Cry Me A River by
(303 Stories)

Prompted By I Swore I'd Never

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This prompt is difficult because it asks us to admit acting in ways that we recognized as objectionable in others, but found ourselves doing anyway. I almost didn’t write this week, because I didn’t want to recognize that I had done this. Of course I have made plenty of mistakes, both in childrearing and in life in general, but I like to think my mistakes were original, and not the repetition of the mistakes of others that I already knew were bad.

Although I wish it were not so, I realize there are three areas where I have done things I swore I'd never do.

However, on reflection, I realize there are three areas where I have done things I swore I’d never do.


My mother was nearly perfect, as far as I was concerned. I don’t remember anything that I wished she would do differently when I was a child. In fact, as a young mother I wore an imaginary WWMD bracelet, and whenever I had a problem with one of my children, I tried to figure out how she would have handled it. However, in her dealings with me as an adult, the one thing she did that I didn’t like was criticize my appearance – specifically my hair. Every time I saw her. It was annoying, because no matter how hard I tried to make my hair look good, it was never good enough for her. Looking back at old family reunion pictures, I have to admit that she was absolutely right, my hair was out of control most of the time! Even so, it was upsetting to realize that I never looked good enough to her, and I thought I would never do something like that to my adult children. However, when my oldest daughter was living back at home for a couple of years between stints in grad school, I kept suggesting to her that she was wearing too much makeup. I regularly pointed out that nobody else wore that much eyeliner and eye shadow, and I even went to Sephora with her to try to get her to buy a different type of foundation that didn’t look so much like a mask. (The salesperson at Sephora was no help at all, but then again, they all wear too much makeup too.) And when my son shaved his head because he was unhappy with his receding hairline, I kept urging him to let his hair grow back, even just a little bit, saying I thought he would look better with hair. I shouldn’t have done those things, and the kids didn’t listen to me anyway. Just like I didn’t listen to my mother.


My in-laws in my first marriage were the worst packrats imaginable. Every surface in their house was covered with old newspapers and magazines, as well as other papers and miscellany. It was all in piles stacked at least a foot high. The newspapers spanned many years, not saved because there was an important article in them, just saved because they never threw anything away. In the living room there were piles on the coffee table, the couches and chairs, even the piano and piano bench. In the dining room, the table and chairs were covered with papers. Even the kitchen table, where they ate every day, had piles of papers on it, with two little open spaces where they put their plates. Whenever we went to visit them in Bakersfield, I felt suffocated by the amount of clutter, which we had to move around just to find a place to sit. When we got home from a visit, I would spend some serious time cleaning up my own clutter. I swore I would never become like that. And I haven’t. Not quite. I do feel a little overwhelmed by the paper that has accumulated in my own house. Not newspapers and magazines like they had, because we recycle those every week. But letters, financial statements, and other papers of various types do seem to pile up far faster than I can dispose of them. They are not on the furniture (except my desk) (okay, and one of my dressers) (well, and also in one bedroom which has been unoccupied for years), but there are lots of piles on the floor in my bedroom and in the room where my desk is. I even have my own paper shredder now, but so far I haven’t been able to bring myself to use it very often.


My father would get mad whenever any of us cried. We were obviously already upset about something, or we wouldn’t have started crying. So then his yelling at us to stop crying only made it worse. I hated that he did that, and swore I would never do such a thing. When my own kids were little, I handled their tantrums with aplomb. I simply said “You know you don’t get anything by crying,” and then ignored them til they calmed down. Friends were impressed by how calm I was about it. But when they got a little older, I found that their crying would make me mad. I tried not to yell, but I think I was not as nice as I could have been. I would say something like “if you need to cry for a while, that’s fine, but please do it somewhere else and come back when you’ve stopped.” Obviously this did not apply to times they were crying because they were physically hurt. But if they started crying in the middle of a math lesson, or a disagreement of some type, I could feel myself getting angry. I regret that I wasn’t more patient with them, but I have to say that I learned this behavior from my father. I think I handled it better than my father did, and I did come to understand him a little better as a result. I wish I hadn’t felt so angry, but at least I never threw a milk bottle at any of them!

  • * * *

I wonder if my children have lists of things that my husband or I did (the ones I’ve mentioned or others) that they swear they’ll never do. But I’m not going to ask them!


Profile photo of Suzy Suzy


  1. John Shutkin says:

    You begin by astutely observing how difficult this prompt is because it requires one to acknowledge acting in a way found personally objectionable in others. I couldn’t admit this until my very last sentence — and reluctantly.

    You deal head-on with your “I swore I’d never” actions in three different areas and specifically note your shortcomings. Very brave indeed. I hope you — and all of us — realize that, in the end, we are just saying that we are not perfect people, and can at least be honest about it. And, as you note, you never threw a milk bottle.

    • Suzy says:

      Everyone is calling me brave on this story, and the word has come up on some of my other recent stories too. It makes me think perhaps I am not brave, but foolish, to post them, and maybe I need a better filter!

  2. Marian says:

    I can relate to a lot of this, Suzy, having been the recipient of a lot of criticism about my hair and appearance from my mother. My father was grumpy if I cried (I think it might have been the times, people would swat kids and say “That’ll give you something to cry about.”). You have displayed a lot of wisdom in recognizing and modifying your actions, even if the situation didn’t always turn out perfectly. Congrats!

    • Suzy says:

      Thank you, Marian, for calling me wise instead of brave! I appreciate that. And thanks also for reminding me about the “That’ll give you something to cry about” approach to childrearing. That was never done to me, nor did I do it, but I know it was common. I remember once in the supermarket seeing a mother hitting her crying child to get him to stop crying, and it broke my heart.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    This is very brave and took much self-analysis, Suzy. I applaud that. As you say, it is a difficult prompt and you came up with three traits that fit the bill.

    Please don’t judge me when you see I needed to go in a different direction, even if it wasn’t what was called for. I found it cathartic to get off my chest. Isn’t that the point of writing, after all?

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks for your applause, Betsy. See my comment to John wondering if I am brave or just have no filter.

      I don’t judge you at all, and I love the direction you went. I had my doubts about this prompt all along. And all the prompts are just that, tools to elicit a story from you, on whatever you choose to write about. I’m glad you wrote your story, and especially glad that it was cathartic for you!

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Suzy, you were very brave to confess the ways in which you did these “I swore I would never” behaviors, only in much milder forms. So much of who we are is a result of how we were raised, or perhaps we inherit certain temperaments from our parents. Like you, I hoped to do better (and think I did in some areas), but I’m sure my kids could write about me on this prompt — LOL.

  5. Well, you came through with flying colors as I knew you would., my friend! Wonderfully written, and deft handling of what could be a touchy subject (the crying). I won’t call you brave, but I will say I admire what I’ll call your transparency, or lack of a filter as you call it. It’s one of the things I love about you, and your writing.

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks for not calling me brave! As you know, I thought about taking the story down, because if everyone thinks I’m so brave to make these revelations, then I probably shouldn’t be making them! But you have convinced me that my transparency is a good thing. So I’ll leave it up, at least for now.

  6. P.S And that featured image is priceless…not sure where you found it but I love it very much! 🙂

    • Suzy says:

      I think I just googled “crying children.” And then I was also able to use it for the test story I wrote when we were having site problems, saying “these children are crying because the comments disappeared.”

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