what crap advice

My finish this sentence post ought to have been, "Growing up, the advice I hated most from my mother was…"

But even I wouldn’t know how to finish the sentence. Mom didn’t give big advice. I never got heady wisdom from her that made me think of life differently. No comforting "this too shall pass" or strong "Nothing is taken from you that you cannot learn to live without." I got practical words about buying Halloween candy I hated, so I wouldn’t eat any. Sadly, though, despite hating coconut, I’d manage to ferret out the almonds of a miniature Almond Joy. I’d try to convince my mouth that it really didn’t mind the stringy coconut bits that stuck in my molars like chicken. But I couldn’t convince myself; I’d toss the rest out. She was right. It was good advice. I wish I got more of it. Advice that wasn’t cliche, but instead, dead on and unexpected.

Advice is different than teaching practical things like putting peanut butter on both slices of bread before adding the jelly, to avoid a soggy sandwich. Advice is what we cling to so our lives and outlooks can improve, so we can get through things with grace. It’s not about putting a slice of bread in with your brown sugar to keep it soft, about eating parsley for good breath. This is the advice I got from Mom. Recipe tips for life. I still don’t get advice about setting limits, that they make children feel safe. She never set any. Too many mothers treat their daughters as friends instead of as their daughters. They want to be liked. I don’t want to be that kind of mother. I’m looking forward to the day she screams, "I hate you!" I’ll know I’m doing a good job.

Good advice: "Send thank you notes, and never send store-bought sympathy cards."



  1. Ha. This post couldn't resonate more with me. I recently sent my mother a letter detailing all of her "wrongs" in my upbringing. Basically, truth be told, with advice like, "Is your teacher a man? Well, cry then. You won't fail. Men hate to see women cry. That's how I passed math." and other gems of that nature- I'm lucky I didn't end up to be Anna Nicole Smith.

    My mom tried to be my "friend" instead of a mother. It was fun for her then, but now- with the repercussions, not-so-much. What it taught me firsthand what a bad idea THAT was.

  2. I always joke that my kids will probably hate me until they are 25 because i will be so strict, and that is fine with me. Don't today's parents see that they are ruining their children by treating them as equals?? Great post.

  3. We have very similar moms. My mom's favorite expression was "Who ever told you that life was fair?". I always thought she was so strict when I was younger, but around the end of high school, I realized that she was like that so that I would respect her authority so that she didn't *have* to always nag me and punish me. She discplined when I was quite young and after that, she only had to do that scary one-eyebrow raise if I was acting up and I'd know to cut the shit.

    Since about 17, though, we've been the best of friends. We still have our mother/daughter ups and downs, but I really value her parenting style….Sure, I would have liked to have gotten a few more tips of "life advice" as you call it. I personally need the more "sympathetic" kind of advice, but I feel like the things that she instilled in me can go hand-in-hand with the advice that I seek out on my own (from friends, other moms, sisters, magazines and even blogs). And, when I'm turning too blubbery, hard on myself and wishy-washy, the hard-as-nails advice that she gave me like "Life's not fair", "Don't sit close to the TV, it'll ruin your eyes" and "Sugary sodas will make you fat" seem a lot more straightforward than the mess that's in my head. :)

    Abigail and Lucas will thank you one day for being the kind of mom you're planning to be. I thank my own Mother for these values (albeit not enough)!

  4. I can empathize with the relationship you have with your mom. Do you think that she is jealous of the relationship you have with your dad?

  5. My mother's advice- "Put on a little more lipstick," and "Smile more!". So, while your mother was giving food advice, mine was handing out beauty advice. Even after I finished with law school, she always compliments my hair or if I look thin.

    May I always compliment my daughters on their brains. Dads are for the beauty boosts. Coming from Moms it sounds like guilt on a platter.

  6. Advice my mother gave me: A single girl should always bring a plate of deviled eggs to a pot-luck party. Her thinking was, men like deviled eggs. Everyone is amazed you can make them and they are super easy to make. She also told me to marry the first time for money and the second time for love. And to date men who can dance well because they are good in bed.

    Not all her advice had to do with men, she also told me to write thank you notes if I wanted a gift the next year.

  7. wow.
    you said it all right here.
    btw-i find it interesting that some people go off on you when you fret about 'insignificant' things, like, weight, hair, etc. b/c you obviously have a depth to you that not only is way below the surface (ie., out of reach from your cynical readers) but also of such a density that outweighs your more surficial crisis…that we are allowed to have…and that some of your readers need to wade past.


  8. Finish this sentence:

    "In 30 years, the thing my daughter will complain about me will be…"

  9. "…it's easier to love a rich man than a poor one."
    At the time I thought – sure makes sense. But now I think it's a very shallow thing to say and I am the only one of 5 sisters who waited to marry until my 30's. We, as children were raised with one goal – to be a housewife. No other skills needed for a girl. Needless to say, my mom was pretty bad at advice. Luckily I lived enough of a life to give myself advice and to know the right things (and wrong) to teach my future children. Exactly the opposite of whatever she told me.

  10. Advice. It seems to be a way of life with teenagers. I hear myself say – over and over –

    Don't say shut up
    Don't say I hate you
    Don't call your brother a jerk
    Silk long underwear is the warmest
    Don't call boys
    *this* is how you put on silk stockings
    Take your used sanitary napkins to the outside garbage
    Clean your face twice a day
    Drink more water
    Don't say things that will wound forever
    Eat more vegetables
    Don't forget I adore you

    And my favorite thing that my best friend's mom used to say to her on the way out the door:

    "Bye, see ya, have a great time, good luck, call me a million times, don't get hurt, don't get run over, love ya".

    The daughters sometimes say I am their best friend, but like you, that's not my goal. My goal is to be their fiercest protector, their most devoted supporter, and most of all – their mother – an example of someone they want to grow up to be like. So far – so good. Cross our fingers.

  11. The only times I've really gotten advice from my mother was when she was quoting advice her mother gave her, the most memorable being: "Never get in a position where you have to ask a man for a nickel to buy some pantyhose." Which seems sort of quaint, but it's still applicable to many many women today.

  12. I love the advice that your Mom gave you…and I'm quite lucky also. My Mom still gives me great advice. But the best thing that I ever learned from her was, "never trust anyone but your Mother"
    She didn't mean it in a bad way, just that every relationship that we'd have would be different from the next, but you can always go back to your Mom. She'll always be there…and she has.

  13. My mother had very little life experience and is interested in superficial things, so I generally hated any advice she had to give. "Be pretty," was usually the general theme, as if it would solve all my problems as it did for her. "Buy only cashmere sweaters" (this from a woman who has never had to pay her own bills). Probably the most ridiculous gem: "Don't use tampons – you'll be in trouble. They're only for married women." Not the most progressive woman, my mother.

    Once, though, she shocked me. I'm a nervous person and manifest my nervousness by talking. She piped up one day and said, "You don't have to talk so much. People will fill those silences." For once, the woman actually made sense. Who knows what else is swimming around in her head …? I look forward to learning more, if she ever stops talking about the importance of good looks.

    FROM STEPHANIE: Actually, cashmere sweaters are kind of a waste. They don't last as long as the others, don't keep their shape. They're a nice luxury, but not essential to any wardrobe.

  14. My mom's best advice wasn't really advice, but a question that she'd force me to answer after every tearful breakup: Why on earth would you want to be with someone who doesn't want to be with YOU?

    Her point being, that she thought I was beautiful, kind, and thoughtful, and any guy who couldn't see that didn't deserve for me to give him the time of day. And the truth is, since then I never have wasted time or tears on someone who didn't want me. Clearly THEY'RE the one with the problem! ;)

  15. Just testing. I've tried posting about weighing more than my St. Bernard & thoughts on Oreo tempura and both post attempts took me to a text version of your page. I'm feeling left out. How can I have a good start to 2008 if I'm feeling left out? My mother's daily words & actions taught me anxiety & paranoia. She did her work well.

    P.S. I think problem was my email was entered wrong. . .?

  16. Just today I received my first "I don't like you" from my adorable, independent, maddening three-year-old daughter. I guess that means I'm doing my job… Fifteen minutes later? "I'm sorry mama. I really do like you."

  17. The best parenting advice I ever got came not from my mother, but from a cousin, who told me it makes sense to pay lots of attention to your kids when they're behaving well, not just when they're misbehaving. I've tried to do that with my three daughters, now 26, 22 and 15, and I've heard "I hate you" very few times. I'm certainly not their best friend, but I've always tried to treat them with respect and I've also tried not to give them lots of unsolicited advice. I've found that trusting my kids to make good decisions, with lots of talking along the way, has produced three young women who make me very proud and happy!

  18. I got obscure advice that often sounded like a brush off "smile and life will smile back at you". so I sat there, with a huge grin on my face, waiting…

  19. My mother was very to the point with advice also, no sugar coating for the most part. At times it was difficult, but I believe that I became stronger because of it. When I needed to be hugged, consoled and to get out a good cry, however, she was always there, but never as my "best friend".

    As a mother to 3 children, although all boys, I know that I cannot be their "friend", at this point in our relationship. My job is to be their mother, teach them right from wrong and instill in them a value system, ethics, drive and a purpose in life. I have already gotten the "I hate you's". Much as I dislike hearing them, it's a part of growing up. Someday they will thank me for how strict I try to be with them, and will appreciate that I didn't try to be the "cool mom".

    Perhaps when they have grown up, moved out and are on their own, we can then be "friends", but first and foremost, I always will be their mother, and hopefully someone who they will look up to and continue to respect.

  20. I was raised by my grandmother and great grandmother until i was 12 and I came to leave with my mom. I never felt that mother daughter bond. to me I never felt like I could just run to her to talk about my problems or ask for advice. It always felt odd to me.

  21. my mom has always made me feel beautiful, without making me feel like i had to look a certain way. she is always there for me, but not pushy. she is my best friend and closest confident, and yet always set boundaries. she is the most supportive, kind, giving, loving, amazing person i know. i only hope i can be a mother like her one day. maybe it helps that i'm the youngest of three and she had practice.

  22. Well, my mother grew up with a bunch of brothers and was always a bit of a tomboy. Needless to say I got my uber-girly gene from somewhere a little further up the chain, and she never gave me advice about clothes or makeup. What she did teach me was to never depend on a man for anything – something her own mother made sure to teach her (her mother's difficult marriage to my tyrant of a grandfather as the perfect example). This came in handy later in her life when my own father became very ill for a while and she was able to support us all because she had an education and a good job.

    She also always told me (like, since I was a very small child) that the most important decision you will ever make in your life is choosing the person you marry, that dating should be fun and easy (if you have to really work at dating you'll never make it though marriage) and that I shouldn't be so afraid of failure – life goes on.

  23. Oh, and I agree about the cashmere. Don't see what all the fuss is about, personally. I'm a merino girl, myself.

  24. My mother was never one for passing along great life wisdom. She died very suddenly when I was twenty but I cherish all the other things that she taught me by example. About being creative and kind and quiet sometimes.

    As I've gotten older in many ways, I think I've gotten to know her better. I know now what I didn't know at twenty. That she was just a girl, like me, trying to do her best. Becoming a mother didn't bring with it some magical gift of wisdom. So, she just passed along what she did know. Knowing that now has made her more human in my eyes. More flawed. But in many ways, also more lovely and special.

    She was never the perfect mother and there are lots of ways I could fault her child raising skills. But still, I wish she was here today so I could thank her for all the little ways she touched my life. Those moments and memories are the most precious to me.

  25. "Always have a current passport and enough money in your bank account to buy a ticket to Europe."

  26. My mother told me once to moisturize my neck and my chest when I moisturize my face. So happy now that I started doing that when I was 18.

  27. Dad: "Cream rises to the top."

    Mom: "Life is hard, and it's going to get nothing but harder from this day forward."

  28. Actually, the best kind of mom knows how to be strict and disciplined, teach lessons and set boundaries all while remaining friends with the daughter. Showing and earning respect, conveying right and wrong but all the time with listening ears and supportive voice.

    The best kind of mom knows the balance from the beginning, and ends up having a daughter that was taught everything she needed to know AND had a best friend all wrapped up in one person: Her mother.

  29. 3 teens mom… it cracks me up that you tell your daughters they can't call boys. my mom never let me or my sister call boys either and i tease her all the time about it. i hated it then but i'm so making it a rule when i have daughters of my own!

    another one from my mom… i think we probably heard it at least once a day growing up… "what goes around comes around." another quip we thought was so dorky but she said it enough to get it totally stuck in our brains and now i say it to my students. they roll their eyes at me now but just wait…

  30. My mom was like yours. She never sat me down with huge life lessons. But, when I needed her, she always did the most she could to help me. She passed away a couple months ago, and now it's becoming so apparent how smart she was.

    Last year, she was talking to her friend about me. I had just lost my job, and I was living in an overpriced apartment (because of my big dog… but what apartment in LA isn't overpriced?) I struggled for a couple months before things evened out again. Her friend told her that I need to downgrade my lifestyle. My mom's response was, "She is 25 and gorgeous. She doesn't need to settle for anything." What great advice.

  31. Anouk, I love this: "Never get in a position where you have to ask a man for a nickel to buy some pantyhose." More women should heed this advice!

    My mom's advice wasn't terrible helpful: 1) always take a shower before you go on a date (I think I could have figured that one out on my own); and 2) sex is overrated anyway (she told me this when I was 12 and had a crush on Rob Lowe).

  32. Love the post… I mostly got very superficial, not very helpful advice from my mother who was mostly concerned with how things looked on the outside, having a perfect and clean house and showing off well groomed and respectful children to the world at large. She was/is the kind whose first thought is most likely going to be "Don't do that, what would the neighbors/relatives/friends/teachers at school think?" You only realize that you got shortchanged later in life with bad or non existent advice as you get older and learn the stuff for yourself the hard way. Now I think …wouldn't it have been nice to have a mother who was wise or considered a sage…Oh well, children are responsible for repairing the undone work of the earlier generation. There is lots of work to do…

  33. My mom never really gave me advice except once. I had been dating my high school sweetheart for almost a year when she turned to me–during an episode of Oprah–if Chris wants you to have sex with him, go to another girl. Thank goodness I had already made up my mind on that front and god bless dr. ruth for her teen sex books.

    I've pretty much winged it through life, with the exception of my dad's advice:
    1) always let a man love you more than you love him.
    2) never tell a man to do something twice.


  34. any advice i got from my mother came before the training bra. dad took over after that, which has its own list of pros and cons.

    if anything, i've learned how to cut corners and resort to delusion from my mother.

    dad taught me to face reality and stop the tactics.

    i will want to be a friend to my children. i hope i can successfully open their minds and create an open communication environment without jeopardizing the *real* life lessons that need parenting to.

    good luck, stephanie. proper reflection is half the preparation.

  35. My mother was real good with my sister and myself when were small children. Always loving, always carring, told us how smart and beautiful we were, etc. But when we both reached the difficult teen years she was just too overwhelmed I guess and let us both do whatever it was we wanted, (there is a 15 year age difference in my sister and me). And we have discussed this in great depth, and have mutually decided it was just *easier* to give up. Luckily, we had a good enough foundation, that after a decade of floundering we each have found our own paths. But both of us have lost precious time and made life altering mistakes that will haunt us for the rest of our lives.

    That is why with my own children (both boys) I refused to give up on them when they were teenagers and it was the most difficult time of my life. It was a CONSTANT tug of war them struggling to become men and me struggling to help them to make good choices.

    About the only advise mom gave us or that i gave my boys was whomever told them life was fair lied to them. I hated when mom said that and they hated it when I said it too.

    ok now that i've rambled on and on, good topic SK, very thought provolking. Thanks

  36. My mother gave me some great advice 1.) Always accessorize
    2.) (this is 3 part) Never write anything down you don't want the world to read, Never do anything where there is a camera present, and DENY, DENY, DENY. I've often wondered where she came up with those gems.

  37. My mom always said, "Just because you have some loser's baby doesn't mean you have to marry him." Good advice, and hard-won on her end.

  38. "No matter how much you ever accomplish or achieve, it really won't ever mean as much without Someone Special to share it with."

    It filled my head the day I graduated from law school (with no boyfriend) and I thought, "What awful advice" No one could have added to the joy and relief of all the hard work I had done to get there. Great, treasured friends who were thrilled for me were my Someone Special

  39. I really can't remember any advice my mom told me. She is more of a live by example kind of lady. She wanted more than anything for me to finish college, which I did and she didn't. We really aren't anything alike. She is a 1950s era cheerleader, stay at home mom, depend on your man kind of person and I am a more independent type. The thing that I admire most about her is her pure and unselfish love for her children and grandchildren. I can only aspire to be so selfless.

  40. Perfect timing because tonight I asked Diva, who is eight: "I'm annoying you aren't I?" She grimmaced and growled, and I had my answer. I smiled. Heh heh heh. I am sooo being an awesome mother!

  41. "A man who is good to his mother will be good to you, too!" So true.

    Most of Mom's other advice was outdated in, oh, the '50s; unfortunately I was a teenager in the '70s. I spend every day teaching my 7-year-old son and daughter to think for themselves — and that they are their own (and each other's) truest best friends.

  42. My mother definitely fell into the "life is not fair" camp, which she would repeat like a mantra, placing the emphasis on each word in the sentence until we both started laughing about whatever injustice I had been complaining about. Maybe that's why I'm a lawyer now, still trying to achieve my idea of fairness. Her sage advice from the beauty camp includes "tan fat looks better than white fat".

  43. My mom has said some things to me that didn't make sense at the time. Later they became gems to live by.

    "Beauty is pain!" She said this to me when I was six years old, as I complained that my hair was pulled painfully tight into a bun for a ballet recital.

    "They (men) always come crawling back." She said this to me when I was in high school and crying my eyes out over some silly boy. And he did come back five years later.

    When she says something I perceive as crazy in the here and now, I try to pay attention. I silently wonder if she is wrong or if I am just not seasoned enough to understand.

  44. I've never really got any advice from my mom. I know her mom did tell her to "never quit working, you are to proud to ask your husband for money". Which is very true, and she didn't need to tell her own daughter this as she knew I had figured it out for myself already.

    She was pretty strict when I was younger, so I didn't turn out a brat – thank goodness for that, nothing more annoying than a spoiled child and its parents. I never told her I hated her (I would've gotten slapped) but did think it from time to time :).
    When I was a teen she didn't need to be really strict (I was an easy child with good grades I guess…) so I just got a curfew and an allowance. I figure my parents reckoned I had enough common sense and they were right.

    I'm glad she didn't try to be my friend when I was a teenager. I respect her for that. Now that both of us are adults we truly are friends.

  45. I count my blessings that I got a Mom and a friend, mostly because she knew when to draw that line. She was the one even my friends came to for advice or even just to hang out with, but held hard and fast on a curfew and knowing where I would be and who I was with.

    Probably the best lesson learned? You'll usually get in less trouble for the truth about what you aren't supposed to be doing than a lie that makes you sound better.

    And, just for the other side of the coin, there are times I resented the lack of beauty advice (especially when going through middle school photos…) because the grass is always greener.

  46. As I've grown I've basically learned to live the EXACT opposite way my mom does. She was never one to really 'parent' us or give us advice. Thank GOD I was blessed with the wisdom to know I never want to be like her. It's sad and I wish I had a mom who doled out advice and that I could talk to, but sadly its not the case. She 110% taught me by her bad examples, and some how I managed to come out (for the most part) on top. Somewhere someone has my back- but it sure isn't my mom.

  47. ALSO I just re-read your lists of things you learned from each parent– for like the 10th time and they made me cry. Thank you for sharing those!

  48. I was just wondering what your relationship is like with your step-mom and if you would ever be open to writing about it?
    How old were you when she came into your life? Are you close?
    I'm interested because I am a step-mom and have a very close relationship with my step-daughter.

    FROM STEPHANIE: She didn't come into my life until after I was married to the Wasband. So, I didn't meet her or know her until after I graduated college. I do love her, but it's not a mother love. I love her as a person, as a friend, as the wife of my father. She'd always be in my life, even if, God forbid anything ever happened to my dad. She's family.

  49. I don't remember my mother giving me too much advice other than, "Every woman should have her own money." She waited on my father hand & foot and when he said, "Jump," she asked, "How high." For years it grated on me and consequently I reacted in the opposite manner. Fortunately, before she died I realized that this was her choice & that it worked for her. My parents were married for 63 years and not too many people can claim that kind of record. My mother was a wonderful woman, a real lady who never uttered a derogatory word about anyone. She was a class act & I learned from her example, not her words.

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