Parents use this expression. It is one of the many colloquialisms of parenthood.
I think we all heard it at some point in our childhoods.
“One day I hope you have a child just like you.”
But what is that? I mean really…what does it mean? It was never used in a complimentary fashion and almost certainly followed some act of deceit or malfeasance.
Sometimes it was used as a threat when we did wrong. “Ugh…one day I hope you have a child just like you! Now go stand in the corner and raise your hands above your head until I say to stop.”
Sometimes it was used as a tool to bring siblings together. “Stop being mean to your little sister! She thinks that the sun rises and sets out of your asshole. Now be a good example! One day I hope you have a kid just like you!”
Sometimes it was a guilt trip. Disappointment always hurt worse than overt anger. “You’ve…really…let your mother down. No, no, you’re not being punished. Just remember, trust is hard to put back together again once it is broken…I hope you have a child just like you some day.”
Whatever the case, the expression was used repeatedly as some sort of a harbinger. It could be applied in lieu of a punishment. In essence, parents were saying, “I hope you have a child just like you so that one day you will have to suffer, struggle, and persevere through all the bullshit and needless stress you have wrought on this family, you little accident.”
But children do not understand it in that way. In fact, I would argue that children do not understand it at all. Never once did I reflect and consider, “well what if I do have a child just like me? I better get my act together!” The last thing a baby is inclined to consider is what their life would be like if they had a baby. The statement, “I hope you have a kid just like you” carries absolutely no meaning for them until they actually do have a child…most likely several years or even decades later.
It really just hit me now. I had a kid just like me… and I fear for the future. But how can I adequately strike fear in the heart of my offspring and coerce good behavior with such a generalized expression that he’ll probably not comprehend? I don’t want him to reflect back in 20 years as I have and grasp the true gravity of the phrase, I want him to be nice now.
Perhaps coercing good behavior isn’t the answer and I should be a better role model. I hate when I have to be a responsible adult.