Moms’ Stories Told in Six Words

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In the 1920s Ernest Hemmingway was offered a bet. Write a full story in just six words. He won the bet with:  “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

A few years back, inspired by this story, Smith, an online magazine, challenged its readers to submit their life story in just six words.

Reader submissions poured in and before long, a collection of six-word memoirs was published. “Not Quite What I Was Planning” was full of poignant, funny, sad, and moving short – very short pieces. Smith published several more versions, which included the work of well known authors, artists, musicians, as well as well as unknown people.  Some favorites: “MISSING: One backbone. Reward if found.” “Internal compass spinning, mid-life crash imminent.” “Love my cake. Eat it too.”

A new phenomenon was born. Soon everyone was trying to sum up their lives in just six words.

Can we be honest?  The mother of the six-word memoir is, in fact, mothers.  We have been speaking in six-word phrases since long before Ernest Hemmingway or Smith magazine.  Somehow we missed our opportunity for a book deal.

Take for example, the time honored, “Don’t make me stop this car.” Or “Were you born in a barn?” Six words each.

It’s time we take the credit we’re due. Here’s a list of some of the six-word memoirs coined by moms.  Each one stands alone as its own story. And together they are a collective story that mothers everywhere share:

Where did you last see it?

Put that down. Wash your hands.

Does anyone know how to flush?

Am I talking to a wall?

Did anyone feed the dog today?

I don’t care who started it.

No means no. Don’t ask again.

Who left the milk out?

Not until your laundry’s put away.

Let your brother play with you.

Santa won’t come until you’re asleep.

Clean up this mess. Right now.

Find a different place to sit.

I am your mother. That’s why.

Call me when you get there.

Was there any change left over?

The light’s on in your room.

I will not change my mind.

I’m not spending that for jeans.

You can’t have both. Pick one.

Brush your teeth longer than that.

Don’t speak to me like that.

Turn off the TV. Go outside.

I’m not going to say it again.

No, we can’t keep that lizard.

Did you finish your homework yet?

Just try it. You’ll like it.

Go write your thank you notes.

Who tracked dirt in the house?

Don’t talk with your mouth full.


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