Earlier this year, I wrote a post giving props to my pops for all the traits I had learned from him that I am proud of. This month, it’s my mom’s turn to get some kudos for teaching me some very valuable life lessons.
My mom grew up in the same small town that my dad did in Southern Ohio. She was a cheerleader in high school (and even got to ride a float in their local parade!), and as a stay-at-home mom (which is a job I very much admire) she stayed very involved, often in leadership roles, throughout my schooling. She did everything from being President of the PTA to working in the school library at my elementary school. In her spare time, she was an avid bowler, and was always in a league no matter where we lived. So, to say she kept a pretty active schedule is an understatement, but in the center of anything she did, was me.
My dad is very logical and analytical, my mom is very empathetic and bubbly, so I feel really lucky that I benefited from absorbing both personality types.
Here are some of the lessons that I learned from my mom:
When I was in high school, my grandpa (my mom’s father), was diagnosed with lung cancer. My mom moved him from his home in Southern Ohio to our home in Chicago to ensure that he got the best medical care that he could. He lived in our guest room for months while going through treatment. During that time, she gave up her life, and dealt with a husband and daughter who were a little stressed by the whole situation of having him there, to make sure her dad was taken care of. That is the most extreme example I can give of her selfless nature, but because of it, I tend to think of others before myself, and to try to anticipate how my actions might affect someone or a situation. I know that this trait has made me a superstar in any customer service role I have ever had.
Celebrate! (and never forget to send a card!)
My mom loves to celebrate any event she can. She never forgets a birthday, wedding, anniversary, or other life event in the life of anyone she knows. And she never forgets to send a card. I used to think that was kind of frivolous and a waste of paper to send a card for any life event, but now that I am getting older, I realize that she is making sure that everyone she knows feels special and remembered. And who doesn’t love going to the mailbox to find an actual hand-addressed envelope just for them?
I have to tell you a side-story to this that is only relevant because it involves the word “Celebration.” More specifically the song “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang. When I was growing up, they had a Wendy’s campaign for their chicken nuggets and they used that song in the commercial (in fact they rewrote the song so that it was about the nuggets). After dozens of plays, I grew to hate that song with a fiery passion. When Bryan and I first started dating, they realized that I hated that song, and would torture me by singing/playing it. So “Celebrate” is also a way that mom and husband bonded.
Stay young at heart.
My mom and I have gone to Disney World and Disneyland so many times together, that I have lost count. In some ways, I joke that I “act old,” but most of my interests have stayed constant over my life. I love cartoons and pop music and bright colors. And I am not embarrassed by it. My mom always supported whatever interest I had, and never told me that “I was too old” for something. Because of that, I am comfortable with who I am and my interests. Also, I think that acting young keeps you young. I wish I was more like my mom in this regard. She still will sing loudly to a song while driving in the car, or break out in a little dance if we hear a song that she loves. I have never been quite that carefree, and am a little jealous.
Expand your horizons.
When I was ten, my mom took me to my first ballet – The Nutcracker. After seeing my first real live show (I am not going to count Sesame Street LIVE!), I was hooked. In the years following we went to every musical and ballet we could get tickets to. When I was in middle school, she and my dad let me go to Spain with my Spanish class, where we visited The Prado and saw them make damascene jewelry in Toledo. I am not good at remembering a lot of my childhood, but anything related to art is still so vivid in my memory. She never mocked what we saw, or viewed art as frivolous or weird. I feel so lucky to have been able to experience everything that I have, and now tend to find myself staring in awe the guy who shows up to an art show with a glitter mask, mint green suit, and white bowler hat topped with a gold glitter alligator head. Life is too short to be boring.
I don’t want to paint an overly rosy picture where it seems like I had the perfect life and my relationship with my parents has always been flawless. That just isn’t true. We have our ups and downs, our disagreements and arguments, but in the end, I love them. They made me who I am both by making sure I was safe and taken care of, and also by exhibiting what I think are some pretty kick-ass personality traits.
Once again I challenge you, when you lament exhibiting a trait that is “just like something mom/dad would do” to find something to celebrate instead.