This morning, I drove with my girls to a local fast food place so I could get a fountain Coke. It’s something I do every day. I don’t drink coffee (or tea) so I get my caffeine from my one large Coke a day. (A habit I struggle to break.) As usual, I placed my order then pulled up to the window. After a brief conversation with the worker (yes, I know her name because I’m a “regular”), I wished her a good day and drove away.
From the back, my oldest asked me, “Mommy, why do you always tell people to have a good day?” I responded, “Well, Gigi, it’s a nice thing to say, and I mean it.” I thought a bit then told her, “It’s important to mean what you say. Always mean what you say, and don’t forget kindness is just as important.”
In that moment, I realized I had imparted my first lessons for my girls. It will be one I repeat over and over in the future: to be kind and to mean what they say.
Growing up, I had amazing parents. They loved my sister and me. My mom and dad were great role models on how to be a parent. They weren’t perfect (no parent is), but tried their best. I learned from their successes as parents, as well as their missteps. Most importantly, my parents made our family their priority. I know their goal was to raise two independent and capable adult women because they told us.
While I did learn a lot from my dad’s actions, it was my mother who passed on lessons to us. As children and teens, my mom would impart her words of wisdom with tips on navigating life, marriage, and family. Of course, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized what she was doing. Funny enough, when I mentioned it to my sister, she looked at me like I had three heads. I guess she never noticed.
These lessons from my mother prepared me for marriage and motherhood better than any book. I knew from her words that both would be a challenge, but also filled with blessings.
Girls Can Do Whatever Boys Can Do
As a little girl in the 70s, I was bombarded with images limiting the abilities of women. You rarely saw women with careers beyond the “traditional” jobs. My mom made sure we knew that we weren’t limited by what we saw. If I came home and said, “I want to be a nurse”, my mom would say, “Why not a doctor?” If said, “I want to be a stewardess (now known as flight attendant)”, mom would ask, “Why not a pilot?”
Marry someone you like as much (if not more) than you love.
My mom emphasized that friendship should form the basis of a long-lasting relationship. More importantly, that if you don’t like the person you are with as much as you love the person, the relationship wouldn’t last.
Lust is not enough for a long-term relationship.
My mom knew people who married someone based on their physical relationship. She saws those relationships implode time and again. My mom told me that lust only lasts so long. Friendship combined with love lasts longer.
Marriage is NOT easy.
I observed my parents and their relationship. They made it seem easy, but I knew it wasn’t. My mom told me it was hard. She let me know when she was frustrated with my dad. She also let me know that those moments were temporary; that they would work through them.
Sometimes you need to give your spouse space and time.
When my dad would get upset, he would stew. He’d be quiet and take time to himself. My mom let him. She knew he needed the time and space to sort out what was going on in his head. As long as you still communicate with each other, you still need to give the other person time for themselves.
You chose your spouse. They come before your family.
My mom (and dad) emphasized this one to me many times. They told me that if your parents or other family member criticized or argued with your spouse, you should ALWAYS (no hesitation) back up your spouse. Do not let other family members say bad things about your spouse to you or others. Let them know you won’t stand for it. That said, you might disagree with your spouse on something he or she does with your family. In that case, back them up in public, but in private feel free to lay into them as needed.
Make your husband your priority, even with kids.
Once you have kids, your marriage can sometimes feel pushed to the side. If you do that, your marriage might not make it when the kids leave to start their own lives. My mom told me many times that she made sure to always make my dad a priority. They would find quiet time for just the two of them every day. If that meant they got up an hour earlier or stayed up an hour later to make it happen, they did it. My parents will be married for 49 years this fall. They are the best of friends to this day.
Protect your children but give them wings to fly.
My mom did everything she could do to protect my sister and me growing up. From keeping her eyes on us, to letting us know how to protect ourselves. She let me make my own mistakes so I could learn from them. At the same time, she gave me as many tools as she was able to manage on my own. I didn’t have a helicopter mom or even a free range. She was my lifeguard. I hope to be a lifeguard for my children like she was for me.
I’m grateful that I have a mom who realized the importance to teaching me how to be a good wife and a good mother. While there is room for improvement in both, I feel I have the basics, mainly because of my amazing mom.
What are some lessons that you have learned from your mom or other important person in your life?