We’ve grown up being warned by our parents to ‘do’ or ‘don’t do’ certain things. For instance, “Don’t frown, or your face will freeze that way.” “Don’t swallow watermelon seeds or one will grow in your stomach.” “If you don’t wash behind your ears, you’ll be able to plant potatoes.” In my tender years I could almost comprehend a watermelon plant growing out of my bellybutton. In fact, I thought it’d be cool. But potatoes growing behind my ears, come on. Wait…did mom lie to me?
Well, no more than saying, “Swallowing gum will stick your ribs together.” “Cross your eyes and they’ll get stuck that way.” “I have eyes in the back of my head.” “Take off your shoes in the house. They’ll ruin the carpet.” Ironically, nowadays when dad arrives and I’m barefoot he demands, “Where are your shoes?” Thus, I remind him mom wouldn’t let us wear shoes inside. “You’ll get sick if you don’t put shoes on,” he rebuffs. No sicker than if I went outside with wet hair. Right?
Well, it’s often said that kids say the darnedest things. Actually, they’re more apt to express the truth. On the other hand, parents fabricate reality in an effort to modify their child’s behavior. Remember this one: “Finish all your vegetables, there are starving children in (insert country) who’d be happy to eat your dinner.” As I got older I suggested sending my cold, wrinkled, puke green lima beans to hungry children. Unfortunately, my altruistic offering was met by an icy stare and firm finger pointing nefariously at my plate. In a valiant attempt at self-preservation I discovered patience at a young age. Waiting long enough, my parents would tire of watching me pulverize lima beans in hopes they would evaporate and exit the dining room to watch television. POOF! As if by magic, the revolting lima beans would disappear into my napkin. Gluttonously announcing that I had finished eating, I’d triumphantly ask to be excused. Traumatized for life, I’ve never met a bean I like. Unless it’s first name is ‘string’.
Of course, our parents meant well and didn’t purposely intend to instill us with unrealistic fears of germs, bugs, heights, water, puppies, snowflakes, trampolines, old ladies, mittens, kittens, or thousands of other irrational phobias. Even I, to this day, have a profound fear of water. Why? Let’s ask my mom. Mom, what did you tell us when we’d go to a lake? “Don’t go in the water, …there might be snakes! …it might drop off over your head! …you might cut your foot on something sharp on the bottom!” Yikes, to this day, I stay out of lakes…unless I’m in a boat, holding a rod, waiting on a nibble.
Of course, along with dashing our hopes of creating innocent childhood memories, hygiene was colossal in the eyes of parents. In retrospect, a little mud never hurt anybody. Currently proven by folks paying big bucks to be scattered, smothered, and covered in the stuff. Shoot fire, that was any given Saturday afternoon for kids. Yet, as every mud-soaked adventure met Mr. Bubble, nightly sanitization drills included, “Brush your teeth for three minutes or you’ll get cavities.” Dickens, in my house we used an hourglass egg timer and couldn’t stop brushing till all the sand fell through. Then one of my brothers figured out that turning it over soon after it began shorten brushing time considerably. Yeppers, on a good day he can pick up a European radio station because of all the metal filings in his teeth.
Finally, still an unsolved mystery to this day and for generations to come. “Stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about!” What does this even mean? Psychologists are still baffled, while adults everywhere realize they’ve become their parents after uttering this exact, bewildering and potentially therapy-inducing phrase to their own children.
Spoiler Alert: We’ll be okay. We survived chewing on pencils, playing with frogs, eating paste (glue) and stepping on cracks. We’ve defied the averages and have become questionably well-adjusted, if not slightly quirky, along with irrationally afraid of fuzzy slippers, adults to proclaim, “Seriously, money doesn’t grow on trees?”
Can you imagine…we’re finally old enough to understand and we’re still confused!
Smile, it looks soooo good on you!