Before “talk to the hand” became popular, I believe I used and saw the idea of that gesture many times.
As a parent, you often feel that many conversations with your child, back and forth, can be illustrated with one hand held affirmatively in the stop position.
With young children, you want them to quickly stop doing things that will hurt them and you need them to understand immediately. You need the “hand in the face” gesture when they are hurling themselves out of their crib to the floor, climbing over protective baby gates like Spider-man scaling a building and to not peel the wallpaper off of the walls.
Sometimes it works, although when they completely ignore you or respond in a rebellious “no,” there is more work to be done.
When they get older, and can talk back, the dynamic changes. Like the time my five-year-old definitively told me “no” when I told him he had to go to bed. He furred his brow, pursed his lips and, with a defiant glare, put his hand up in my face and said “No.”
He obviously saw me make the gesture before and now emulated that behavior. Now I wished I never used the “hand in face” because now it boomeranged back to me, over and over again.
Fast forward to teenage years and it seemed every question and non-answer session could have used the long-retired “hand.”
Any inquiry about where he was going, what he was going to do or who was he going with met with a huge sigh and swift non-reply.
“Mom, just stop.”
But I didn’t stop. After all, these types of interrogatives were my job as a mom to protect him. This went on and on for years. No “hand in the face” but the message was the same.
Over the following decades, adult debates over holiday gatherings found me using a similar motion to my father as he often loudly pronounced rather explicit off-color jokes, racial slurs and ideologies very opposite to mine. And on more than one occasion, with one hand covering my nodding head, the other went up asking him to stop.
Fast forward a few more decades and the tables have turned once again. Now the adult children want to tell me what to do. If I want to close a bar once or twice, protest an injustice, go on an adventure or enter a beer drinking contest, I clearly heard their response once again. “Mom, stop.” Although distance requires the command to be on phone conversations or sometimes over face-to-face computer interactions, the message is similarly communicated. But this time, I get to use the hand to face gesture showing I am not listening. Talk to the hand.