. It’s the same reason I don’t use baby talk. Unfortunately, the “we” thing is insidious. I don’t even know where I picked it up. It was just instinct. It makes my requests or demands or pleas for my son to behave seem more civil, somehow, which is helpful in the face of his untamed bestiality. That’s probably the wrong word.
It’s because using “we” seems to be more of a reflex than an actual conscious choice that it’s so unsettling to me; I don’t know where it came from and I don’t know that I’ll be able to stop using it! Even though it makes me feel like Alfred Molina in Spider-man 2, trying to control his robotic arms, or like Smeagol wrestling with Gollum over the fate of his hairy, closeted friends. Or like Amanda Bynes on Twitter. Using “we” makes me look crazy and it makes me feel crazy, and that’s how the Universal Parenting Collective wants it.
Every time I say “we”, another piece of my identity melts away and I am further assimilated into the UPC. Resistance is futile. Like the Borg.
They should call us The Bored.