In college, I became incredibly self-aware. One day I woke up and I was sitting in a hustling, bustling cafeteria full of college students. The biggest difference between me and them was I was reading newspapers. Not online articles or 140-character headline tweets but full-length, hard copies of the Chicago Tribune & Wall Street Journal. I got a lot of funny looks when people asked if it was for a class and I replied, “No, I just enjoy knowing what is happening in the world.” In high school and college it can be easy to think the only world that is relevant is your day-to-day world. Those days I also began to enjoy watching the news and hosting lively discussions around current events. All of these were things I used to tease my parents about. “Mom, that’s stuff old people do.” But as a late teen, here I was falling into the trap of becoming an adult. I was my mom.
The silver lining was becoming my mom wasn’t a bad thing at all. Here are 6 other lessons and habits she taught me that I didn’t even resist learning.
1. Avoid touching anything in public restrooms.
Don’t sit on the seat. You can squat but don’t make contact. Don’t flush the handle with a bare hand. Use tissue or your foot. You just never know the extent of germs present in public restrooms but they are present. Who did what and where? It is enough to drive you crazy. Just follow this rule and don’t think about the germs. It even seems a engineering boardroom of mothers thought the same thing as most modern restrooms are full of hands-free amenities nowadays. You will stay healthier in the long run. Trust me.
2. Let people know where you are.
It is an important safety precaution. I became the friend who tells everyone to let me know they made it home safely. Some friends respond “Okay mom” jokingly but I’m being serious. We don’t play about safety in this house. Even though I pay attention to my surroundings, have trustworthy friends and avoid crazies, it does me no harm to send a quick text or make a quick call to say where I will be and with whom.
3. You are never too old to get put in your place by a good mama.
Even the viral video mom in Baltimore who went off after finding her teenage son on the streets throwing rocks at police is evidence (for better or worse). I will bet she did not care who was watching or how old he was. For me, I remember I got spanked one time when I was a kid for deliberately doing something I was specifically told not to do just hours earlier. I gave away all my birthday money for my friends to buy candy at school. I learned a valuable lesson that day in the form of — don’t test the waters when mom is being serious. I agree with her decision looking back on it but am glad those whooping days are long gone. I am good friends with my mom more and more as I get older as a result of her parenting skills. We know how to communicate with each other and get on the same page. Other than my sarcastic mouth, I do not get in trouble much anymore but my mom has no problem verbally reminding me even now, “Hey, don’t forget who’s the parent here.”
4. No matter how old you get, you will never stop being her baby so it is best not to fight it.
I spent a decent portion of my teenage years unsure of my mom’s intelligence. Mind you, she is incredibly intelligent but as a kid I didn’t always believe it. I thought I was the clear-cut genius and like Will Smith taught us, Parents just don’t understand. When I went to college and saw first-hand how others were raised and how we were often different in the way we saw, understood and participated in the world, I finally realized how smart my mom really was. Who knew!?
She taught me the foundation of loving people and treating them with respect my whole life. It always amazes me how many people in this world have NOT been taught that or learned it. The right mindset breeds maturity. I was fortunate enough to have a mom be strict enough to show me good standards and values so I would not learn the wrong ones. It also helped her trust me more than worry about me when I came to her with things like the news that I was moving to Central America for 4 months. I will forever be my mother’s daughter and I am grateful for that.
5. You are fully capable of doing things on your own.
At some point when I got older, mom said to my sisters and I, “You’re old enough to cook for yourselves, I’m done.” Ha, good thing for us, my dad loves to cook and so does one of my sisters. They make phenomenal dishes so I usually still let them do most of the work. Even though I did miss mom’s famous wonton meals, such a declaration taught me a lesson in independence. She encouraged me to live on my own before I would ever get married and live with someone else. What I have learned about independence from experiences on my own certainly informs the level of partnership I bring to my relationship. It reminds me there is strength in walking beside the man I love or walking alone occasionally because I also love myself.
6. Pay attention to her while she is here.
My grandmothers are both gone from this earth. I get really sad when I think about that sometimes. There are more questions I wanted to ask. More I wanted to learn from them. Earlier this year I was introduced to an app called StoryCorps. You can record and share the stories of those around you. You choose someone to interview, pick questions and record.
So just recently I interviewed my mom using this app and asked her questions about what she has learned in life, her goals, how life is different than she thought it would be. I got to learn a few new things about her and keep those lessons on a recording I can have forever. I told her this will be the first interview of many. It serves a few key purposes. I get to bond with her on a new level and get to capture her humor and wisdom just in case if she is not here when I am well past 100.
Though we still have many years to go, thanks mom for the lessons so far.
What has your mom taught you?