Myth busting Motherisms
1. "Stop cracking your knuckles...it will give you arthritis!"
For some odd reason, young boys love cracking their knuckles. Whether it's the sound of the crack or the feeling it makes, we feel relieved when one cracks a knuckle. After getting all that finger stress out, Mom smacked you upside the head, reminding you of the extreme arthritis you'd get because of all that cracking.
A study of 300 people who had bad habits of cracking their knuckles did not find any evidence that doing so leads to arthritis. Some of these individuals did lose strength in their hands and also had soft tissue damage. The "cracking" noise you hear when you crack a knuckle is merely a release of gases contained in joint fluids. Arthritis is usually a symptom that you feel later in life and is usually inherited from your parents. Mom was half-right though: Cracking your knuckles is not particularly good for you.
2. "If you shave your facial hair, it will come back thicker."
One of the most important times in a young man's life is the first sight of facial hair growth. A teen can sometimes grow a beard in their early years while others try to catch up to their more-manly brethren. Mommy doesn't want her little boy to grow up to quickly, and devised the reverse psychology technique of telling you that shaving would make your beard come back fuller. So you shaved constantly and mom had a boy for a little while longer.
Shaving your hair has nothing to do with the growth of new hair. If it did, wouldn't your balding father would be spending extra time shaving his head? The reasons for thinking this way relates to the thickness of new hair as opposed to the older, thinner hair that you most recently shaved off. In addition, hair is only alive in the scalp, so cutting it off does nothing to affect its growth.
3. "Watching TV too close will hurt your eyes and make you go blind!"
The first things you did after school involved plopping your little butt down in front of the TV and catching some cartoons. G.I.Joe, Transformers, & My Little Pony- all of these wonderful programs kept us at bay for hours. We kept our eyes glued to the action - all at the risk of going blind, something mom loved to point out.
If you were watching the television your Grandmom had as a child, then maybe it could happen. Very early television sets did emit a form of radiation, which causes all kinds of problems.Other than that extreme case, there's really nothing wrong with sitting closer to the TV then if you were farther away. It can put a strain on your eyes, but the notion of going blind is simply untrue.
4. "It's cold outside - if you don't bundle up you're going to get sick!"
When was the last time you saw an adult who was happy that it was cold and snowing outside? The upside of cold weather included snowball fights, Christmas, and missing days from school. The downside? Catching a cold, supposedly. Mom always had us put on multiple layers of clothing. Was mom just being too over protective of her freezing young ones or just a little crazy?
This old wives tale is a rather obvious one to debunk once some simple understanding of how common colds work in the first place. Colds are the result of a simple virus that we get from breathing in from the air. People stay inside more during winter, with all the doors and windows shut. This makes for a drop in fresh air circulation, creating more opportunities for you to breathe in those pesky cold viruses.
5. "Make sure to clean behind your ears - if not, potatoes will start growing there!"
Taking a bath was on the most hated list of things to do, right up there with cleaning your room and going to bed early. Mom knew this, as she spent years dragging you into the water and forcing that Johnson's & Johnson's baby shampoo all over your noggin. When it was time to wash ourselves, the "potato ears" were just frightening enough to keep them squeaky clean.
Mom grew up with the potato threat to get her bum in the bath, and she passed it onto you to do the same. And if we didn't wash behind our ears? Then you probably smelled funny and were made fun of a lot, but there were never any potatoes.
6. "If you swallow a watermelon seed, if will grow inside your stomach!"
Kids love watermelon, meticulously picking out the seeds as they ate the favorite summertime treat. Everyone remembers the time that one got through - what did we do? We ran to mom to tell her what happened and that we were scared of the watermelon that would eventually grow inside of us.
Luckily, mother's warning was merely a way for us to make sure we didn't choke on any of the seeds, as little ones tend to do from time to time. Other small complications could arise from swallowing seeds, such as one being lodged in the appendix or damaging an intestine, but these would just be rare occasions.
One note of caution though: Be sure you never swallow a fir seed!
7. "Don't swallow that gum - it will stay in your stomach for seven years!"
When it came time for us to be allowed to chew gum, mother only did so with the strict knowledge that swallowing that gum would hurt our little tummies for years to come. Then came the day when you simply forgot about the Juicy Juice that you were chomping down on one minute and before you know it, down the hatch it went.
Wrong again mom! Accidentally swallowing gum every once and awhile is not going to turn your stomach into Bubble-Yum. Gum is made up of two major components, sugar and a type of plastic. Your body breaks down the sugars and the plastic gum ends up in your stool. There's really no way gum can "get stuck" inside your belly.
8. "You're too young to start drinking coffee - it will stunt your growth."
When you are a kid, the notion of being grown up seems so cool, which just proves how innocence and stupidity go hand and hand. Every parent started their day off with a nice fresh cup of joe. As you wanted something that made you feel more grown up, mom was there to mention coffee would stunt your growth. Back to coco we went, because being short was like being a kid forever!
Coffee has never been responsible for stunting anyone's growth. The reason behind the lie used by parents is to deter their teenagers from drinking coffee because of it's other side effects. Caffeine is the most addictive drug in the world, and mom knows that. Having a lot can create anxious teens with too much energy.
9. "Eating your carrots will improve your eyesight enough to see in the dark."
The white lies that mom threw at us were to make sure we stayed safe. Now carrots, on the other hand, were something that she encouraged us to eat - because, eating them would make our eyesight better. Already we had come to terms with going blind from sitting too close to the TV, so if there was a way to reverse its affects by eating carrots, then we were all over it.
The reality of carrot intake actually improving our eyesight to the levels of being able to see in the dark are ridiculous. The myth probably started when one mother found out that Vitamin A is one needed to maintain healthy eyesight, with carrots of course being rich in the vitamin. Of course, no amount of carrots could be eaten to actually improve our vision.
10. "Stop playing with that toad - you'll just get warts on your hand!"
While we had a dog or cat growing up, what was even cooler was getting to play with animals that you didn't see on a regular basis. And when it came to animals in the backyard, finding a frog or toad jumping around was a rare occasion, resulting in chasing it down and giving it the mason jar treatment. Until we learned about the warts.
No, mom, you can't get warts from playing with a toad. Warts, in fact, are very similar to colds - they are caused from a virus that infects the underlying layers of skin and are passed from one person to another via direct contact. The myth that the toad is responsible probably arises from the wart-like growths that toads have to camouflage them in their environment. Another reason has to do with people who are allergic to certain types of toads, and have developed wart-like rashes.
11. "Wait an hour after eating before getting into the pool or you'll get cramps and drown!"
Splashing around in the pool was all day affair. Once the hot dogs and hamburgers were gone, it was back to the pool for any unfinished water business.
Then mom warned that if we jumped in the water too soon, it might be our last time. All of a sudden that pool of refreshing water turned into a pool of fire.
During digestion of food, more blood is sent to help in the process, with less left around to tend to our muscles. It is possible to get a cramp if you're using those muscles more than your body can handle. Drowning because of cramp is just another of mother's exaggerations.
12. "If you keep making that face, it might stay that way forever!"
One if the earliest forms of making fun of your classmates was using your facial expressions. Flashing a tongue, crossing our eyes, pushing our nose up - all of these things either made some unsuspecting friend cry to mommy. That is, until mom caught on and let us know that those crazy faces could end up becoming permanent.
Mom completely lied when she told you that your face could freeze just because you were sticking your tongue out at others. Usually a child with complications or loss of control of facial muscles has these symptoms from conditions they are born with, sadly. Other diseases, such as Parkinson and Huntington's disease can affect these muscles, but are not developed until later in life.
13. "You're going to poke someone's eye out with that!"
Growing up, whatever resembled a lightsaber from Star Wars probably at some point got used as a weapon. Whether it was a toy, a broom handle, or even the cardboard from a roll of wrapping paper, Mom would always warn us about "poking someone's eye out" which either scared us enough to stop or made us swing even harder.
Playing with toy swords and brooms could result in a number of injuries, but probably wouldn't result in the "poking" of one's eye out. It is possible that the eye could be severely damaged in the process, but an eyeball flying out of the socket is not going to happen without pulling it out with your fingers.
14. "Eating too many spicy foods will give you ulcers."
Teenage boys tend to enjoy spicier foods. You have young men everywhere seeking out the spiciest things around in the hopes that they can brave the heat to sit at the table with the "big boys" like Dad and Uncle Ron. "Bring on the wings, the salsa, the jalapeno", you say. And mom chimes back with, " and "don't forget the ulcers!"
Eating spicy food does not have anything to do with causing ulcers. The work conducted by Australians Robert Warren and Barry Marshall ended up in the awarding of the Nobel Prize, who concluded that stomach ulcers are actually developed by a strand of bacteria known as helicobacter pylori.
15. "Get down from there - you're going to fall and crack your head open!"
Thanks to all the comic books that were read as a child, it's no shocker that many a young gal or lad were caught climbing trees like Spiderman. Mom of course shouted for you to come down before you "cracked your head open". The mere thought of your head spilling out its insides like Humpty Dumpty sealed the deal.
It's probable you could obtain hundred other possible head injuries; everything from a minor concussion to traumatic brain damage could have occurred. However, other than landing on a well placed axe, your chances of breaking your skull open were small.
16. "If you keep playing with it, it will fall off someday."
Out of all the lies that mom mentioned to us over the years, perhaps none was taken more seriously by adolescent boys then the possibility of it it "falling off". How dare mother get involved in the first place - she didn't have one, so how could she know for sure? Then the epiphany kicked in - of course, that's why she didn't have one! She knows because it happened to her!
The most frightening mom myth turned out to be the biggest lie of them all! Of course mom had to do something about the situation - her little boy was finally growing up to be man, something every mother has to deal with at some point. However, health professionals will tell you that, no mater how much you "play" with it, it's never going to fall off!
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