My mom and me at Tavern on the Green in NYC; 2009
“Five things she taught you,” he said, “it can be anything.”
It was Mother’s Day and my brother was hosting the family get together. Each of us were to make a list of 5 things our mother taught us and it would be our gift to Mom.
I left this task to the last minute. I thought it would be easy. But I was wrong. How can you narrow down the list of what your mother has taught you to a measly 5 things?
It took a while but I eventually sorted it out. I landed on the lessons that really stuck with me, things that guided me not only as a child but also as a teen, as a young married woman and now, as a middle-aged mother of three.
My mom’s birthday is just days away, and in honor of her, I want to share this list with you.
5 Things I learned from My Mother
1-The best way out is through. I never wanted to hear this. Because she said it when things were going badly. When I came home crying after a horrendous waitressing shift (think spilled water, yelling customers and small tips) and had to go back in two hours for the dinner shift. When I suffered through an entire year of Research Psychology, a horribly difficult class I took at Hanover College. When I hated my job and didn’t know whether to quit or stay.
It took me forever to understand what she meant; sometimes life is stressful but you can’t sit in the corner cowering. You need face what’s coming and tackle it head on. The tunnel may be long, it may be dark and it may be scary, but there’s only one way out.
2-How to cook: pot roast, chicken and noodles, asparagus soup, beef tenderloin, sausage gravy and of course pork chops! When I was twenty-three and living in an apartment I called my mom to ask how to fry pork chops. She told me how she does it and assumed I knew that in order to fry, one needs oil. I did not. The smell of flour burning in a pan will set your smoke alarm off in case you are wondering.
Over the years we’ve had many a laugh over that incident, but I did eventually learn how to cook. And what a gift! Cooking is work but it is also a joy, a creative outlet and a way show love to my family. My kids often ask me to make their favorite dishes for dinner and most of these recipes came from my mother.
3-Be independent and stand up for yourself. My mom is fiercely independent. Always has been. She is smart, confident and has always gone after what she’s wanted with vigor. Me? I am of a completely different personality; was born a quiet, shy, less-than-confident kid. I hesitate over everything. But no one who has met me in my adult years believes this.
Because I learned to be independent (and somewhat confident) from my mom. I talk easily with strangers. I try new things. I go to the movies by myself, go anywhere by myself. I am still that same old shy person inside, but I have learned how to get by in the world in my own way. I’ve learned to do what I want, be whom I want, go after what I want. It has made a difference in the person I am today.
4-Live the life you want and you’ll be happy. My mom was an educator, taught college throughout my youth. Yet she never badgered me about grades, never pushed for me to become a cheerleader or captain of the debate team, never told me where to go to college. She and Dad allowed my brother and I to make our own choices. They encouraged us to do what we wanted and supported our endeavors. Be who you were designed to be, they said. I’m not sure there is better advice out there.
5-Live within your means. Getting a job at age 16 was a requirement in our house. And with it came only 1 condition: put money from each paycheck in the bank. I have done this ever since. As a teen, I received a modest allowance for clothes and personal items. From this I learned how to live on a budget. And better yet, I learned a valuable lesson: money and happiness aren’t so intimately connected. Money is nice, but it’s not a prerequisite for a rich life. Rather, it’s just icing on the cake.
Happy birthday Mom! I’m so grateful for what you’ve taught me.
We’ve all learned something from our mothers. What’s the most important thing your mother taught you?