Pendulum / by Cyle Talley

My parents' favorite word was "don't". "Don't hit your brother, Neil," "Don't lick the knife after you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Neil. No, I don't care that it's just a butter knife. Don't do it," "Don't terrorize the cat with the vacuum cleaner, Neil," "Don't jump on the bed, Neil- and don't you dare jump off of it either, young man!" 

The subject matter may have gained more complexity and nuance as I got older, but the dictate was the same. "Don't disrespect your coach, Neil," "Don't quit the team, Neil- how else are you going to get a scholarship? We can't afford to put you through school," "Don't drive the car that fast," "Just please don't get her pregnant, Neil. Please," "Don't put the baby up for adoption, Neil. We'll help."

Ben was born five years ago and when I held him for the first time- all pink and wriggling and squirmy- I promised him that I'd have favorite words: "Sure, give it a shot."

"You want to try to melt your toy with a magnifying glass? Sure, give it a shot," "Jump off of the bed? Sure, give it a shot," "Can the dog be ridden like a horsey? Sure, give it a shot. He'll let you know," "Ben! Dinner! Can you touch what? The stovetop? Really? Are you sure? Because--"