When it comes to moms, I pretty much won the lottery. For almost 36 years, my mother has given me unconditional love, endless support, and great daily advice, but it's the big lessons that she taught me that I just might appreciate most. My mom was never preachy or judgmental (in fact, she's probably forgiving to a fault), but there were a few words of wisdom that I heard often enough to know they weren't to be taken lightly. All have proven to be incredibly valuable to my happiness and success in life, and that's why I'm doing my damnedest to pass them on to my own daughter. Here are some of the big things I learned from my mom that I hope my 4-year-old is also learning from me.
- Take responsibility for your actions, especially when you're wrong. My mom was a college teacher and counselor for decades, and she heard a lot of excuses about why classes were missed, assignments weren't completed, and grades were low. What she rarely heard was young people owning their mistakes, apologizing for them, and laying out a plan to improve the situation. This became a big one in our house. It's a given that everyone messes up, but taking responsibility for your missteps goes a long way in the world, she told me, and I listened. Throughout my life, I've been astounded by how surprised and appreciative people are when you immediately own up to your mistakes and are eager to start fixing them instead of making excuses or deflecting blame. So when my daughter spills her juice and blames her brother, I tell her that I'm not mad about the juice; I just want her to be honest about her actions and help clean up her own mess.
- Kindness and gratitude are key. Thank-you notes were big in my mom's house, and they're big in mine, too, as is saying please, thank you, and sorry whenever a situation should call for any of the three. My kids have plenty, just as I did growing up, but I don't want them to take that abundance for granted. My daughter knows she needs to express gratitude for everything she receives, from a sticker at Target to a big present from grandma, and she knows that she needs to be kind to everyone she meets. My own mother is one of the most giving, selfless people I know, and while I probably didn't inherit her natural likability and sweetness (I struggle against a predisposition for aloofness and sass), just watching how admired and respected those values made my mom taught me their importance. While my daughter seems, like me, to be more sassy than sweet, I remind her often that kindness is key and "just be nice" is a good life motto.
- Make moderation your mantra. This mom lesson came about when I was a bit older and discovered how much fun college parties could be (ahem), but I've learned it's equally applicable to my little one. The occasional ice cream cone and Sofia the First episode are great, but a diet stocked with sweets and a day spent in front of the TV are not. My mom taught me that life is all about balance, and I've learned that too much of anything (wine, pizza, even exercise) is not a recipe for happiness. So when my daughter begs me for one more show or one more piece of candy, I point her to her favorite book or an apple, and we both feel better.
- A good night's sleep can solve a lot. This one's pretty self-explanatory, but oh so true. It used to drive me crazy that whenever I was acting dramatic or throwing a pity party, my mom would prescribe a good nap or an early bedtime, but darn it if she wasn't right. I always did feel much better after some rest, and that's why I'll now go to great lengths to get my daughter to nap or go to bed early if she's having a particularly "spirited" day. Sleep might not solve everything, but it definitely helps.
- Love yourself and know your worth. There's a classic story in my family that when I was 2 years old, my grandfather looked at my mom and said, "I think you can stop working on self-esteem now." The mission had been accomplished. While perhaps the sense of self-esteem my mom instilled in me is a bit inflated, it's taken me far, helping me to believe in my own ability to accomplish anything I set out to do and to brush off anyone or anything who might not agree with my awesomeness. I don't tell my daughter that she's the best at everything or the most important person on the planet, but I do tell her that, with hard work, she's capable of anything, and she's the most important person to me. And that, I hope, is enough for her to believe just how valuable she is.