What did your mother used to say when she wanted to alter your behavior or warn you about where your actions would lead you? Did she use any momilies on you? (You know, those quippy little sayings that she said over and over, annoying you and forever ingraining them into your brain?IMG_3667

Momilies stick in your head like super glue. That’s why all mothers use them. Somewhere in the unwritten code of mothering is the instinctive foresight to stash away a few well-chosen momilies, for teachable moments when their children are acting fresh or being naughty. Instead of clobbering them, mothers scatter wise sayings on those little receptive ears. (Who am I kidding? Mom hurled them at our heads. She drilled them unmercifully.)

Momilies must work, because when I was growing up, every time I was about to do something stupid or think something prideful or want to give up, I would hear a familiar saying, ringing in my ears. I could picture my mother’s face saying it, the hazel eyes boring into my brain. I might groan or roll my eyes. Or maybe I would smile, thankful for an answer at just the right time. Usually, I would follow her advice. I couldn’t help it. I had been conditioned to respond, like a lab rat.

Maybe like me, you once vowed never to use momilies on your own children. But I’ll bet you do. You realize now that a child’s conscience speaks in the voice of his mother. Say your prayers. Say please and thank you. Open the door for people. Shake hands. Never give up.

At nearly 50, I still hear my mother’s voice in my head every day, guiding me through life. Weighty whisps of wisdom had been shared during several fleeting years of my early life, and they became imbedded into my gray matter. They have guarded my heart and my feet from many dangers.

Here are my favorites. (I can hear my mother’s voice as I write them down.) Some are from Ben Franklin and the Bible, but the rest must be a collection from a long line of mothers who lived before mine. Perhaps generations ago, mothers all congregated on porches, while they shucked corn or shelled beans (do you shell beans?), and they came up with a list to haunt and humble the worst of children.

Here’s my list:

  1. Pride goes before a fall.
  2. Play hard to get.
  3. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
  4. Beauty is only skin deep.
  5. If they told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?
  6. Don’t be a smart aleck.
  7. A penny saved is a penny earned.
  8. Still waters run deep.
  9. The bigger you are, the harder you fall.
  10. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.
  11. Don’t sit too close to the television. It will ruin your eyes.
  12. Turn the TV down. You’ll go deaf.
  13. Handsome is as handsome does.
  14. Do your best work.
  15. That’s the pot calling the kettle black.
  16. Think before you speak.
  17. Button up your coat. You’ll catch pneumonia.
  18. The early bird gets the worm.
  19. It takes two to tango.
  20. You can do it.

Thanks, Mom. As usual, the older I get, the wiser you get.

(What momilies do you use on your own children? Which ones do you not use? Please share!)

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