Monday, December 04, 2006

Parenting tips

My glamourous mother, pre-motherhood in London, Ontario, 1961

Me (left) and my friend Judy Macdonald, Toronto, Ontario c. 1971. NICE statue, Mum and Dad!

The CBC afternoon radio show recently had a thing where they were collecting so-called "Parenting Tips", i.e. things your parents told you to get you to behave as a child. Here's my collection.

My mother always told me that if I crossed my eyes, they would stay that way. I believed her until I was old enough to know better (age 25) and I still feel pangs of guilt when I cross them! However, her admonition worked. I rarely crossed my eyes at anybody until I grew up and realized she had been LYING to me!

Along these lines, Mum also told me that if I made a face by pulling the corners of my mouth back with my fingers, it would stay that way. Again, I believed her. Hard to believe I was a straight-A student in school, eh? (i.e. one of the "smart" ones!)

I was a very hungry child (I think I have always had a speedy metabolism). Whenever I complained of hunger, my dear mother would ask me if I had worms. I had a fear of worms in my stomach until I was a teenager. I seriously believed a gigantic tapeworm was devouring all my meals for me. This technique of my mother's did NOT work as a deterrent, however, as I continued to ask for food when hungry. It never occurred to me to ask her why she didn't give me medication to kill off these worms.

When I didn't finish a meal (rare), Mum also enjoyed alerting me to the fact that my eyes were bigger than my belly. I spent a lot of time wondering just how tiny my stomach was if two eyeballs were bigger than it. Otoh, I have pretty large eyes. Even my opthamologist says so.

Mum loved to tell me that if I cracked my knuckles, I would get arthritis. I am now 42 and still cringe if I even ACCIDENTALLY crack my knuckles. God forbid I should invite arthritis into my joints!

Somewhere along the way, my mother the quasi-observant Catholic told me that every time I sinned, my golden soul would turn a little more black. If my entire soul turned black, well, HELLO HELL! Satan is my master! This worked reasonably well as a technique for keeping me in line. I strove to prevent my last patch of untouched soul from darkening forever. However, I am now a completely lapsed Catholic with no religion whatsoever and I am certain my entire soul is blacker than tar and beyond any sort of redemption. Sorry, Mum! But I still believe in God, if that helps.

My mother told me that if I shaved my legs and armpits, the hair would grow back four times as thick. I was terrified to shave my legs, but eventually embarrassment outweighed fear. At age 13, I went to the drugstore and secretly bought a razor. I never did tell my Mum that I had started shaving my legs and pits! I wonder if she noticed?

Mum warned me that if I swallowed a cherry pit, it would stay in my stomach forever. Ditto for chewing gum. If I ate a peach pit, a tree would grow in my stomach. I'm surprised I can still swallow anything (shut up Gordon)! And I got in real trouble any time I blew bubbles in my drink with a straw. Nowadays I do it just because I can.

(KIDS! Don't read this part!) My mother did manage to keep me believing in Santa Claus until I was almost 12. The day she told me that Santa wasn't real, I was quite shocked, and I had to ask... "What about the Easter Bunny, then?" Out came the brutal truth, and I quickly realized that the Tooth Fairy was also a fantasy. Bummer, man.

Mum died nine years ago, but her dubious wisdom will be with me forever. My tarnished soul and I miss her greatly. Excuse me, I have to go crack my knuckles now.


  1. I didn't hear most of these growing up except for the knuckle-cracking part. I wasn't prone to trying to do that anyway, other than my thumbs. (Which I haven't done in years, and just tried to, and was unsuccessful but did creep myself out a little.) But my mother's cousin had terrible joint disease in her hands, and SHE attributed it to constant knuckle-cracking. I remember being very worried about all of this as a nine-year-old.

  2. I wonder if your Mom's cousin felt like cracking her knuckles (when she was young) because there was already something going on in there and it made her joints feel better? Just a thought. Hmmm...

    Has anyone else got any good "parenting tips"?

  3. Knat, did your mother also forbid you from swimming until an hour after you ate?

    When we complained about different food items mixing on our plates, my Mom said, "It all gets mixed up in your tummy anyway."

    Oh, and don't forget the immortal, "Don't sit too close to the tv--it'll ruin your eyes!"

  4. Oh my, Dephal, our mothers were soul sisters!!!! I forgot about all those ones! Except, probably because I was an only child, my mother gave in on the food-mixing issue, particularly with "chips" (aka French Fries). Being the good English woman, she always had a chip pan (until they invented home deep fryers), which was a ratty metal pan full of lard. It was used only for making chips (fries) and stayed in the fridge between outings. Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, I was particularly picking about having a separate plate for my chips because I liked to put vinegar on them (still do) and I didn't want the vinegar touching whatever we were having the chips with.

    I still feel quilty about swimming after eating. It was pounded into my head that I would immediately drown if I attempted it!

    As for the TV thing, my parents were always ragging on at me for sitting too close to the TV. Finally they took me to the eye doctor, because I couldn't read the chalkboards at school! Turns out I was nearsighted (and have gotten progressively worse over the years until I'm at -10 correction) and I couldn't SEE the damn TV unless it was two feet away from me!

  5. Anonymous2:52 am

    "every time I sinned, my golden soul would turn a little more black"
    If you've never read Betty MacDonald's Nancy and Plum, you need to. Yes, right now! :)


Thank you for all your comments, which I love to read!