My mother and your mother . . . Who’s It?

I woke up this morning with a childhood rhyme running through my head.

We used it to determine who was “It” in games of tag, or blind man’s bluff, or kick the can, or whatever. We all stood in a circle with one “duke” extended. Someone said the rhyme and pounded a different fist in the circle on each word.

My mother and your mother were hanging out the clothes.
My mother punched your mother in the nose.
What colour was the blood?

Whoever owned the duke that coincided with the word “blood” yelled out a colour.


The person then carried on hitting fists in the circle on each letter of the colour word.


Wherever the word ended, that person was It.

I spent some time puzzling over why—heavens why—this rhyme popped into my brain. I hadn’t thought about it in at least four decades. I moved on to analyzing the words. How gruesome! I then pondered who came up with this violent ditty first. What kind of society normalized hand-to-hand combat amongst mothers?

I made me realize the responsibility we have for today’s children.

As children we carved out gun-shaped pieces of wood and played Cowboys and Indians. Guess who always won? Now I cringe about the violence AND racism.

Speaking of racism, another popular It-picking rhyme we used as children started with the words “Eeeny meeny.” Remember that? Would we ever think of using the version we did in the 1960s and 1970s now? You couldn’t pay me to.

But my friends and I played those games, and then went home to mothers who didn’t come to fisticuffs with the neighbours. We recited those rhymes in the playgrounds of schools that taught us about other history and other cultures. Because of the stability and the education, we were able to grow into adults with an expanded world view.

Our responsibility for today’s children is to provide the stability and ensure the education for all, so that violence and racism affect the fewest members of our future generation.

We’re It!

4 thoughts on “My mother and your mother . . . Who’s It?

  1. Lynne


    I was in my late teens or early twenties when I learnt how horrible ring around the rose-y was – I was shocked. And then got thinking about eenie-meenie; what certain ju-jubes and nuts were called and was outraged that this happened. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know what the derogatory term meant – it was never used in my house. Recently, I learned that my Grandmother took a firm stand against racism back in the 50s by insisting that a certain statue that was common in the area be removed before she moved into her new home. I am shocked that love for our fellow human is somehow no longer fashionable. It scares me. Thanks so much for this insightful post!

  2. Sharyn

    I was going to post this on the blog but it required my email addy which I guard assiduously. 😉

    I remember the EENIE MEENIE … game when I was a kid and it included the N word which is forbidden to say these days.

    I can truthfully say I had NO idea what the N word stood for. It was just one of those silly words found in kids rhymes that generally made no sense, like EENIE MEENIE itself.

    At some point EENIE MEENIE… was changed to “…catch a TIGER by the toe.” At least that made sense.


    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      Turns out you did post this to the blog 🙂 But no worries. No one sees your email.
      Yes, we taught our kids the “tiger” version, but still every time I say the rhyme the version I was taught first runs through my head. Is that bad, or good to know how things have changed? Both, perhaps.


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