Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mama said There'd Be Days LikeThis or Laying Down the Law

Recently, my sister and I got on a tear remembering what Mama said. An aside. I'm sure you're shocked that I 'm about to get off topic.: Though we never called her Mama. She called our grandmother Mama, who we called Grandmother. We went straight from Mommy to Mother. At the time, southerners did not call their mothers Mom. Truly. The only people I knew who called their mothers Mom were in books and on television. I attribute the unfortunate and recent cultural change we've seen in the maternal moniker to the media and the influx of people who have relocated from other parts of the county.

Anyway, enough of that. Back to my mother and her directives.

In keeping with her self-imposed duty as CEO in charge of our lives, our mother spent an extraordinary amount of time and energy doing what she called Laying Down the Law. I say self-imposed because, God knows, we didn't ask for it.

This is just a sampling:

  • Know your place. Don't overstep. Don't presume.
  • Don't start. Just don't. We're not starting that.
  • It's not about you.
  • Do not horn in on a situation where you are not wanted. If those people don't want to be with you, they don't deserve your company and you can do better.
  • You tend to your own rat killing and let them tend to theirs. (Which means: Mind your own business.)
  • There is no boy worth your girlfriends.
  • Put your husband first and he'll put you first.
  • Don't you let anybody run over you. Don't start it, but take up for yourself.
  • If you think you're going out like that, you can think again. Now you go wash that face and try again.
  • No decent girl has any business out after eleven o'clock. You had better be in this house by then or that phone better ring with you on the other end with a good reason.
  • Don't contradict people.
  • You don't have to tell everything you know.
  • If you are not able to go to school/church, you're not able to do anything else.
  • Get off the phone.

What did your Mother say? What do you/did you call her?


  1. I called her Mama (and still do though my sister calls her Mother) and I think my mother and yours were issued the same script when they gave birth. Another one is "Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about."

    It's interesting about the Mother, Mama, Mom thing. My boys called me Mama when they were very young but I became Mom once they were teens. I know lots of southern men who call their maternal parent Mama, but I wonder if boys today think that seems "unmanly." I'm okay with being called Mom. It's a heck of a lot better than Battleaxe (which I'm sure they've probably called me behind my back).


  2. Ooo...this is a good one. Thanks for that hint of Southern maternal sensibility, Jean!

    I don't think any euphemisms have stuck with me so well as the ones that regularly fell from my mother's lips. (As an aside, being a Yankee I did call her 'Mom', until I discovered the British at around the age of 14...at which point she became 'Mum' as my way of showing more respect...and in the hopes that she might accept my sudden affinity for abusing the term 'bloody')

    I can't begin to express my gratitude for all of the 'mom-isms.' In her absence, I'm quite certain that having them pop into my head in the middle of applicable situations has save me from significant grief. I know most of them aren't original, but the fact that she took the time to instill them in my head is all that matters. :) My plan is to expand on her idiom list with my own kids.

    Off the top of my head, and not including the one's that involved song lyrics(of which there are countless):

    *This too shall pass.

    *Don't major on the minors.

    *Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

    *Always leave a place better off than you found it.

    *Well-intentioned people are often the most dangerous.

    *This is not a hill to die on.

    *Patience is a virtue; waiting won't hurt you.

    *You're not 'starving'--homeless children in India are starving.

    *Is this going to matter ten years from now?

    *Tell me the truth and spare me the adjectives.

    *Don't do anything with a boyfriend that you wouldn't feel embarrassed explaining to your husband one day.

    *Don't expect that a man will try any harder to keep you than he did to get you.

    ~Angela Blount

  3. Jean, so true on what to call a mom! I never called her Mom, and still don't. She was Mommy, Mama, and Mother. Now, I pretty much shorten Mama to Ma. Hubby, who is a damn Yankee all the way, calls his mother Mom. But he calls mine Ma.

  4. I called her Mama, and she was pretty wise. Something she said has always stuck with me: "You can apologize for saying something, but you can't unsay it. The person you said it to will always remember."

  5. PM--It's a curious thing. I have noted that lots of men refer to their mother as "My mom," but address her as Mama. It probably is a manly thing.

    Angela--I love "This is not a hill to die on." I must have it.

    Lynn--My husband also calls his mother Mom. He's not from around these parts.

    ML--And that is so true. You can't talk yourself out of what you behave yourself into. That is not my own personal wisdom. I heard someone quote Steve Covey in a seminar. (That's all I know about Steve Covey.) He stole it from your mama.

  6. I call her Mama. She says many things. It sounds like she has a lot in common with Jean's mother so it isn't much of a surprise that we grew up to be similar. The one I got into the most trouble over was the "Be home by eleven" one. I hate, hate, hate me a curfew!!! I still do to this day!

  7. I call mine "Mama." My son calls me Mom until he's in trouble or needs something then it's Mommy. I married a Yankee and he calls his "Mom." My son is so confused...

    The one I remember, which is similar to Angela's, is: "Is this the ditch you want to die in?" (High vs. low -I think Angela's mother was an optimist and mine was a pessimist) My mother had all the ones you listed Jean. Guess Southerners like to use the same ones. Why not? They work!

  8. Jean, I guess I'm the odd one in the bunch. I've always called my mother, Mom. ;)

    Here's some things I know:

    *If everyone else jumped off the bridge, would you?

    *I'm not everyone else's mother.

    *Your face is going to freeze like that.

    *Katherine Louise....

    *Put yourself in someone else's shoes.

    *If you make a mess, clean it up.

    *Likewise, if you drop something, pick it up.

    *Kids are starving in China.

    *You don't know how good you've got it.

    I'm sure there are many more, but these have stayed with me.

    Oh! And I swore I would never say, "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you." But it is so true.