I am a lucky woman. I have always had a strong relationship with my mother. I have friends who don't have that relationship and I always feel sad for them. I have learned so much from my mother, even when I didn't think I was listening to her. I can't imagine who I would be if she was not such a presence in my life. Now that I am a mom, I hope I can pass some of the same lessons on to my sons.
1. Make your bed every day. This may seem silly and trivial, but it's not. When I was younger, my response was always; "Why? I am just going to mess it up again." She didn't care. She would say that it didn't matter if there were clothes all over the floor, dusty things on the dresser, and shoes all over the place; if your bed was made, the room looked better.
I think what she was really teaching me was self-discipline. If you cannot take care of everything in your room, at least take care of one thing. If you cannot take of everything that is going wrong in your world, take care of one thing and maybe the rest won't look so bad.
Growing up, I never listened. My bed went unmade and we would argue. Sometimes I would win. Sometimes she would win. Now, there is not a day that goes by that my bed is not made. There may be laundry piled up in baskets around it and shoes strewn at the foot of it, but those covers are pulled up straight each day. And everyday, no matter how crazy of a day it was, when I go to bed, I know my covers are perfectly tucked in waiting for me and everything else seems better.
2. Eat all your food on your plate. Okay, so this may be the true source of the weight issues that I have dealt with for the last 41 years, but it does have a deeper meaning. My mom was born in 1929, the year of The Great Depression. When she was growing up, you held on to everything you had and ate what was given to you because you didn't know when you would eat again. You wasted nothing. With the current economy, I think it would do us all a little good to go back to a lighter dose of this philosophy. I can at least do a better job of managing the food expenses by ensuring everything gets eaten or at least cooked for a meal.
3. Bring a sweater and a dime. Any time I was heading out, my mom would ask if I had a sweater and a dime. The sweater was for the blizzard that was going to hit in mid-July and the dime was for the payphone, so if my friends or the boy I was going out with left me on the side of the road, I could call home. What this really has taught me is to always be prepared. The reality is, you never know what is going to come at you and it doesn't hurt have a few extra things on hand just in case. Of course, a dime is not going get you too far anymore and good luck finding a payphone, but you get my point.
What it also taught me is that no matter what happened, I could call home. I knew then, like I know now, that my mom is always there for me. She is no longer able to send my dad to go get me, or hop on a bus to help me with some crazy, last minute request for babysitting like she has done in the past, but she always has an ear to listen and shoulder to lean on. She has taught me to be a support for my children, even if (or especially if) it is in the middle of the night through a pay-phone.
4. Remember, someone will always know you. I grew up in a small city that is literally a two miles square. I am the youngest in a family of nine. My mother volunteered for everything at the school and church. My family was known in town. People I never recognized would come up and ask if I was some siblings sister or if I was Eva's daughter. When I was being good, I would pipe right up and say YES!, but when my actions were a little questionable, I would sigh, lower my head, and burst into tears. I knew that by the time I got home, my mom would know what I had done. To this day, it is hard to know for sure if my mom was such an avid volunteer because she felt a strong desire to help out or if she was secretly building an unknowing army of spies.
I have followed in her footsteps. Granted, I only have two children, but I volunteer for everything. I love helping. However, I cannot deny the added bonus of having my own army.
The lesson here is be involved in your child's life. Be a part of what they do; whether it's little league, spelling bees, or bug collecting conventions. Find out how you can help, so you and your child can share an interest. It has given me countless memories to share with them on those rare occasions when we are all at the dinner table.
5. Sometimes you just feel better after a good cry. My mom is the strongest woman I know. Period. She has raised nine children, one who is intellectually disabled. Although larger families were common back when I grew up, children with disabilities were not. They were hidden; sent away for others to care for because it would be too much for a family to handle. My mother (and of course my father) would have none of that. They raised my brother like they raised the rest of us; with lots of love, boundaries, and support. There weren't support groups, chat rooms, or blogs for her to turn to when she was having a bad day. She would just plow through her days smiling.
Every now and then though, she would come out of her bedroom or the bathroom or she would come home from somewhere and her eyes would be red and puffy. You could tell she had been crying. Maybe she had a fight with my dad. Maybe one of my siblings said something mean. Maybe I should have made my bed. Or maybe it was the all of the pressures of being a mom building up inside that just had to be released. The reasons didn't matter; she had been crying. Within minutes, however, she was back to herself, bouncing from chore to chore, watching TV in her chair, or reading the newspaper.
When I was a teenager and I would start one of my raging mood swings, my mom would say "You know, sometimes you just feel better after a good cry." Back then, this just made me slam more doors and stomp my feet harder. Now, I know she's right. Sometimes, I am the one who now locks herself in her bedroom or bathroom or goes for a walk and returns with red, puffy eyes. I always feel better.
6. Play nice. I have never met a person who has not loved my mom. I am sure there is at least one out there, but I have never met them. If you knew her, you would see why. My mom is kind to everyone unless she thinks you are harmful to her family; then she is nice to you.
You see, there is difference between nice and kind. It is very subtle. Kindness comes from the heart. When you are kind to someone, you are genuinely invested in a person and want to make them happy. Niceness is being polite enough to get you by. When you are being nice, you will not do anything against a person, but you are not going out of your way to see if they are happy.
I have seen my mom "play nice" and she does it very well. Everyone she meets begins with receiving kindness. That is just the way she is. If you say hello to her, you have a friend for life. However, if you wrong her too many times, you get bumped down to niceness. Just to be clear, niceness with my mom is NEVER fake or superficial. It is just different. I don't even know if she recognizes that she does it. When I ask her why she bothers to talk to someone who has treated poorly, she looks at me confused and says "Why wouldn't I?"
This is a skill I have yet to master, but it is the one I long for the most. Even though I have seen my mom model it for me a million times, I don't think I will ever be able live this lesson as well as she does. I will have to keep watching and learning.
7. Someday you'll be a mom and then you'll understand. I am sure that however many languages there are in the world, each one has a phrase with a similar meaning to this one and it is spoken in households everywhere. Right now at this moment, there is a mom saying it to her teenage daughter, and the teenage daughter is throwing her hands in the air, stomping her feet and walking away.
It didn't matter how many times my mom said it, until I became a mom I never understood her.
Now, as I look back at each phase of my kids lives, I get it. I understand how she felt when I took my first steps, had my first day of school, and had my first date. I understand what it is like to look at a messy room and unmade bed. I know why she still wants me to call her when I get home after I leave her house. I understand the excitement of my visits and the disappointment of when I leave. I feel the sadness of an empty, quieter dinner table that was once loud and full. I understand now that no matter how old my children are, they will always be my babies. I may have always had a strong relationship with my mom, but now I can understand her.
Photo Credit: immatygrr.
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