Family Life


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One mom says she’s turning into her parents

Woman holding cards - one mom says she's turning into her parentsI’ve caught myself doing it.
We’ve all caught ourselves doing it.
In the car. At the dinner table.
On the way to grandma’s house.

We do or say things that are echoes of our parents. We complain about gas prices,
we ask our children to take three more bites of their chicken, and we threaten to
turn the car around. When it happens, we’re horrifi ed because usually it’s the
things we swore we’d never do or say to our own kids. I think we all understand
that on some level, and in certain small ways, we’re destined to turn into our
parents. But it still catches us off guard. We’re just going along, being our own
independent parenting selves, and then – boom – we’re doing exactly what our
mom or dad used to do. Yikes. (Or, as my mom would say, Geez Louise.)

My mom is highly opposed
to swearing. The words she
uses to express frustration are
things like “gish,” “rip,” and
“tiddly-wink.” So whenever I
let fly with a “drat,” “sugar,” or
“crud,” I know it’s really her

She believes firmly in following
Canada’s Food Guide, and I
find myself reaching automatically
for milk and an apple to
balance out my son’s hot dog or
chicken nugget lunch. She also
likes “punny” jokes, which is
why I can’t seem to stop myself
from saying, as I serve green
beans with dinner, “It’s ‘bean’ a
pleasure making this meal for
you!” As I howl with laughter,
my husband just rolls his eyes
and says, “You are so your

My dad? He might be best described
as frugal. As teenagers,
my two siblings and I teased
him mercilessly when he would
have a bottle of Italian salad
dressing next to his dinner
plate balanced precariously on
its lid. It was upside down to
encourage gravity to coax the
last few drops out of the bottle.
It is worth noting that the
bottle in question contained “no
name” salad dressing.

My dad never, ever buys the
name brand version of a product
if a cheaper generic version
exists. And, if there is no
generic version, he’s the kind of
person who’s not afraid to approach
a store manager about
it. He’s constantly verbalizing
his suggestions to managers or
other unsuspecting employees
and always seemed to be on
some customer service crusade.

My dad also buys things in
large quantities to save money.
Growing up, our basement
looked like a warehouse for
paper products – tissues, toilet
paper, paper towels and paper
napkins. He searches for meat
in a large tray pack and will
gleefully “decant it” (again, I
think I have the only father
on earth who uses this term)
into plastic bags for the freezer.
He once bought 18 tubes of
bargain-bin toothpaste that
tasted like plumber’s putty.
After his purchase of a fourlitre
jug of watery store-brand
shampoo, my sister and I drew
the line and insisted on buying
our own hair products.

It was the culmination of all
these things, brought on by the
absurd sight of the inverted
salad dressing all those years
ago, that led me to promise
myself that I would never be so
desperate to save money that
I would do ridiculous things
like that.

And yet, I’m catching myself.
I’m wiping barbecue sauce off
my sleeve – sauce that spurted
from the (you guessed it)
upside-down bottle in the
fridge. I’m squeezing tubes of
sunscreen and hand cream to
within an inch of their lives.
I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival
of the grocery flyers to check
out this week’s sales. I’m
cutting out coupons as well as
printing them out online. How
did this happen?

I’m in charge of my own
household now, and in today’s
economic times, it’s critical
to stretch every dollar. I have
discovered that a little research
and effort goes a long way, and
I can confidently say that I
shop a lot smarter than I used
to. This is especially helpful
now that my shopping list includes
new items like diapers,
wipes and formula.

And earlier today, as I
pushed my cart (filled with no
fewer than 72 rolls of genericbrand
toilet paper) through
the grocery store, I thought
to myself: “Hmm, this bakery
section really needs more
whole-wheat options. I should
mention it to the manager.”
Boom – I’m my dad. Oh, tiddlywink.

Originally published in ParentsCanada: Me & Mom, October 2012.

a man carrying two children

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