How Did Mom’s Words Get In My Mouth?

So Many Silent Promises: I Would Never Repeat Mom’s Words!

I imagine you were very much like me growing up. You swore you’d never say the same ridiculous things to your child that your mother said to you. And yet, as much as I swore I’d never do it, there was more than one occasion when Mom’s words somehow inched their way out of my mouth…no matter how hard I tried to prevent it.

Turn off that television. You’re going to go blind.

Mom’s words resonated with me, especially on Saturday mornings. Who wanted to miss Sky King or Roy Rogers when cartoons were over? I have to give myself credit for this one. I’d grown up and realized you’d never go blind watching television. And yet, without warning one day I heard myself warn my boys: “Turn off that television. Do you want to have to wear thick glasses like your mother?”

It didn’t end there!

If Bertha jumped off a bridge, would you follow here?

“Yeah, well Mom, I think it would all depend on which bridge. I’d have to say the bridge over the Des Moines River is a definite ‘No,’ but the little bridge over the creek at the golf course would be fun, I think.” She hated me when I got old enough to use some good old-fashioned Iowa logic on her.

Respect Your Elders!

I found I had to bite my lip on Mom’s words once in a while. To tell her the truth about how I chose who to respect would be to open one of Grandma Burton’s ‘hornet’s nests.’ How could I tell her why I didn’t respect my father or the minister who kept sliding onto the organ bench with me when I went to church to practice for Sunday Service? This is a tough one for many of us. I find I respect those who respect me and my boundaries. For the rest…well, I avoid them like the plague.

Because of my experiences as a child, I firmly warned my children to show respect to those who helped them and were kind. I also encouraged them to tell me immediately when someone treated them badly. They knew it was impolite to talk back, but they also knew I would never demand they knuckle down to someone who was abusive.

A stitch in time may save nine.

In the words of my father, I had a tendency to “bull my way through everything.” Actually, it was the opposite. I was a prolific reader my entire life. Anything that took me away from my beloved books was a time-waster. I wanted to escape into the amazing worlds I’d discovered at the library. Mom’s words constantly encouraged me to slow down and do something right the first time, so I wouldn’t have to repeat the process. I don’t remember ever sharing this one with my kids.

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. (Sir Walter Scott)

This one haunts me to this day. Mom’s words still echo in my head if I tell a little white lie to protect someone else. (Mother said that doing so was Okay.

The thing about lying is that eventually, you have to tell more than the original lie to try to cover up the first indiscretion. I rarely tell any kind of lie, including the little white ones. I heard this from Mom nearly every day of my life It was her little way of digging to make sure I was being straight with her. I have to admit, I used it more than once with my own children.

Money doesn’t grow on trees.

This was a huge one. I heard it from Mom, Grandma, my aunt, my babysitter, the housekeeper. You’d think I was constantly out spending money. That was not the case. As a matter of fact, because Mom was an interior decorator she insisted on dressing me like a little fashion model for school each day. I hated it and the other kids made fun of me. Kids bullied me for acting like I was better than everyone else. I was constantly humiliated. I simply wanted to look like everyone else, but Mom wanted me to look better. She said it reflected back on her.

I hope I didn’t use this one on the boys. After the car accident, we had to use all the equity in our house to pay the bills. There were so many nights there wasn’t enough food to feed everyone. I’d simply say I wasn’t hungry while feeding my husband and the boys. I never wanted to make my kids feel guilty about having things or not having things. Life was what it was, and those kids respected everything they had. They were clean and happy. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Mom's words could strike terror in the heart of a child.
Of all Mom’s words, this one scared me the most.

Just wait until your father gets home.

This phrase was the killer. It meant one of those gigantic hands was going to engage with my face or my hind end. For the most part, my brother and I were very well-behaved children. We knew the consequences of bad behavior and avoided it at any cost.

I never repeated this phrase to my sons. It carried far too many memories.

Instead, I told them something like: “Wow! I can’t believe the mess you’ve made. Come on and help me…we need to get this cleaned up before your dad gets home. (I like my style so much better!)

The early bird catches the worm.

Well, I’d have probably used this on the boys. It went right along with “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” I’ve always liked these two. Work hard, get there before everyone else, and you’re bound to be successful in many things.

Cross that bridge when you come to it.

I’d be guilty of this one too. There really is no point in worrying about some point in the future. My best advice is to make the best of this very time in your life and you’ll reap the rewards. I hope I’ve taught this to my sons. This one’s important!

When I was your age, I had to walk 8 miles to school.

Yes, father. I’m sure you suffered horribly. The thing is, we live right across the street from the school. What other kinds of drudgery would you like me to do so I can suffer as badly as you? (Nevermind, you’ve already seen that my life is less than perfect!)

Mom never, ever repeated these words. Our father said them quite often, though. I think he thought the life he provided us was far too easy.

Wipe that smile off your face or I’ll wipe it off for you. And the Reverse: If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.

These were never Mom’s words. These were the threats from our father as he raised his huge hand above my brother and my heads.

If there were ever a reason for a child to hate a parent, these words could definitely carry a ton of weight.

Hold your horses

Mom used it.

Grandma used it.

I used it.

What else can you say to the child leaning toward the door with all his weight when you don’t have his boots, gloves, and hat on yet?

Your face is going to freeze like that.

Do you remember this one?

It’s typically used for the kid with the frown or scowl on his/her face.

There were times I almost wished it were true. It would serve them right for never saying anything positive about their youngest child. I could always do better, try harder, etc.

You’ll live

Correct. The only problem was that there were so many nights when I truly wished I could die.

Unfortunately, I’m sure my sons heard this at least once, but I’m pretty sure it was their father who said it.

This hurts me more than it hurts you.

Oh, come on. Is there a child alive who believes this one?

You brought this on yourself.

Rarely was that the case. I wish a line my son’s schoolmates used had been in vogue when I was a kid. I’d have loved to have quoted their indifference:


Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Let me be perfectly clear on this one. You may not know your child has been bullied or abused. Under threat, we become very good liars.

Everything is a big deal for a kid who is suffering low self-esteem as a result of abuse or bullying.

Remind yourself not to ever use this comment.

Instead, engage your child in meaningful conversations to find out why they are so upset over something you don’t believe is all that important. It’s called ‘Parenting!’

Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

I didn’t use these exact words.

What I did do was to impress my philosophy on the boys when they turned sixteen.

With as much love and compassion in my voice as possible, I explained to them why driving was such an important event on their journey to adulthood.

Then, I suggested firmly that they should memorize the phone number for 1-800-DialLawyers in the event they should decide to either drink and drive or do drugs and drive.

I told them I loved them more than life itself, but that this one thing was my red line in the sand. They understood completely that if they broke this one rule, I wouldn’t lift a hand to help get them out of trouble. Even then, I’d lost far too many friends to drunk drivers.

I didn’t show any anger when I shared the stories of others who thought it wouldn’t hurt ‘just one time.’ Neither of the boys broke this sacred trust.

Always finish what you’ve started.

This one’s good.

I’m currently chastising myself for dragging my heels on the 3rd book in the Elle Burton series. About the time I received the second edit back, I faced life-saving surgery on a clogged artery and one day later I received an email from my medical team saying I’d tested positive for cancer.

A later procedure performed only weeks ago proved the cancer diagnosis was incorrect. It did, however, pinpoint two more medical problems. The pills they put me on are evidently blocking my high blood pressure medicine, so my BP has run 197/113 now for days. Mayo told me not to bother to come in until the top number was over 200, so I’m struggling to stay upright and not stroke out today.

That doesn’t excuse that I’ve postponed working on the book.

The truth of the matter is, my head’s not been in the right place for a few months now to keep my words encouraging. I will get back to it, just not today!

Don’t burn the candle at both ends.

This one is an old favorite and only solidifies the one above.

I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you.

I discourage you from using this one. It follows my advice above. You can’t be certain your child isn’t hiding some deep secret and hurt. These words could be the difference between suicide and attempting to find solutions.

When you grow up, your kids will give you back double what you’ve given me.

You were completely wrong about this one, Mom.

I had so much fun raising my boys. The one thing I realized early on was that they never did anything destructive or dumb on purpose.

How can you punish a child for an accident? Far too many parents do.

I don’t think I was a destructive, disrespectful, or deceitful child, and yet I heard these words constantly.

My mom’s words could bite like a knife some days, and this particular line only made me that much more convinced that I would protect my children from ever suffering the way I did as a child.

Whatever I gave my mom, the blessings from my children were enormous.

You kids will be the death of me.

Again, if you have no background in abuse you may not understand why this one made me want to vomit.

You see, my father never threatened me if I told anyone what he was doing to me. He was too smart for that. He used to refer to me as ‘Little Miss Okay Then.’ He was right. Threatening me wouldn’t have kept his secret.

So, he threatened my mother if I ever told.

Mom’s words that I might be the reason she could die cut me like a knife. I spent my childhood protecting my mom.

Because I said so.

I’m guessing there isn’t a parent alive who hasn’t used this one.

Here’s a dime. Go call someone who cares.

Thankfully, my parents never used this one. Of course, I grew up in the days of the pay phone so this threat made sense to me.

Oh, I heard it. I heard it on the playground. Obviously, other parents were using it.

Stuff a sock in it.

I’m adding this one because I’ve heard other parents use it.

Thankfully, we didn’t hear it at our house and I hope it isn’t used where you live.

Don’t stir up the mud.

How can talking about something that’s wrong, make it any worse?

The days where we avoided having the tough conversations needs to be over and never be revisited!

Stir up the mud. Stomp on it. Do whatever you need to do to make it go away!

Mom’s words still ring in my ears, long after she left this world.

Be thankful for what you have.

I always tried to be and it’s a lesson I always taught my boys. We may not have had much, but we worked hard and honestly for what we did have.

A son’s a son ’til he takes a wife. A daughter’s a daughter for the rest of her life.

Mom’s words still resonate with me, but this one isn’t entirely true.

Sure, I was the one who took care of her for over thirty years.

But, my sons have always been there for me through thick and thin. I treasure them always and they are still more important to me than life itself.

Wash your hands before you eat.

I have to counter this one. A little dirt doesn’t hurt.

My youngest was born two months premature. Unfortunately, his immune system didn’t work very well.

I remember the day Dr. Frederixon asked me how many times a week I gave him a bath. I answered, “Daily.”

“What are you doing that for? Don’t you realize germs have a purpose? They help the immune system.”

I stammered something about Mom telling me I should bathe the baby every day.

“Well, stop it.” He frowned at me.

Eat your fruit and vegetables.

This is a good idea for all ages!

Can’t never did.

Grandpa Burton’s gift of the “I Can” helped me understand Mom’s words.

I wasn’t born yesterday, little lady.

Obviously, I wasn’t being entirely truthful when I heard this one.

Who do you think you are?

I always wanted to answer “The milk man’s kid?” when I heard this one. But, I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut.

One can always dream!

Don’t make me pull this car over.

I never heard this one growing up. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I heard this come out of my husband’s mouth right before he pulled over on a snowy shoulder of the road and demanded my youngest exit the car.

I can’t remember another time in my life when I was so angry. I can only assume this was something his father did to him and it saddens me that so many of us visit the same shame on our children we suffered as kids.

Don’t do it.

Give your children reason to love and respect you.

After all, the one time in your life you should do your very best is in front of your children.

The early bird catches the worm.

I’d have to agree with this one for the most part.

Tell your kids to get out there and give it their best.

Be proud of their efforts and let them know how you feel.

Be Safe. Be Loved. Pass It On!

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2 thoughts on “How Did Mom’s Words Get In My Mouth?

  1. Julie Watson

    Funny how these sayings are passed down. I have memories of being told a lot of them as well. Some helpful while many were hurtful.

    • I don’t really think our parents intended to hurt us. They were only repeating what they heard from their parents. No matter how alert I was to avoid the words that hurt, they would still slip out once in a while. It’s amazing what we remember!

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