There’s a lot in my mom’s life that I have questioned, naturally. From major life choices to basic funny but why's, I’ve been asking these questions since I could talk clearly. God bless Debbie for dealing with a child like this for for 32 years. Of course, this is partially her fault because she did raise me to be this way. Honestly, I never really understood a lot of the answers I would get from her when I was younger. And as I got older, I mixed that misunderstanding with a little judgment because, you know… I had so much life experience and all. My real understanding wouldn’t come until I came full circle as a woman and a mom.
A few lessons from my mom:
- The 80's were hard on everyone. (See below)
- Appreciate all that you have. As my Southern mama would say, "People in hell want ice water, too.” I mean, how do you counter that? You don’t, if you know better.
- Bangs were always my destiny. Even though she claims they just "naturally" grew that way. Sure, Debs, sure.
- Family is all you have. She was a single mom for 6 years. We lived with my grandparents and uncle who all contributed to raising me. To have great family to help keep you afloat is nothing short of a miracle.
- The definition of strong. Even though I know she doesn’t see herself in this light, I know she is. We actually come from a long line of strong, fiercely independent and stubborn women. A weak woman could not decide to bring a child into the world on her own despite the father's disapproval. She knew it wouldn’t be easy but she did it anyway. That takes real cohones, Mom.
- The definition of work ethic. i.e.: Work your tail off to get what you need not what you want. My mom worked full-time in the health insurance industry all of my childhood. She rarely took days off unless we had doctor appointments or school programs. Vacations were a rarity until my stepdad came along. My grandparents or my uncle would drop me off/pick me up from school. She was a career woman and made no complaints about having to provide for me.
- Put your child before yourself. Kinda goes along with number 6. Even though we really did not have much (my dad rarely made child support payments), I don't ever really remember going without anything that I needed. I had clothes and many shoes. My mom has always called me Amelda Marcos. I mean, I begged her for a little kitchen and a slip 'n' slide like my cousin because she always had the cool toys. But I didn't need those things. She, however, would go without a new pair of hose (clear nail polishing the runs to save them), and color the scuff marks on her black or navy heels with pens or Sharpies so that she could make them last a little bit longer just so I got what I needed.
- The importance of health and wellness. My mom was always a stickler about annual checkups, dental cleanings, eye exams... the works. She wouldn't even miss them by a day unless it was a holiday. I always grew up being taught that this is what you did. As an adult, she stayed on me about it. Now that I’m a mother, I find myself obsessing over them as well. I more than appreciate that these days, since I'm over 30 and my body has gone haywire ever since I gave birth. She's taught me that you have to be proactive about your health and that you have to be your own health advocate. She taught me that tenacity is 100% passed on when I get involved with Theo's food allergies. I'll never back down from it.
- How to respect my body and demand that same respect from others. My mom was always very open (maybe too open) about sex, women's health issues, etc. She never pried but she was an open book if I wanted to know anything. I did not become sexually active until my 20’s. That was my choice. No pressure from my boyfriend of several years. No pressure from the boys I dated when I was in high school. Not because they didn't try, but because I had so much self-respect, confidence and understanding of my body and what I was comfortable with, that I refused to tolerate pressure from a guy.
- It's okay to cry. In good times, in bad, during hardships or after laughing so hard there was nothing left in there but to cry. She taught me that it was always okay. She never chastised me for it. And today, we both will mom cry at the drop of a hat. Like Johnson & Johnson commercials or stories about pets. It’s totally a mom thing I've learned.
- How to learn from my mistakes. Not to be ashamed by them. I've made plenty of mistakes/unpopular choices in my life. But my mom has never said "I told you so." She's always supported any major decision in my life. Minus the name we had picked out for Theo if he was going to be a girl. But seriously other than that, her response has always been “It's okay. We will get through this together. We will figure this out.”
- It's important to know how to do your laundry. By age 9. Yep. Age 9. Listen, Debs was a busy working woman who was also pregnant with my little brother and had gestational diabetes going on as well. She was not about to do my laundry. I can also say that this is probably why I loathe laundry so much in my life. SO. MUCH. 23 years strong.
- The value of "ma’am" and "sir." Obviously, we're Southern. Replying to an older person or person of authority with ma’am or sir is a thing down here. My mom has taught me the discernment of using these two terms. Because sometimes a simple yes or no is a sufficient response. And sometimes the world could use a little more kindness and respect. I personally still use this with older family members and strangers, it’s just in my nature. I am trying to teach Theo to use it around family members, the elderly, and people of authority (teachers). However, I always get offended when the college aged kid at the dry cleaners calls me “ma’am.” I mean what the….I’M ONLY 32! GAH!
- If you ask God to teach you patience, He gives you a child. Apparently, that’s how I came to exist. That’s probably her favorite one-liner.
- Follow your heart. In all that you do. This means LOVE, LIFE, WORK. I have had oh so many jobs, I’ve been married, divorced, married again. I moved across the country and back. She’s always been there to support me.
- The art of cussing. Not cursing, CUSSING. Yes indeed she did. She may not have intended for this to happen but I think everyone I know can attest that I must’ve been taught this skill from a very skilled person. The right expletive for the right time and the right situation. Don’t be ashamed Mom, you learned from Nana.
- To just be me. She has taught me to own who I am. We aren’t exactly alike and I think that’s why my mom always pushed me to be confident in who I am, where I came from, and where I’m going. She always reminds me the only approval I need to seek is my own. If I’m okay with me, then no one else’s opinion matters in the long run.
Through all that I have come to understand about my mom, perhaps the most treasured gift, the gift that all moms hope to pass on to their daughters, is how to be a mom. Not how to be a “perfect mom” because let’s be real, that’s nonexistent. But that all the things that I have experienced in life has led me to be the mom that I am today. To embrace that. And because my mom learned to do so when she became a mom, all that I’ve always wanted to be as a mom, I learned from her. And she learned that from her mom. And one day, hopefully, I’ll be able to learn how to be a grandmother from her, too.