The mom I knew was a totally competent, in charge, practical person. But she loved to tell stories about how totally naïve she was as a young adult.

My mom complained that growing up, her mom had done everything for her so she never learned any of the practical aspects of life, like washing her own clothes, cooking, etc. My mom went to college in Wisconsin at 16 because schools in those days had the bright kids ‘skip grades’. Mom was unprepared and ill-equipped to handle the logistics of life on her own.

When she arrived at college, something had spilled in her suitcase so she had to wash all her clothes. She knew nothing about washing clothes but reasoned that very hot water would get clothes the cleanest. So that’s how she washed everything, including her nylon stockings. Her clothes survived, but her stockings disintegrated! She called home in tears. Her mother finally taught her the basics of washing clothes.

A few years later, at the age of 19, back in New York City and married, Mom decided to show off her cooking skills to her new husband. She carefully read the roasted chicken recipe, which included the phrase ‘baste the chicken’. Mom knew nothing about cooking, but she did know a little about sewing. She was familiar with the term ‘basting’ in sewing, which means to make quick, temporary stitches. She reasoned that basting the chicken must mean quickly sewing up the holes at both ends of the chicken. She used white thread to be sanitary. And she left the organs inside in their little package (she didn’t even know they were there).

Mom and her Mom

She put the carefully sewed chicken in the oven and soon after began to smell something awful. The oven began to smoke. In a panic, she called her mother and begged her to come over and help her out. After Grandma stopped laughing, she gave Mom her first cooking lesson. Together they cooked a new meal for Mom’s husband. He loved this story and told it often!

Another story of mind-boggling ignorance involves a checkbook. Her new husband had given her a checkbook of her own. He made sure that she knew how to keep a record of all the checks she wrote. So far so good. After a while, he confronted Mom with the bank statement indicating that their bank account was overdrawn. “That’s ridiculous!” my mother insisted. The bank must have made a mistake. Mom ran and got her checkbook. She proudly presented it to her husband as evidence, announcing “Look at all the checks I have left!”

Mom and her first husband, around age 20

Her husband took her checkbook away and she never used one again until he died nine years later. She had a slow learning curve in some things.

To be honest, Mom never really learned how to wash clothes or cook or handle a checkbook very well. She always seemed to have someone around to do these things for her. So her life never suffered for a lack of these basic skills.

Her naiveté makes for such good stories!


  1. Oh, my — this had me laughing! I, too, skipped over 2nd grade, and went away to college (across country) at age 16! Laundry was a real challenge for me, particularly in the snowy winter — I hated having to cart my laundry up and down through the snow!!

    I firmly believe your mom was not the only one who launched into adulthood with no knowledge of how to deal with a checkbook! In fact, I think a curriculum in money management would help a lot of those who get into the type of difficulty that your mom experienced!


    1. There is an argument that all seniors in high school should have to learn life skills, like laundry and checkbooks and basic cooking. But some parents seem to want to keep their children helpless and infantile. I had my kids doing their own laundry in the machine at home from the age of 10! I decided that I was not a laundry lady. I did enough for them and this was something they could easily learn to handle on their own.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. That was good parenting — the earlier we learn basic life skills, the better off we are when we fledge. I am glad that skipping grades is no longer recommended,!


          1. We didn’t do any babysitting. There weren’t any small children in the neighborhood, and by the time we were, it was time to go away to college!


      2. Love these anecdotes about your Mom, Ellin. I hope she had a sense of humor about these incidents. It’s hard when you’re a klutz. I know.


  2. I didn’t realize it until much later how much of an effect that skipped grade had on my academic and social development. I hope that approach to teaching bright kids has now disappeared forever!


    1. Me too. Not only did I never learn fractions — an 8th grade subject — but I was really YOUNG and emotionally immature. I was smart, but that doesn’t make up for not really knowing anything about life. I had a friend in high school who was a year younger than me. She graduated at fifteen and refused to go to college. She told her parents she was too young and she wanted a couple of years in a finishing school or anything, but not college. She said everyone would be going out for drinks while she was a child — not ready for college. She was smarter than me.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think my parents couldn’t wait for me to graduate from HS and move on to college elsewhere — they said that if I didn’t get into the colleges I’d applied to, I’d go to finishing school in Switzerland — not what I wanted for myself at age 16, as it was double the distance from home, and I really wasn’t old enough to be that far away — I knew that, but couldn’t articulate my reasons, so was considered difficult!


    2. Skipping grades was a big thing in my mother’s day. Some kids even skipped two grades! It reeks havoc on a kid’s social life and social development. I guess they didn’t think that was important in the dark ages. The emphasis on child psychology is a recent development.


  3. i skipped the second grade, which at that point (in a two room six grade rural school) was no big deal. I could handle the other stuff fairly well. then we spent two years in Mass. and in a school that was about 95% Jewish. Those kids were smart! No cursive writing allowed, unless you already knew how (which I did) and fractions in the fifth grade. I got it, but barely. Apparently they had also had extensive teaching as to parts of speech which I missed totally, I was out of highschool before I really got control of adverbs and adjectives. That extra year showed up more and more as I got into highschool, and I do regret not being with kids my own age at that point. One year’s difference at 15 can be huge.


    1. I think age differences between young kids is a big deal. I think the social effects of skipping were more damaging than the academic ones. As you said, you can pick up sentence structure any time. But you can’t make up for years of being a social outcast among your fellow students because you’re too young.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think my grandmother purposely kept my mom ignorant about basic life skills. She wanted my mom to be totally dependent on her. But she had to teach her when Mom left home and had to function on her own. Also, Mom was only 16 when she went to college, so she was behind the curve with her peers at school on a lot of social things as well. Mom was always trying to act mature and older than she was so she could fit in.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, your mom was awfully young when she went to college. Still I think it smarter to teach these skills to both the girls and the boys.


  4. I got into tons of trouble — especially in my freshman year when I was 16. I don’t suppose it crossed my mother’s mind that my being so young might be problematic because I was otherwise a pretty sensible kid. But I was socially inept. Extremely so.


  5. That checkbook story is an old dumb blond joke. 🙂 I heard it many years ago. I think your mom might have borrowed it to illustrate her naivete. I’d love to hear more about her!


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