Face the facts: not everything our parents told us was true. It’s not just the mystical, magical tales about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy that raise eyebrows. Millions of parents were obviously working from the same rulebook because a surprising number of us are walking around believing eerily similar misconceptions about everyday life.
But that ends here. Read these vintage parental quotes complete with the ultimate true or false verdict.
You are welcome, future generations.
“If you swallow your gum, it will stay in your stomach for seven years.” False. Gum does not stick to the insides of your belly and wait for some mythical seven-year buzzer to sound so that it may be expelled. Just like every other weird object children occasionally swallow — tips of crayons, Play-Doh, kindergarten glue — a wad of gum will break down, move through the digestive system, and exit the body in a timely fashion. And don’t worry; that watermelon seed you swallowed this past summer isn’t growing into a plant rooted inside your belly either, so you can stop checking your ears for leaves.
“Cross your eyes and they will be stuck like that forever.” False. The muscles in the face are extremely elastic and will always snap back to their original form. If not, thousands of teenagers would be wandering through life in a permanent eye-rolling position, and comedic actors like Will Ferrell and Tina Fey would be absolutely terrifying to encounter on the street.
“Eat up. All the vitamins are in the crust of your bread.” False. Vitamins are not vagrant travelers wandering around our baked goods; they are evenly distributed throughout each slice. This particular myth was undoubtedly perpetuated by a tired mother who could not cut the crust off one more PB&J sandwich. Crust on, crust off, fancy flower shaped, or even ones accidentally cut horizontally when everybody knows that diagonally cut sandwiches are just way more delicious, are all are equally nutritious. Sadly, another mom myth — any food eaten off a child’s plate, including PB&J bread crusts, contains no calories — is also false.
“Eat up. All the vitamins are in the skin of your potato.” Marginally true. By volume, more select nutrients, calcium, and iron are located in the skin of the potato than in the flesh. However, you would have to eat the skin off two potatoes to get the same quantity by weight found in the flesh of just one, which would leave you with a couple of naked potatoes. Perhaps they could be mashed into a side dish for a less health-conscious diner.
“Wait 30 minutes after eating before you get back in that pool; otherwise you will most certainly get a cramp, go under, drown, die, and break my heart.” False. No scientific evidence suggests that swimming after eating is any more dangerous than running through the hose or taking a bath immediately following a meal. Adults might maintain this myth simply to have a few peaceful moments in which to float in the pool without being run over by splashing, popsicle-smear-faced children shouting “Marco Polo,” but the myth seems to have originated in a 1908 Boy Scout handbook. This myth is so prevalent that the American Red Cross issued the following statement in 2011: “Currently available information suggests that eating before swimming is not a contributing risk for drowning and can be dismissed as a myth.”
And that other popular pool myth haunting small-bladdered youngsters everywhere is also false. No mysterious dye will change the water’s color and alert other swimmers of an in-pool “accident.”
“Put nail polish on those bites. It will kill the chiggers.” False. Chiggers don’t actually burrow under the skin, so no amount of nail polish — no matter how exotic the name — will suffocate them. In fact, once you feel the itch, those chiggers are long gone, happily inflecting misery on other flip-flop clad victims. It is the venom they leave behind that causes discomfort, so use an anti-itch cream and save the polish to seal an envelope, keep laces from unraveling, or just to make your nails look pretty.
“Stop cracking your knuckles! You’ll give yourself arthritis!” False. While annoying to hear, knuckle-cracking will not cause arthritis or any other type of permanent damage, no matter how frequently those joints are cracked. Some other rationale is therefore desperately needed in order to get young people to please, please stop making that cringe-worthy sound. Hopefully the scientific community is working feverishly toward making it go away forever.
“I don’t care if it looks funny. The honey is fine so just eat it.” True. Even though it might darken and crystallize over time, giving it the appearance of food gone bad, honey has a chemical composition that ensures it never, ever spoils. Ever. In fact, a jar of 5,500-year-old honey was recently discovered near Tbilisi. And if scientists claim that honey is edible, the 3-year-old jar in your pantry is probably just fine. Enjoy, honey!
“Dry your hair before you go to bed because wet hair will make you sick.” False. Viruses are spread from person to person and are not caused by wet hair. A wet pillow combined with a warm head could breed a bacteria that causes dandruff, but it will not cause a cold. And if you do get sick from exposure to a virus, chicken soup will not cure it; however, it will taste delicious, make you feel warm and loved, and is almost worth the cost of a cold.
“Don’t touch that toad! You’ll get warts!” False. While children may be prone to warts due to young immune systems, toads and their tendency to urinate on your hands are not the culprit. Kissed toads probably won’t turn into princes, either, but that hasn’t stopped quite a few of us from kissing many a toad.
“Stop eating that chocolate bar. It will make your face break out.” False. Chocolate does not cause acne. However, high levels of sugar and fat can contribute to break outs, so watching your intake of sweets could be beneficial. Before you take a big bite of that candy bar, however, consider this: On average, eight insect parts can be found in every chocolate bar, but less than 60 insect particles per 100 grams is considered safe by the Food and Drug Administration. If that doesn’t make you stick to your low-sugar diet, nothing will.
“Move away from the T.V. You’ll hurt your eyes.” False. Sitting too close to the television will not hurt your eyes. Children are better able to focus on close objects than are adults, so this myth was probably started by some blurry-eyed grown-up who couldn’t see all of Barney’s purple details while in too-near proximity of the set. Other visual tall tales, such as eating carrots will give you night vision or reading in a dark room will damage your eyes, are also false. According to Harvard, the latter may result in tired eyes and a headache (and possibly a grouchy demeanor from a late night spent reading under the covers), but your peepers will be fine.
“Pew! Wash in tomato juice and get rid of that skunk odor.” False. The stinky truth is that skunk spray cannot be neutralized by tomato juice, and bathing in it will just ensure a combined odor of day-old spaghetti sauce and skunk stench. A mixture of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and liquid dishwashing detergent is far more effective and will not leave others wondering which Italian restaurant they should avoid.
“You can’t hold your nose and hum.” True. Air cannot escape if both your nose and mouth are blocked, and it is the exhale that makes the hum. While this is not a universally recognized parental myth in need of debunking, it is a fun fact, which you no doubt just corroborated for yourself. And didn’t your parents always stress the importance of involvement and self-directed learning? Mom would be proud!