Parents: they bring us into the world, then spend the next 18 plus years feeding us, clothing us, and trying their best to keep us from doing stupid things and killing ourselves. There’s no other way to put it, kids are often pretty stupid…at least until their teen years, then they’re always stupid. Without someone to guide them, kids would be walking into walls and falling off cliffs every day. When you’re growing up, your mom and dad are always on duty, watching practically every move you make to ensure your well-being. It’s a 24-hour job, no breaks, no weekends, no holidays.
Though they remain vigilant the majority of the time, there are always those moments when parents have to take their eyes off their children for a short time. I mean, even a mom has to go to the bathroom sometimes. For these rare, unsupervised moments, parents have to develop “temporary babysitters.” These temporary babysitters are a technique employed by parents to use our own brains to speak for them in their absence. We’ve all encountered a temporary babysitter at some point in our lives. A form of mind control our mom and dad plant in our head to keep us out of trouble. Every parent has their own temporary babysitting tactics, and some of them are unique to say the least.
The following are some temporary babysitting gems used by my mother during my childhood:
- Don’t cross your eyes, they’ll get stuck that way. A fairly common phrase among parents, this was my mom’s way of making sure my facial expressions remained socially acceptable at all times–even when she wasn’t around.
- Don’t swallow the seeds or you’ll sprout a watermelon in your stomach. My mom used this one when I was four, and I still remember it vividly because it frightened me so much. I didn’t need to worry about watermelons that day, my mom had sown her own terrible seed–a seed of pure fear! Her timing of this particular warning was uncanny, because she told me “just look at what happened to your aunt because she swallowed a watermelon seed.” My aunt was eight months pregnant at the time. I haven’t eaten watermelon since.
- Don’t peek under the tree on Christmas Eve night or all your gifts will disappear. Obviously Santa was magic or he couldn’t deliver all those gifts in one night, so the idea of my gifts magically disappearing as fast as they had appeared seemed plausible to my young mind. Peeking was strictly prohibited because in my house, Santa never wrapped his gifts. He just left my gifts by the Christmas tree. Mom and dad wrapped theirs so I could tell my gifts from them apart. An awful lot of trouble to go through just to give a fat, bearded stranger the credit.
- The Boogey Man lives under my bed and he’ll snatch you if you get up during the night. My mom didn’t use this particular gem. In fact, she was furious when she found out about it. My dad’s mother is responsible for this one. When I was very young and would spend the night, she’d let me sleep in bed with her because she had no night lights in her bedrooms and I didn’t want to be by myself. In order to keep me from getting up and down all night and keeping her awake, she made sure a terrifying, child-snatching monster lived under her bed. That one really must have struck a chord, because to this day I sometimes feel a brief rush of fear whenever I have to get up in the middle of the night or notice my closet door is open.
- Don’t pick your nose or your brain will fall out. Unique to say the least, this was how my mom kept my nose-mining at bay. Apparently picking your nose stretches out your nostrils until they’re so big your brain will just fall right out of your head through your nose. Nothing bogus about that at all!
- Eat your vegetables or your hair will fall out and you’ll turn purple. Because apparently skipping my broccoli would result in a terrible case of scurvy. Pass the peas please!
- Don’t bite your fingernails, you’ll get worms! This is the phrase I remember most. My mom was constantly warning me about the hazards of biting my nails. Get a load of her explanation: When you play outside, dirt gets under your fingernails. The dirt contains dry worm eggs that, once they hit the moisture in your stomach, will hatch. When I bit my nails, I swallowed some of the worm egg-infested dirt. What my mom didn’t know was that I wasn’t biting my nails when she’d correct me. I was terrible about biting the cuticle and all the skin around my nails. I rarely, if ever, bit a fingernail. Her terrifying story about the life cycle of a parasitic worm, however, would cause me to panic every time I accidentally ended up with dirt in my mouth. Happened a lot on a dry, windy day. I’d be playing outside, then feel that disgusting gritty feeling in my mouth after a big gust of wind. My heart would drop out of my chest and I’d get tingly from head to toe. A sudden burst of adrenaline at the mere thought of accidentally ingesting a worm egg in all that dirt.
You have to hand it to her. Even if she didn’t have an ounce of medical knowledge to back up her claims, she would still come up with her own elaborate explanation to ensure I didn’t doubt a word she said. Moms: Using deception as a childcare aid since always.