First, thanks, Mom, for your life and your love. You did more than give birth, you gave your heart and head, your laughter and tears, your solace and safety, your time and tips.
You remember those pearls of wisdom: Work hard. Play fair. Steal nothing. Share everything. Buckle up your seat belt. Buckle down for that math quiz. Don’t get caught in dirty underwear. Do get your degree. Don’t do drugs. Do brush your teeth. Don’t date that loser. Do go to the prom. Don’t settle for less. Do read more.
Amid all those gems, though, there were a few rocks. Hey, even the best mothers dish out a clunker or two. So we asked our readers to tell us about the worst advice their mothers ever gave them (remembering that those few duds make the diamonds shine even brighter):
Pimple problems • “Your acne will clear up as soon as you get married, honey. Married sex cures pimples.” My mother was a nurse. You would think she would know better than to say that to her discouraged teenage daughter.
— Heather Young, Kent, Wash.
Just keeping you safe • For some reason, my mom sometimes used bizarre somatic warnings to keep us in line. For example, if I wanted a candy bar in the grocery store, she might say, “Well, OK, but if you eat that, you’ll probably get diabetes and have to give yourself an insulin shot every day of your life.” On the plus side, I wound up becoming a therapist who works with people with anxiety disorders (and I’m good at it). Mom has long been forgiven for her occasional parenting craziness, so it’s all good.
— Mike Peterson, Los Angeles
Dessert is best • The best/worst thing my mother ever said was “if you’re still hungry, have some cake.”
— Cathie Jones, Mesa, Ariz.
Get happy • “If you think you’re depressed, you probably aren’t.” She has learned waaay more about mental illness since then.
— Kirsten Nelson, Logan
Wedding night • “Don’t gasp in horror or laugh the first time you see ‘it.’” It was the only marital advice I got the night before our wedding.
— Sarah, New York
Before timeout • To spank my child for wetting her pants and bed. I did it once, and it felt so intuitively wrong. It turns out, my daughter had ureter reflux and her brain/bladder weren’t communicating quickly enough. After seeing a specialist, we learned not only what it (the medical problem) was but also that it was quite common and nothing she could control.
— Michele Rideout, Cottonwood Heights
Every girl has heard this • My mother and others said: “He’s being mean to you because he likes you.”
— Sue Booth-Forbes, Ireland
Before #MeToo • “You can’t be a doctor and a mom.” And “You’re married now. If you and your husband have problems, don’t go talking to anyone else about them; keep it between the two of you.” That advice alone kept me in an abusive relationship for years. Abuse thrives in the dark.
— Amber Pechin, Phoenix
A faithful warning • When I started attending a Quaker meeting, my mom said, “It’s OK, but just don’t JOIN anything!” Years later, she was very happy I became a Friend.
— Elaine Emmi Caldwell, Bloomington, Ind.
Go to sleep, dear • When I was married, she told me to never go to bed when you are angry with your husband — terrible advice. My husband and I quickly learned that when there was a disagreement, going to bed and getting some sleep was the best thing to do. Then approach it with a clear head in the morning.
— Lisa Evans Dame, Sandy
Foreign objects • A common saying by moms to women in Romania, Ukraine and Hungary: “Never sit on concrete benches because apparently it will freeze your ovaries and make you infertile.”
— Laura Evershed Johnsen, Newport Beach, Calif.
Money talks • “It’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one.” Not bad advice — just not true.
— Linda Jones Gibbs, Mamaroneck, N.Y.
Keep it quiet • After I got home from my Latter-day Saint mission, my mom presented me with a list of eligible and prescreened women to date. Linda [his wife of now more than 40 years] was not on the list. When I called to tell my mother I was engaged (to Linda) she said, “Don’t tell anybody — until I can talk you out of it.”
— Chris Kimball, Woodland, Utah
No to natural • I love my mother, she is amazing, but she used to tell me, “Go back in your room and put on MORE makeup so the boys will like you better.”
— Hilary Cox Johnson, Salt Lake City
Keeping up appearances • “Don’t cross your eyes, or they will get stuck permanently that way,” and “The house must be clean BEFORE leaving on vacation because heaven forbid that should we die on vacation, people would come into our dirty home and pronounce judgment.” (Not my rule).
— Chris Miasnik, Bluffdale
Badges are overrated • “Get your Eagle Scout or you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.” No Eagle Scout and no regrets.
— Jim Bennett, Sandy
Ouch, you’re hurting me • “You have to suffer to be beautiful,” she said during every hair-brushing session as a child. Turns out, I could just cut it off and not suffer.
— Amy Isaksen Cartwright, Calgary, Alberta
Times have changed • “Your day doesn’t start until you put on your shoes,” and “You should put on lipstick before your husband gets home from work.”
— Wendy Stringfellow VonSosen, Danville, Calif.
Old-fashioned girl • My mom said there was no reason for a young woman to have more than one year of college. She said it made no sense when motherhood and children were supposed to be my primary objectives. I ignored her and got two college degrees. Trust me, they saved my financial and intellectual life.
— Charlene Winters, Orem
Source of inspiration • Mom to my sixth grade self: “You don’t need to tell people your shoes are from Payless.”
Me as a 20-something: “I’m not sure what to do.”
Mom: “You should pray or Google about it.”
— Lauren Matthias, St. George
Tribune editor David Noyce contributed to this story.