The other day, after a particularly harsh adolescent rant that was being taken out on me, because I am the mother after all and everything is my fault, I yelled something back. As I yelled this something, I heard my mother’s voice say, “You will miss me when I am gone.” (To clarify, I was the one yelling this in my voice and my mother’s voice was in my head because she does not yell at my children. I don’t often hear voices in my head, so no need to diagnose me with anything just yet.)
Once in a while, I say or do something that will remind me that we all turn into our mothers one way or another. (Though husband #1 will say that it is way more than one way and he wishes it was another, but that is for another time.) It got me thinking about all of the sayings that we have heard from our parents and others. I am not sure where we heard them, because back in the olden days, before social media, how did we hear about anything? Seriously — how did we? Morse code? Smoke signals? Sometimes I forget what the world was like before everyone had their heads in their phones. In any event, I came up with a couple of sayings that I wanted to delve a little deeper into and see what their true meanings are.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” I definitely did not hear this one from my dad the doctor. With a father as an OB/GYN, I learned early on that having a baby had nothing to do with eating apples. As I get older, and everything hurts and makes me run to a self-diagnosis of doom and gloom, I wish that eating an apple a day would solve all of the world’s health problems. Could you imagine? Now, when I eat an apple, I just get a stomach ache because my body tends to reject anything that doesn’t have artificial sweeteners in it. This phrase was probably started by some mom who threatened her kid with a trip to the doctor (probably insinuating that he or she would need a shot) if they didn’t eat their healthy snack. It just ruins apples for the rest of us.
“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Now, when plunging the weapon of choice into the man of choice, are we supposed to angle up? Just kidding. These words of wisdom were definitely first uttered by this particular man’s mother in an attempt to convince him that whomever he was dating was an awful cook. What happens if you are a dating a man who doesn’t eat anything? Son #1 favors five foods. Good luck, that is all I am saying.
“Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Really? What genius came up with this one? I am thinking it was the wife of an exterminator. If you have an anxious kid, this is probably not the safest thing to say to him or her, unless you believe in the “family bed” and you want your kids sleeping with you until they move out of the house. I’m wondering maybe the rationale behind this phrase is that because it rhymes, it is supposed to be a soothing saying, but then again, anything that has the word “bug” in it is not so soothing, so I have no idea.
“A daughter is a daughter for life. A son is a son until he takes a wife.” This is a personal favorite. Yes, I do believe there is nothing like the mother-daughter relationship. But I have heard from older and wiser friends that you can have really amazing sons who do a lot more for you than a daughter, so I have hope. (Not a lot of hope, but hope nonetheless!)
“If you keep making that face, it will freeze that way.” Really? Will it? What kid actually believes the over-worked, harried parent who is screaming this at their kids who keep sticking their tongues out at each other? More importantly, what do you do if you have a kid who really believes his face will freeze that way? Though, truth be told, there are some women (and men) in this community whose constant scowls might actually be a result of their faces freezing…just saying.
The list of phrases is endless. The words of wisdom we learn is never ending and the older we get, the wiser we get (or are supposed to get)…perhaps the best phrase of all is, “Keep it simple, stupid….” and just move on.
Banji Ganchrow lives in Teaneck. Her favorite phrase as a child was “I didn’t do it…” No explanation needed!