Another post in a series on Famous Family Sayings
“If everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would you jump off, too?”
I guess it would depend on the circumstances. If you’re talking about Second Bridge on the Vineyard, then the answer would be yes. However, what I’m talking about is the response to the long shouted plea from kids all over the world, “But everyone else is going!” Supposedly, everybody is going somewhere except you. To kids, there really aren’t that many possible reasons why this is happening:
A. Their parents are stupid.
B. Their parents are mean.
C. Their parents just don’t understand how important this is to them.
D. Their parents are so old they forget what it’s like to have fun.
E. All of the above.
I’m not absolutely certain, but I think my kids would have chosen A and/or C when they were a little younger. My son rarely asks us to do things that we think are inappropriate and my daughter is heading into her second year of college, so she really doesn’t need to ask us about going places anymore. However, a few years ago there were times they asked us to do something and we had to say no because we didn’t feel comfortable with it.
Even when they made the last ditch effort to get their way by pulling out the but-everyone-else-is-going card, we explained why they couldn’t go or why they couldn’t do whatever it was they wanted to do. It had nothing to do with any other kids and how they got to do everything, or anyone else’s parents and how they were letting their kids go, or some other random fact like it wasn’t a full moon for another seven days. It all came down to us and them. My wife and I, however, never used the line that parents the world over have been using for generations: “If everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would you jump off, too?”
Personally, I usually opted for choice D when I was a kid when my parents used the “If everyone else was jumping off a bridge…” line and I wasn’t allowed to do something or go somewhere. I thought that after seven other kids my parents were just too old to remember what fun was. Looking back now, I’m about the same age they were when I thought that about them. How’s that for a dose of reality?
I was frustrated more than once by the “If everyone else was jumping off a bridge…” line. The biggest reason I hated it was because it was an illogical argument. It was like comparing apples to underwear; totally unrelated. Both were important in my daily life, but not related in any way. Most of the time, I wasn’t asking for anything outrageous, I just wanted to go somewhere that all my friends were going to. It wasn’t dangerous or illegal, but because my parents didn’t like it, they said no. If I told them that everyone else was going and that I wanted to go, too, I got the “If everyone else was jumping off a bridge…” line. Sometimes I tried to inject a bit of logic into the argument by telling my parents there was no bridge at the concert, carnival, game or party, so they didn’t have to worry about me jumping off one. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. In my mind, it proved they were just too old to remember what fun was.
Another reason I hated the “If everyone was jumping off a bridge…” argument was that it only went one way. When most of my friends were doing something my parents thought was good, like going to serve Thanksgiving dinner to a bunch of elderly people or singing Christmas songs at a nursing home, and I didn’t want to do it, they’d say, “But all your friends are going.” In my head I’d be hearing their voice saying, “If everyone was jumping off a bridge…” I even said it out loud once and that did not go over well.
That’s why I don’t think I ever used that kind of line on my own kids. When I was a kid, it frustrated me and made me angry at my parents, and it even made me say things I wouldn’t care to repeat or have someone say about me. I didn’t want to do that to my kids. Before you think I’m patting myself on the back for being such a great guy, let me say that there were too many times I was in the middle of saying something to my kids when I suddenly had a vision of one of my parents saying the same thing to me, and me thinking in my head, “I’ll NEVER say that to my kids!” I still need to catch myself before I get too far into a conversation that starts with, “When I was your age…” Ugh.
I know I’ve made my share of mistakes, as have all parents (unless they’re totally deceived or in denial), but using the “If everyone was jumping off a bridge…” was not one of them. Even now, I do still remember what it’s like to have fun.