Any of you who have spoken with me for more than two minutes know that my conversations are liberally sprinkled with “ . . . as my mother used to say. . .”
My mother was a very wise woman, as was her mother. Good ol’ frontier stock. My grandmother was born in the Ozarks, graduated college in 1897 in Kansas, homesteaded in the Cherokee Strip (Oklahoma Panhandle) and had her first two babies in a “soddy.” So their folk wisdom comes with all the credentials. Some of these sayings they garnered from well-known sources, some came, I’m sure, from their mothers.
The adage that I remember most vividly, probably because my mother needed to use it so often when I was a kid was, “Adrienne, an excuse is just the skin of a reason stuffed with lies.”
Heaven knows I hated that one, probably because it was so applicable. It wasn’t until I had kids of my own that I began to understand the truth of that adage, and then when I started teaching junior high school that I really understood. This is the one I would usually write on the board the first day of school. It was my way of saying, “I don’t care that the dog ate your homework or that a meteor crashed into your house and the aliens visited you. Just yes or no: Did you do your homework? Anything else, refer to what is written on the board.”
Yes, I came to know that one well in my growing-up years, and continue use it frequently.
The other adage that my mother applied to me as a kid, and I, in turn, used with my own children was, “If you’ve done a good job by the time they’re 12 (today it’s more like 8), you don’t need to worry. If you haven’t, it’s too late to worry.”
Many times I don’t think that we, as parents, fully realize the import of very early training until after the fact. Bottom line being, it’s hard work being a parent. There is a lot of self-discipline involved in trying to stay consistent in day-to-day living. There’s more discipline in disciplining ourselves when we discipline our children than there is in actually disciplining our children. Think about it. (And you can quote me on that.)
Then, when I started to drive a car the one I heard over and over from my mother was, “It doesn’t matter if you have the right-of-way if you’re dead.”
That informed my driving on more than one occasion. I like to think it helped make me a more gracious and considerate driver. It’s embedded in my brain, even now. (Oh stop it, those of you who have ridden with me. If you think my driving is aggressive now, just think what it would have been if I hadn’t had that old saw drummed into my head.)
But my favorite adage, and the one that remains most precious to me, was one my mother would use when any of us kids were walking out the door; whether it was me at 10 or my brothers at 30, we were told, “Remember who you belong to.”
From an early age my mother explained to us kids that we would meet many people out there in the world who would never meet or know her, so the only advertisement there was as to what kind of mother she had been was the character and behavior of her children. Yup, that gave me pause more than once. This probably explains my mother’s style of parenting better than anything.
Both my mother and grandmother were fond of reminding me that all generalizations are faulty, including this one. I know that one came from someone famous, and those weren’t the exact words, but I’d like to thank the author of that one. As I listened to political rhetoric this last election year I realize that it’s as true today as it ever was; maybe even more so.
Now, enough about my mother. How about yours? What were her favorite sayings?