Lies that our parents told us


It has struck me, after more than five decades on Earth, that there may not even be a “permanent record.”

All my life I’ve been so worried that any violation would amount to this. I was really sick worried that the late grade I got in third grade would haunt me into adulthood.

It turns out the only things that really seem to stay on your records are university parking tickets and library fines.

I was also a legal voting adult when I realized that it is not illegal to ride in a vehicle with the overhead lights on. My mother had firmly convinced me otherwise. I really didn’t dare turn on the interior light while our vehicle was in motion for years. As far as I knew, it was a federal crime.

Other childhood lies I was told included the following:

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nutrition facts

The black seeds in the watermelon, if swallowed, would grow a watermelon in your stomach. Even more alarmingly, if you swallowed gum, it would stay in your stomach forever. I still sometimes wonder if that mild stomach ache is just a wad of Juicy Fruit I swallowed in 1974.

Life was still full of risks after eating. We’ve been taught for generations that if we swim within 30 minutes of eating a potato chip, we’ll drown.

As Gen X, coming of age in the 1980s, we were understandably wary of food-related tragedies. We all wholeheartedly believed that “Mikey,” the character from the Life cereal commercials, actually died after ingesting a deadly combination of effervescent Pop Rocks candy and soda pop. A decade before the internet, we had no way to prove to ourselves that it hadn’t exploded. RIP man.

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stay safe

Assault was an ever-present threat. If we went out with wet hair, we would immediately succumb to pneumonia.

If we scribbled on our hands with pens, we would get ink poisoning. Has this happened to anyone anywhere?

Or, the big guy, if you stuck your hand out the car window, it would fly off and smack into another car. There you are: handleless and liable for someone else’s windshield. Just awful.

We weren’t really safe at home either.

I was told that if I sat too close to the TV, I would lose my sight. But don’t worry, eating carrots would bring it back in an instant.

If we made “that weird face,” it could stay that way forever.

Likewise, if we roll our eyes one more time, they could be slammed right into the back of our heads. With my mother, the latter could actually have come true.

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If a parent said, “I’ll think about it,” they probably weren’t actively considering the pros and cons of my request. In fact, there’s a good chance they’ve already returned to their previous activity or entertainment.

bad advice

Of course, there was bad advice too. One of my biggest regrets is the hours I spent learning mental arithmetic because “you’re not going to walk around with a calculator everywhere.” My smartphone looks different, Mrs. White.

Finally, the biggest lie: After all, when I’m bored, doing the dishes or tidying up my room isn’t a fun way to “keep me busy.”


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