My mom is one of the smartest people I know. In actual fact, I was hoping to have spent this weekend with her, as it was her birthday. However, priorities in my own family kept me in Ontario – but with many moments with thoughts of my mom on my mind.
It is absolutely true that some things you just don’t understand in life until you become a parent. I can’t say that I was ever admonished to “just wait until you have kids” as a means of explaining my parents’ point of view, but suffice it to say that I have gained a greater degree of understanding of my own parents by virtue of being one myself.
In fact, I suspect that same understanding is simply going to grow as I get closer to my own years parenting teenagers. I myself was a pretty easy kid to deal with – but a difficult teenager. When I think back on all of the nights of lost sleep and frustration I must have caused my mom during those years, I think (with some dread) of my own pending experience becoming a mom to teenagers.
I have great appreciation for my mom and dad for being the amazing parents that they are, and for the wonderful home life and childhood they provided for me and my siblings. While acknowledging that motherhood is the hardest thing I’ve ever embarked upon, I have to give credit where credit is due: to my mom.
Lessons I learned From my Mom:
1- Girls can do anything that boys can do. I will forever be grateful for growing up knowing that I can hold my own, that being a girl is simply a statement of fact – and not a handicap. And I love to watch that same “girl-power” in my own daughter.
2 – Be fair. Raised in a family of eight kids, I guess my mom was ingrained with a sense of fairness from early on. In our family, great care was taken to make sure each of us felt equally and fairly treated (even if the specifics were different, the overall fairness was always evident) I know my mom paid attention to being fair with gifts, extracurricular activities, and every other aspect of life I can think of.
3 – Don’t compare your kids to each other. I sometimes get funny looks when I tell people that I didn’t fight with my brother or sister growing up. Let me be clear: that doesn’t mean that we always got along, but we were never competing against each other for our parents’ attention. I am quite certain that this is largely due to my parents’ conscious decision to respect us as the individuals that we were, with our own strengths and weaknesses, and to never compare us to each other. This little bit of wisdom is one that we have adopted in our own family as well – perhaps this is one reason that Ethan and Audra have often played together so well.
4 – Give people space and respect their privacy. I knew growing up that I could keep my journal or private things out in the open, and that my privacy would be respected. I knew that my space, my things and my opinions would always be treated with respect. This in one area, especially as our kids get older, that we plan to reinforce in our home as well.
5 – Listen carefully to every point of view. My mom is the ultimate ‘devil’s advocate’ – with her mind going a mile a minute, especially in the face of challenges. But she has always been open to hearing many different points of view and is one of the best sounding boards I know. I am quite certain it is from being surrounded by this that I learned to always look at situations from differing perspectives – and this has served me very well in my life – especially as a wife and mom.
6 – Buy good quality (but shop for good prices). I will give my mom some of the credit for the simple joy I have in seeing my kids in good quality things – like good shoes and coats. I look at them and see dry feet and warm kids – while also happy with the ‘good deals’ I found. I am especially happy when these choices mean that I don’t have to replace their things every month.
7 – Always read labels. I still remember grocery shopping as a kid, impatiently watching my mom read labels (decades ahead of her time, I’d say!) When questioned ‘why’, she explained that if you are buying a canned food, the ingredient list should only say that food on the label and nothing else. Made sense to me – and here I find myself, years later teaching principles of health (and Eating by Design) to people everywhere I go.
8 – Kids should be allowed to just be kids. We were raised with lots of freedom to just play – and most of that outside. We were in organized activities, but with a limit on how scheduled we were. We experimented, explored, tested our limits and learned through play. There is no doubt in my mind that our approach to parenting has its roots in these same simple beliefs. Let kids be kids.
9- Do your best in school. As a teacher, my mom understood that all kids have different learning styles and strengths. I never felt pressured with respect to schoolwork, but was internally driven to always do my best. For our kids, our intentions are for them to keep their love of learning intact, to nurture their creativity and problem-solving abilities, to never compare them to others – and to instill in them the same sense of always giving their best.
10 – Don’t ever underestimate common sense – and learn to think for yourself. In many ways it seems that common sense is not so common these days, and independent thought is not the norm. Instead of blindly following what others are doing, we have taken the lead my parents set to teach our children to use their common sense, think independently for themselves, and to apply their mind in every situation, regardless of what others are doing. I believe doing so nurtures their own thinking abilities, trust in themselves and ultimately self confidence. (And if I look at all of the ways I have differed from the ‘mainstream’ in many of our choices, I’d say that this tendency to nurture independent thought was a huge influence in my own life)
11 – Kids do what you do, not what you say. I’d have to say, as a parent, that accepting this statement as truth is to accept why being a parent is such a huge undertaking. I believe it is possible that there is no higher calling than to nurture and mold a child into becoming the best person that they can be. It is an enormous commitment to accept that you are one of the main role models for another human being, and that they are likely to follow in your footsteps in many ways: beliefs, habits, values and actions. It calls you to a whole new level of personal awareness and integrity.
As for me, I can certainly say that I learned from a great role model. On most days I think that I’m a pretty great mom, and on the other “off” days, at least I know that I am still doing the best I can. I think it’s part of the growth and evolution of each person and generation to blaze a different path than the one before them. There are many ways that we are doing things differently from how our parents did things. Fundamentally, however, the values instilled in me as a young child, learning from and being loved by my parents were the starting foundation for who I am. Living in a home full of love and respect, with a high value on family, has obviously set me on the path I am now on. And now, with the heightened understanding of time and experience, my appreciation for my parents has only grown exponentially over the years.
For me, being a mom is the most important job in the world. It is the hardest, and the most rewarding. And I am forever grateful to my own mom for showing me how to be a great one.
(I love you, Mom!)