When Amanda Walton was pregnant with her daughter, Walton’s father offered a bit of advice that has proved true time and again. “He said, ‘They don’t come with a manual, but there are two things that are a close second: (The book) ‘What To Expect: The Toddler Years,’ and your mom.”
This proves two points in rapid succession: that fathers offer wise and loving counsel to their children, and that mothers are even better at it.
Walton, 28, says she has turned to her father for advice on things like buying cars and leasing apartments, life decisions that call for a cool head and a bit of business savvy. “But when it comes to matters of the heart, I think moms know best,” says the mother of a 3-year-old. “And there’s nothing closer to your heart than your child.”
The phrase “Mother knows best” sounds like an adage from an earlier age, a time when mothers wore aprons and babies wore rubber pants and when something was wrong with your relationship or your child or your life in general, chances were good you called your mother. Today, however, we have an endless cacophony of voices and choices when it comes to advice. We have self-help books and message boards and friends with smartphones. We have Google and WebMD and, for better or worse, Facebook polls. But if we’re smart, local residents say, we still seek out a mother’s advice over the din. “I think at the end of the day moms have lived it all and seen it all; they’ve lived the advice that they’re giving,” says Ben Ferguson, 32, whose mother, Nancy Edwards, is a teacher at Okatie Elementary School. “And they see it more in a sensitive and enlightened way than men do.”
Heeding that advice, of course, is a different story altogether. Ferguson, a Realtor, says age and experience have made him more open to his mother’s counsel. “Nowadays I take (her advice) in a much better light than I used to. I used to push the limits a bit, and I learned my lessons the hard way,” he says. “A lot of things she has told me over the years actually are true, even though I think I know it all.” Perhaps the genius of a mother’s advice comes from the fact that a mom understands she actu-ally doesn’t know it all, says Genie Ussery, a 58-year-old mother of four. Having a child opens oneself up to the realization that there is much in life we can’t control, and that the act of rearing a child is less like a scaling a mountain and more like hitting a moving target.
“The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. About the time you feel like you’ve got a handle on things, the dynamics between the kids change ... and it’s a never-ending but never boring challenge,” she says. “I remember saying, ‘Well my children may do X, but they would never do Y.’ And I quickly found out that you never know.”
Ussery says she didn’t necessarily always call on her mother for advice, but she always called on a mother. “I sought out wise mothers and was never embarrassed to ask what to do,” she says. “A good mother is never embarrassed to say, ‘I’m confused here; give me some advice.’ ”
Likewise, Walton says the power of a mother’s advice comes from the humility in which she gives it. “They don’t have all the answers, but they’re always willing to help you try all the options,” she says.
And sometimes the best answer is to not answer at all, which for a mother is not always easy. “The hardest thing for me is keeping my mouth shut and letting them figure it out,” Ussery says.
But even when their mouths are closed, their ears remain open. A mother’s intuitive listening skills also enrich her advice-giving skills, says Robert Stanfield, 43, who considers his own mother one of his best friends.
“We have the tendency to just let the other one vent and just get it out in a safe place,” says Stanfield, an artist on the island. “We’re kind of therapy for each other.”
Gigi Warren, mother to 15-year-old Addie, agrees that listening is among the best skills a mother can have. “I think it’s so important to be a good listener, friend and mentor,” says Warren, 50. “I was able to talk to my parents about anything, and we’ve been that way with Addie.”
Though things like technology and fashion have changed, realworld issues remain largely the same. “I think a lot of the same problems are still around from a million years ago,” Warren says. “Very few people are virgins when they get married. People smoke, they drink, they do drugs.” This “been there, done that” experience gives moms an edge at guiding their kids through the murky waters they too once had to wade across, she says.
In a way, then, a mother’s advice is a classic antidote for whatever ails you. You can find a lot of answers online and in books, but when it comes right down to it, mothers are still kissing the same boo-boos they’ve been kissing for generations. And chances are most of those boo-boos could have been prevented if the injured child had just listened to his mother in the first place.
“I think I was a bit of a pain as a teenager,” Walton recalls. “And then I moved here when I was 20, and it was kind of an eye-opener. I realized how much I really needed (my mom) around, how much I needed her advice.” Because, it turns out, she really does know best.