Before I go on, there’s something that’s bothered me for a while now. When I was young, if my mom was mad at my sister for whatever reason, it would put me on edge too. Maybe it was the palpable tension in the air. Maybe it was a primal self-defense mechanism that knew not to stick my head up when predators were present. Whatever it was, there was always an element where if one of us was in trouble, both of us felt it.

What I didn’t realize is that this would extend to parenthood as well. There are some nights where I arrive at the dinner table and can literally see steam rising out of Meg’s ears. In those instances, I have no reason to think I’m in trouble, yet I share the communal fear of Meg’s potential wrath, limiting myself to one word responses lest I get attacked too.

This time, however, I was clearly the target of her ire.

“Let me tell you what your son did at the grocery store today.”

Never in the history of humanity has a child been referred to as “your”, by one parent to the other, in a good situation. It’s never “your daughter danced beautifully in the recital” or “your son successfully pissed into the toilet instead of onto it”. Rarely, it will be “my child” in the event one parent is trying to stake some genetic claim on an accomplishment, but that’s about as far as the singular pronouns go.

“I was looking for jello–”
“Oh, did you get lime?”
“Shut up.”
“Yes, ma’am.”

She goes on to describe that while she was looking, he set up the boxes of jello on the shelf into an elaborate pyramid. I had a fleeting moment of pride in his feat of engineering that I knew was absolutely not the point of the story.

“And then I hear HIIIIYA…”

Oh shit.

“… and he runs at them and karate kicks–”
“We call it a ninja kick–”
“Yes, ma’am.”

My clarification (disregarding how utterly not in a position to be making terminology corrections I was) triggered a Pavlovian response from the word “ninja”, prompting the boy to charge at me, fists flying. His flurry of attacks on my leg really helped set the tone of the situation, as I stood there with my head down for an appropriate amount of time before being dismissed.