Why You Shouldn't Trust Idioms
There's no such thing as a happy camper.

Aaaah the idiom. That amazing turn of phrase that means something other than the literal meaning of the individual words. You probably use idioms all the time without even knowing it. Yet when was the last time you inspected these idiocracies? To save you some time, I examined these unicorns of the English language, and guess what I found? A whole big bunch of them are outright lies.

Sleeping like a baby.  Any parent who has ever shared a bed with their little ones knows that it’s like being involved in a bar-room brawl. These mini-mes BRING IT!  

Hungry as a horse.  A horse has nothing on growing kids. Period. My kids eat like starving refugees. Never before have I witnessed such ravenous consumption from such tiny people. I am positive if I ate what they consumed for their after school snack alone, I would weigh well over 800 lbs. 

Out like a light. My children have never gone gently into that good night’s sleep. They fight bedtime like it’s their job. Round one is usually when I bust them reading by flashlight. Round two: The old “I’m thirsty” trick. Round three is where I get aggravated and threaten to take away all of their electronics for a week. Finally, far past their bedtimes, I find them collapsed in their beds amid a sea of stuffed animals and rumpled covers; a defiant scowl still plastered on their faces.

Waste not, want not.  This just makes me laugh. My kids waste all sorts of food. Take, for instance, burnt popcorn kernels and the accursed crusts on bread. And don’t even get me started on leftovers… 

You are what you eat.  If this were true, my youngest would have Kraft Macaroni and Cheese noodle limbs, a peanut butter and jelly torso, and a giant Cheerio head.  

The last straw.  Heaven forbid we run out of these coveted drinking gadgets. At times I think my children are incapable of ingesting any liquid substance without an assistive device. And, if for some crazy reason we were ever really down to our last straw, they would certainly die of thirst. 

Spitting image. They have the spitting right. My boys love to spit. This sole activity has given rise to Olympic-type competitions: Farthest, Best Arc, Grossest. For the record, the image is disgusting. 

I smell something fishy. I smell dirty socks, feet, and the bathroom! My entire house smells funny and no amount of Febreze will cleanse it from the boy stank. Of course I want it to smell like flowers, but it never will. Until they go to college. 

Rise and shine. More like roll over, hit the snooze button, and groan. While my children are happy balls of energy in the morning, I view any early hour as a hailstorm of agony sprinkled with suffering. Just give me a gallon of coffee and I promise, I’ll shine later. Much later. 

Never bite the hand that feeds you. HA! Remember those months of teething? My little piranha’s nearly earned me the nickname stumpy four-fingers. 

Let the cat out of the bag. Do you have any idea how many times I have said this very thing? But I was being literal. As in, “Please let the cat out of the bag. He doesn’t like it in there!” Or, “Who put PJs on the dog?” 

Driving me up a wall. Though my family has never actually driven me up a wall, they have driven me to distraction and bat crazy. Family: Drive me to a day spa.

Having a field day. Ask most kids and they will tell you field day is six hours of sweaty awfulness! Let’s review: Gather a few hundred children and place them in the blazing hot sun. Force them to participate in Olympic-style events, ones they have no idea how to perform. Then, once they are dehydrated and utterly cognizant of their athletic ineptitude, parade them around a track so the shame can really sink in. Which brings me to ….

Happy camper. Doesn’t exist. Never has, never will. Ever been camping? It’s cold, buggy, and hard to sleep no matter how fancy your tent is. Plus the bathroom situation will haunt your dreams. Ever stayed at a nice hotel? Now compare the two experiences and tell me which dweller is happier? Yeah. So can we all just agree to change this idiom to happy hotel-dweller?


Jane Suter is one funny mom. Check out more essays at njfamily.com/jane.