When I was younger I vowed that I would never be like my mother. I would never own a blouse, make my kids go to bed at 8:30, or subject them to spit baths to look more presentable during errands to the post office. And then I became a mom. Suddenly, all the annoying things I'd heard throughout my childhood made sense. Turns out, my mom is the Wisest Person on the Planet.
But were the warnings we (kind of) heeded as kids all true? Does swallowed gum really stay in your stomach for seven years? If you cross your eyes, will they stay that way forever? Or can you get worms from eating raw cookie dough? Trivia guru Ken Jennings tackled these and other compelling parental tactics in his new book, Because I Said So! The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warning Every Generation Passes Down to its Kids.
You may remember Jennings as the seventy-four-time Jeopardy! champion, which may not make him an expert but, at the very least, he's very resourceful and pretty darn smart. And I will admit that I had some reservations going in that this book was going to be either entirely too academic or fall into the "Just because you're a celebrity doesn't mean you can write" category. Thankfully, it was neither.
Instead, Because I Said So! is both entertaining and informative. Some of the theories seem utterly ridiculous, while others are quite eye-opening. Jennings compiled all those phrases we grew up hearing and researched everything from the dangers of running with scissors (not as bad as your parents would like to think) to the social faux pas of double dipping (which is scientifically pretty gross). Is it possible to sneeze with your eyes open? (yes) Do you really only use 10% of your brain? (no) Should you pee on your athlete's foot? (yuck, why?) Wash behind your ears! Don't look at the sun! Don't sniff the markers! Were you raised in a barn?!
This book is really good. It inspired many conversations while I was reading it, both because it was so interesting that I often shared my newfound knowledge with everyone and also because I kept laughing out loud in public places, causing me to explain my outburst by holding up the book. The writing is very conversational and quite funny, but maybe that's because I'm part of a certain generation who was subjected to these parenting methods and who now happily torments, er, I mean, teaches my own children with the age-old advice.
If you are looking for something interesting to read, have ever rolled your eyes at your parents' opinions, or simply enjoy unusual and sometimes icky factoids, then you will enjoy Because I Said So! Then, do what I did: Call your mom and say, "Thanks for watching out for me, but I'm still not giving my kids a spit bath."
Recommended by Priscilla Garvin