1. You’ve heard this a thousand times or more: “Don’t say qué, say mande!”
Probably one of the most repeated phrases by generations of Mexican mothers. It can be said in a subtle tone, an urgent tone, or a tone that’s followed by a smack on the head. It’s one of the most deeply rooted little sayings in our culture.
2.You know your good behavior is being assessed…by supernatural beings.
The Magi, Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and other paranormal entities are always watching you, ALWAYS. No matter if it’s still half a year till Christmas or you’re done losing teeth. And if that’s not enough, there’s always the “Coco,” who nobody fully comprehends, except for the fact that he’ll retaliate against children who don’t go to sleep.
3. You learned how important it is to finish your sopa.
Because if you don’t finish your sopa, you’re not getting up from the table, there’s no dessert, no going out to play, no TV, no going to your cousins’ house, no birthday present, and — let’s just stop fucking around — no Magi! To this torture is added the constant reminders of the thousands of children starving around the world who would do anything to have your soup.
4. You learned that emphasizing your level of being pissed off means insulting…yourself.
This is a consequence of flowery language and the Mexican wildcard word: madre. There’s no Mexican mother who, if pissed off enough, will not utter “Son of a bitch!” in the heat of an argument. In this situation, do whatever it takes not to laugh, or else…
5. You developed an irrational fear of the garbageman.
At least once, your mom gave you away as a gift to the garbageman, or any innocent service provider, with the fabulous phrase, “Are you the one who takes away misbehaving kids?” And there was always the consequential delight of that person saying “Yes!”
6. You learned to define your home for all that it’s not.
Because it’s not a hotel, not a bar, definitely not a restaurant (“You eat whatever there is!”), and not a social club. After all “you respect me in this house!” and “you can do what you want when you have your own house!”
7. You learned to cure thousands of ailments with few resources.
There is no evil that will not succumb to the power of chamomile tea, bougainvillea, grapes, salt, baking soda, arnica, mezcal, VapoRub, or a combination of two, three, or all of these elements. If all else fails, there’s always the “cajón de las medicinas.”
8. You learned fractions before you learned math in school.
We’ve all received a litany involving the famous “ocho cuartos” whose true meaning and mathematical relevance seems to be the exclusive domain of our mothers.
9. You know remedies for diseases you don’t understand.
You know the evil eye is avoided with a red garment or a deer’s eye, and it’s very possible one of your grandmothers has healed you from embarrassment by pulling demonically on your skin.
10. You know how to flip tortillas.
Flipping tortillas on a comal is no easy task. It involves skill, courage, speed, and determination. If Mexicans make it look like it’s no big deal, it’s because you can’t see all the burns from previous years of training.
11. You learned to appreciate all the sacrifices your mother made for you to make you a good person.
After all…”Who will love you like your mother loves you?”