Motherly Love

I recently read a post on one of my friend’s blogs about him slicing off the end of his finger with a razor.  Being a little sarcastic, and hearing my mother’s voice inside my head, I thought, “I’ve had worse places than that on my eye.”  This brought a host of my mom’s sayings back to me, and with Mother’s Day just around the corner, I thought I would put My Top 100 Creepy People list on hold and talk about mom.

First, I want to say that I love my mother, and she has been the greatest influence on my life.  She taught me morals and the importance of being polite with people.  She led me toward Christianity, and basically taught me to be a good person.  She is an even better grandmother to my daughter and mother-in-law to my wife.

However, I have another good friend that I’ve dropped some of my mother’s ‘pearls of wisdom’ on over the years.  At one point, he told me that he was surprised that I turned as well as I have after hearing these words of encouragement all of my life.

There were no good manuals on raising a child when I was born, and I don’t think my mom was a big reader at that time anyway.  All she had to draw upon was tradition and the things she had heard her mother say to her.  My grandmother lived through the Great Depression and was a share-cropper at times.  It was a hard life and combined with the American tradition of ‘rugged individualism,’ the people of this generation did not have the time, patience or ethic for worrying about every scraped knee.

I decided to gather these sayings together to make sure they are remembered by someone other than my daughter (because I will not be saying them to her), and as a sort of cathartic experience for myself, not that I really need it.

“I’ve had worse places than that on my eye.”-  This little gem would be delivered anytime there was an obvious wound to my body.  Imagine a six year old little boy falling down and skinning his knee all up.  Today, a good parent might rush to his side, pick him up, hug him and kiss his ‘booboo.’  Not during mom’s day.  No, she would take one look at it and scoreboard me by saying, “I’ve had worse places than that on my eye.”  Now, I could never compete with my mother in these types of competitions.  She had grown up in a place called ‘the bottoms,’ and had literally at one time lived in the back of a broken-down school bus for a few years.  She may have indeed been the Kareem Abdul Jabar of suffering as a child, but I didn’t see the need for her to point out the skins on her wall every time I was in pain.

“I’m going to give you something to cry about”- This ‘life affirming’ threat could be delivered in a time of mild pain or severe annoyance for myself.  The prerequisite for this statement would be for me to be crying.  I don’t remember her every actually delivering on the threat, however.  Perhaps hearing this statement from my mother, who I thought I could bring the problem to, was enough to sufficiently jar my other concerns loose or perhaps my sadness was transformed into fear.

“Look at me when I’m talking to you./Don’t you give me that look!” or “Answer me when I am talking to you!”- When you are a kid that is in trouble with mom, it’s like walking through a minefield.  Often there is no right look or correct answer that is going to help.  Mom’s will ask rhetorical questions like “Do you know how much I have to do around here?”, and heaven help the ignorant child who makes the mistake of actually trying to answer her.

“I’m not always going to be around to do these things for you.”- Mom was trying to reinforce the need for me to learn to do things for myself, but children as a rule are filled with a certain amount of ‘separation anxiety.’  I heard this as a threat or warning of the possibility of mom not being there anymore, and that was truly frightening.

“It’s no use crying over spilt milk.”- Anyone who has a child knows that kids cry a lot.  I know now that mom was trying to toughen me up, and teach me that some things just are not that important, but as a kid, sometimes I wished she had a little more empathy for the way I felt.  (Waaaah!)

“A little soap & water never killed anybody.”- While this may have been true, the pain and unpleasantness brought about buy the rubbing of my face that usually accompanied this statement could have been used effectively by the Inquisition.  And, I was just lucky if there was sink around or mom would use her spit to clean me up.  Ewe!

“Close the door behind you — were you born in a barn?”- Maybe.  How was I to know.  Mom lived in a bus for a while, maybe I was born in a barn.

“Because I said so.”- If your mom were on Jeopardy, the question would be, “What is an acceptable answer to any question that is asked?”

“Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back”- Every kid needs a little encouragement, and sometimes you may even fish for a little praise from your parents,…not at my house.  This phrase would be delivered to those who were foolish enough to cast their lines out for such encouragement.

“If it were a snake, it would have bitten you.”- I was never sure if this line was issued to make me feel stupid and unobservant, or just to give me a nice, unnatural fear of serpents.  My guess is that it was both.

“If you fall off that thing and break a leg, don’t come running to me/You made your bed, now lie in it.”  Nice.  Never mind the logistics involved in this.  I mean, if I did break my leg, I would probably not be in much of a position to do a lot of running, but that aside, statements like these are what the Depression era mentality of rugged individualism is all about.  These wonderful words of encouragement imply that you are on you own, and mom is not going to help you.

“Don’t let the door hit you in the rear/I’ll help you pack/Is that a threat or a promise?”- These statements are always preceded by the threat from the child to run away.  Usually that threat is prompted by some deep seated feeling that the child has been treated unfairly.  For mom, the best way to deal with those feelings was to heap on a nice big scoop of ‘I just don’t care about the way you are feeling.’

“Well, people in Hades want ice water, but do you see me with a pitcher?”  Wow!  If mom is willing to sit by and watch a person burn for all eternity without even offering to help, I probably am not going to be getting that grilled cheese that I would like right now.

“Life isn’t fair/The Fair only comes around once a year.”  It is important to teach our children that there are certain inequities that we just have to live with.  However, it is important to note that we do not want to leave the impression that we just don’t care about fairness and justice.

“Someday your face will freeze like that!”- I’m sure mom delivered this line as I was looking at her in a disrespectful manner after getting in trouble for something, but it would have been nice if I had not felt that she was actually hoping my face would freeze that way as a type of further punishment.

“What if everyone jumped off a cliff? Would you do it, too?”  This sometimes came across as an offer.

“You can get glad in the same pants you got sad/mad in.”- This is one of my all-time favorites.  Imagine a heartbroken child tearfully coming to his mother looking for little consolation.  Thanks, Mom!  I feel much better now!  That heartfelt empathy really hit the spot!

“If life hands you lemons, make lemonade!”- This is a classic.  It implies that there is a simplistic solution to any problem a kid will face.  It’s all about attitude, and mom’s attitude was, “don’t bother me with those trivial problems.”


Happy mother’s day.

I love you mom!




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