by Tim Braun
Does anyone remember the Twilight Zone episode where the mother of a kid kept telling the kid “Don’t make your face like that or it will stick in that position forever”? The kid just assumed her mom was lying and continued to be bratty – as kids tend to do. What happened then was that the kid entered this creepy party or something and boom – everyone’s face was frozen in some grotesque manner. As was hers. Of course this was all filmed in black & white, which added to the creep-factor. That episode permanently scarred me into thinking that everything my mother or father ever told me was true.
Color me (or black & white me) stupid.
Let me tell you something I’m finding out for the first time over the last few years. What my mother always told me about certain things wasn’t just a lie, but it was a devilish ploy to get me to stop doing something that she found annoying. That’s right – I was apparently annoying as a child. Here are three examples of things I’ve always believed to be true as told by my mother that have recently made me look like an idiot.
EXAMPLE #1 – “The Great Cranberry Poking”
SETUP: Every Thanksgiving Eve the Braun family had a tradition. This tradition was to get me and my brother gathered around a large metal bowl with a needle in our hand. What were we doing you may ask? My mom would dump a whole sack of cranberries in the bowl and tell us that we needed to STICK EACH CRANBERRY WITH A NEEDLE. So we would sit there dutifully grabbing each cranberry and carefully inserting a needle into them.
MOM’S EXPLANATION: If you don’t put a hole in each one, they will explode when cooking and make a horrible mess that YOU will have to clean up. So be careful and make sure you stab every single of the approximately 1 billion cranberries per year.
ACTUAL MOM REASONING: We have GOT to do something to keep these two quiet for a while. Let’s think up a completely useless task and see how long they’ll do it.
CONCLUSION: Well played, Mom. Well played.
EXAMPLE #2 – “Maraschino Cherries Are Made From Trees”
SETUP: I used to love maraschino cherries and would eat them non-stop if I found them sitting in the refrigerator. Just take them one at a time and shove them in my pie-hole and feel the succulent juices cascade their merry juiciness down my throat. My mom wanted me to stop this.
MOM’S EXPLANATION: Don’t eat those – one at a time is fine, but if you eat too many of them you’ll get sick because they are actually MADE WITH LAYERS OF PAPER. That’s right, she told me that maraschino cherries were just decoration and made with paper. I was stunned to find out that goodness could be mine once again. A couple of years ago.
ACTUAL MOM REASONING: I can’t get him to stop eating these things, so let’s make up something so bizarre that he won’t ever eat them again.
CONCLUSION: Success. I didn’t have the guts to eat a maraschino cherry until a couple of years ago, when I figured out that trees were NOT dying for their maraschino cherry wood.
EXAMPLE #3 – “Cream Puffs are Fragile”
SETUP: My mom always made us what we wanted for our birthday cake. I normally chose a triple-layer chocolate cake with chocolate icing and chocolate pudding between the layers – YUM! My brother normally chose cream puffs – which were apparently as fragile as the wings of a gossamer albatross. So she would make us stay outside during the entire 36-hour ordeal of making cream puffs for my brother (time may have been extended due to trying to make the story better).
MOM’S EXPLANATION: Don’t come in the house or make a lot of noise while the cream puffs are being made, because they’ll collapse under the weight of your annoyingness and be ruined forever. You’ll be left with a cream puffless.
ACTUAL MOM REASON: Let’s get the kids out of the house and keep them out. Oh. And while we’re at it keep them QUIET outside of the house.
CONCLUSION: It worked. I never had a bad cream puff because of that.
What’s odd in the whole thing is that for all three of the examples noted above, they were perfectly defensible by her. We NEVER had cranberries explode, I NEVER got sick when I didn’t eat the cherry, and we never flattened a cream puff. So to us kids, she was a miracle worker! Raising two kids and giving us these wonderful treats – SUPERLADY!
And what’s SAD is that it took me until the last few years to realize that she was just using Parenting 101 – Lie to your kids and when they finally find out 30 years later it will just seem funny to them.
Well played Mom. Well played.