4 Mantras I learnt from my Mom


On my Dad’s 70th birthday last year, my sister wrote a tribute to our parents on her blog & cited some of the mantras she remembered our mom repeating throughout our childhood. These are some of them as well as others I recall and admire:

1. “You can’t put an old head on young shoulders

The older I get, the more I try to take in this truth. It is, however, by it’s very nature, impossible to completely appreciate until one is actually “old”. Mary Schmich puts it best in her 1997 column entitled “Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young”, which was later made famous when Baz Luhrmann borrowed the words for his hit song “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)”.* Schmich writes:

Enjoy the power & beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power & beauty of your youth until they’ve faded, but trust me, in twenty years’ time, you will look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now, how much possibility lay before and how fabulous you really looked…

This quote, which I heard again for the first time last year, at the age of 35, is one I plan to have inscribed on a canvas that hangs in my home – as a daily reminder to myself to at least try to appreciate the power and beauty of my own relative youth, and, as something which will hopefully ring true in my children’s ears in time to come. This is exactly what my mother was trying to teach me when I was growing up, just in different words.

2. You’ll have nothing to look forward to

I loathed hearing these words when I was a child. From Sub B (Grade 2, age 7/8), my classmates started having parties that started at 4pm and ended at 8pm which my mother disparagingly referred to as “night parties”. Needless to say, I was not allowed to attend said “night parties”. The explanation given was that I was too young and that I would “have nothing to look forward to” later on in life. This was re-iterated when I was sixteen and everyone my age growing up in the entirety of the Garden Route was allowed to go to the Plett night club “The Cave”. Ditto for New Years Eve on Plett beach. Naturally, I felt very disgruntled by these rules and I found the explanation even more insufferable.

Now, with a daughter of my own (although she’s only four), I do want to protect her from having seen it all and experienced it all, before her time.

3. ‘Boring’ is a banned word/ there’s no such thing as bored

My mother literally banned my sister and I from uttering the words “boring” or “bored”. Naturally, this infuriated me but it definitely worked. Such a clever parenting tool. Because we were forbidden from whining that we were bored, when we felt the urge to moan that we had nothing to do, we were forced to find something to do.

Now, with young children, I instinctively avoid these words. I don’t want to introduce them into my children’s vocabulary, I want to delay their awareness of the concept of boredom. And I will definitely be borrowing the mantra from my mother!

4. Sunburnt little girls make wrinkled old ladies

As it turns out, my mom and Mary Schmich have a fair amount in common. Not only do they agree that youth is wasted on the young, but that sunscreen is critical. I think that truth has become self-evident in recent years and I am so grateful to my mother for making me so vigilant about sunburn from an early age.

*In a recent post, I quoted a different part of Mary Schmich’s most brilliant column, but attributed the words to Baz Luhrmann, not realising that they were originally written by the Chicago Tribune writer.