If the shoe fits, wear it
Updated: May 20, 2012 8:07AM
I love clichés. And by cliché, I’m not referring to hackneyed sayings that are nothing more than verbal crutches, such as “at the end of the day” or “it is what it is” or “to be honest with you.” (That last one kills me because whenever someone uses it, it makes me wonder if everything they said prior to that was nothing but lies.) No, when I say “clichés,” I’m referring to those common, old expressions that are wonderfully simple nuggets of wisdom.
For instance, my youngest child recently taught a buddy of his how to play a new game, but his friend still didn’t want to play. Seeing my son fretting about it, I said, “Well, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” For a moment, he looked as if he were actually trying to process that aphorism. In reality, he was debating between asking me what I meant (thus exposing himself to yet another mind-numbing explanation from Dad) and just nodding, mumbling something incoherent, and bolting out the nearest door. He was gone before I could begin the lesson.
Clichés are certainly just that — cliché. However, there’s a reason each one was first uttered and why it caught on. A good cliché is a metaphor that explains one of life’s many common situations. It boils any circumstance down to its essence, and does so in succinct and quaint terms. You know, the kind of homespun truisms that Andy always shared with Opie. Unfortunately, instead of being viewed by my children as a wise elder, with volumes of experience from which to draw upon, I’m often looked at as a doddering old fool who talks in some kind of code that was developed during pioneer times. A brilliant gem like “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” will likely only elicit a response such as, “Dad, why are you babbling about recipes at a time like this?”
My older son is 15 (that’s 70 in “what teenagers think they know” years). He says my trite tidbits of truth only complicate things. Recently, he was weighing the merits of both options of a choice he had to make. At the appropriate moment, I offered, “Remember, son, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” (I called him “son” to add a Ward Cleaver-like aura to my pronouncement.) I waited for his wide-eyed euphoria and exclamation of, “Thanks, Dad! Now I know just what to do!” but I was simply presented with a shake of his head and the query of what the heck did birds have to do with his dilemma anyway.
I was tempted to counter this by suggesting he just can’t see the forest for the trees, but I was afraid he’d call 911 and tell them I must have had a stroke because I was speaking nothing but gibberish.
My children cringe when I use these phrases, but I assure them they will see the light one day because, as we all know, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And as they roll their eyes and audibly wish they’d been born into another family, I don’t hesitate to point out that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
Bob Driscoll is a resident of La Grange