Belfast Telegraph

Frances Burscough: Never contest that mother knows best

By Frances Burscough

We are gathered here today to celebrate our mothers and to reflect on what a sterling job they did (on the whole) through the best of times and the worst of times. I think of mine often, particularly when I hear myself saying things that she always used to say, but to my own kids.

So as a timely tribute for Mother’s Day, I thought it would be fun to make a list of those timeless motherly maxims with a few translations thrown in for good measure.

THE SARCASTIC SNIPE

“Do you think I was born yesterday?” (ie. I know fine and rightly what you’re up to) “Who do you think you are, Lady Muck?” (who the hell is this Lady Muck anyway?) “Do you think I’m made of money?” (ie. Ask your dad and let him fork out) “Do you think I haven’t got enough on my plate without having to...” (Forget it. No chance. Oh alright then) “This isn’t a taxi service you know” (In my day we walked everywhere...).

IMPLIED THREAT OF VIOLENCE

“I’m not going to tell you again...” (because bad things will happen if I do) “Don’t make me come in/down/up/out/over there!” (because bad things will happen if you do) “If you don’t stop crying I’ll give you something to cry about!” (because bad things will happen if you don’t) “Just wait until your dad hears about this!” (The ultimate threat and every mother’s trump card).

ACTUAL THREAT OF VIOLENCE

“I’ll knock your heads together!” (she never did) I’ll kill him/her!” (she never did, unless there’s a body under the patio) “I’ll spiflicate you!” (whatever that means?) “I’ll knock you into next week/I’ll turn you inside out!” (both physically impossible but I daresay more dangerous than being spiflicated).

THE OLD CHESTNUTS

“Two wrongs don’t make a right /There’s no use crying over spilt milk/Don’t judge a book by its cover/Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” (How many times did we hear these??)

“Money doesn’t grow on trees” ( If you replied “Pleeeease! You can take it out of my next pocket money!” she always gave in and had almost certainly forgot all about it by pocket money day) “Waste not want not” (usually followed by the starving children in Africa scenario).

PSEUDO SCIENCE

“Staring at the telly will give you square eyes” (Err ... no it won’t) “Carrots help you see in the dark” (No they don’t) “I’ve got eyes in the back of my head” (No you haven’t) “Too much sugar can give you worms” (No it can’t) “Don’t pull a silly face or the wind might change directions” (Err ... what on earth are you talking about?!).

HEALTH AND SAFETY ISSUES:

“You’ll have someone’s eye out with that” (when carrying anything remotely pointy) “Never run with scissors” (in case you accidentally skewer yourself ... or put someone’s eye out) “Never run with a lollipop” (I wish! Chance’d be a fine thing. We weren’t even allowed lollipops as they were considered — by my mum — to be as lethal as a WMD).

RETRO RHETORIC

“If I’d have ever spoken to my mum like that … ”(let me guess? You’d have been spiflicated into next week?) “When I was your age ...” (a cautionary lecture about gratitude, invariably followed by a Monty Python-esque tale from the past involving bare feet, soot and one rationed slice of stale bread) “Nowadays you don’t even know you’re born ...” (another lecture about the extreme poverty of the good old days v. the spoilt ungrateful youth of today) “You don’t even know the meaning of the word” (if ever you say you feel cold/tired/sick/hungry. Usually followed by a story about the war).

AND THE ALL-TIME CLASSIC

“When you’ve got kids of your own, you’ll understand.”... And yes mum, although it’s taken me a long time to admit this, you were of course absolutely right!

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