Back in the dim, shadowy past of my teens I never pondered. I was too busy doing the stuff that was making my mother and father ponder. Now, in my so-called Golden Years, which have me in their iron grip, turning to rust as we speak--I not only ponnder, I ruminate, meditate and cogitate. One of the subjects causing me to fall into these philosophical states is the incongruous use parents make of certain sentences.
A mother is dragging her child from the middle of a busy street where 25 cars have just come to a screeching halt; causing two near-heart attacks,and as much foul language as you are ever likely to encounter
"You know better than that!" Mom informs the culprit. Ah, but DID he know better? What do you think? Can a 5-year-old have a death wish? Was he sauntering along toward imminent disaster on purpose? Or, was he completely in a dream world looking for a playmate amongst the whizzing fenders? My guess is, the 957 time Mom said, "Don't go in the street," had gone in one ear and speedily out the other, pausing no where in between.
One of the dire warnings sent out by a parent when their child is about to smack a companion, dump their milk, bite the dog or fill the bathroom commode with enough tissue to wrap the earth around is, "I'm not in the mood for that today." Doesn't that presuppose that at some later time Mama will throw caution to the wind, kick up her heels and announce she is now IN the mood and her offspring may feel free to smack, dump, bite and reel the tissue off the roll with abandon? The kid could feel justified in trying again tomorrow--several times--and every day thereafter, until he turns twenty-one.
When we ask a question we expect an answer, but not always in the parent/child relationship. Remember the ever popular, "How would you like me to give you something to cry about?" (This is not used anymore as the threat alone may mean jail-time.) It's interesting to imagine a possible answer. Here is one I'm glad I didn't have the nerve to use with my own mom who wore her ever present switch in a side-holster. "Oh, I would love it! Be creative! Bring it on! There is nothing I like better than crying!"
Parents ask unanswerable questions of older children also. Have you ever heard a mother ask, "What am I, a slave around here?" Any response will earn detention measured in years. Why do suppose I still live at home. (Only kidding.)
The absolute corker of all parental inquiries is, "How many times do I have to tell you?"
This is obviously a problem of higher mathematics; so high, in fact, that it is unreachable by the brain of any human being that has ever lived. Neither parent nor child has the answer, thus, we are doomed to hearing it repeated in every language for all time.
A child is fairly sure he isn't supposed to answer these questions, but by the time he is old enough to be certain, he finds himself looking down at a very short person, saying, "You know better than that."