The Thing About Clichés

As writers, we’re regularly exhorted to avoid clichés as overused, hackneyed, and too predictable. I take that advice seriously, and I consciously look for fresher images in my work.

The thing is, though, in our daily lives, the reason clichés are so overused is that they resonate with us by capturing some fundamental experience.

Take this one about parenting, for example: “You’re only as happy as your least happy child.” That’s rung true for me, long after my sons have reached adulthood. I’ve never stopped worrying about them, hurting when they hurt, or cheering them on when things go well.

My older son and granddaughter


I worry about my older son a lot because he’s a lot like me—he works too hard, gets stressed, sleeps too little. As my husband says, “Well, honey, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” (I know, I know, yet another cliché.)

As a CEO in these dicey economic times, this week was particularly stressful for my son with both a board meeting and quarterly earnings on the docket.  But thankfully, all went well, and the company’s stock actually went up! He sounded so relieved afterward. Me too.

The same night he called to report things had gone well, our younger son called with his own good news. As many of you know, he nearly died last summer in a serious mountain climbing accident. Recovery took months, and he resigned from his teaching job.

My younger son and grandson

Now feeling much better and having spent some time getting back in the classroom as a substitute, he’s been rehired as a fulltime English teacher in the same high school where he taught for six years. During the interview process, a group of students told him that his advocacy for black students at the school had meant so much to them, and his presence on campus had been greatly missed this past year. “Tears came to my eyes,” he told me.

Even as I write this, I’m feeling a bit teary myself.

So, while I try to avoid those pesky clichés in my writing, I still find myself thinking about their resonance in my life.

When good things happen for my adult children, my spirit lifts. I love celebrating with them!

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