Yesterday was Mother's Day. I hope you all had wonderful times with your mothers and really showed them that you love them. I, unfortunately, could not be with my mother yesterday, but I spent a lot of time this week thinking about what mothers mean to us and how we can properly honor them for everything they have done for us.
I spent Mothers Day with Craig and his family in Long Island. To me, it wasn't so much a celebration of mothers, but a celebration of families. Which, isn't that really what Mother's Day is about, anyway? It was a day full of food, family, and laughter. And though I missed my own family very much, being with his family reminded me that family is universal. Love is universal. I am so grateful to have a "surrogate" family so accepting of me. It actually kind of felt like being home.
My mother is a teacher. It takes a special kind of person to become a teacher and share passions with others. But, even more than a teacher of students, she is a teacher of children; her own children. So, I thought that the best way to honor my mother would be to note her teaching accomplishments - though in a different way. So, here are the top ten amazing things my mother has taught me.
1. How to read
I don’t mean this one to be so literal. Yes, technically, my mother taught me how to read as a child. She read to me every single night before bed and one night, I said, “I’m going to read to you!” “Ha! Okay, go ahead!” she said, thinking I would ramble something about the pictures on the pages. I read each page, carefully holding the giant book in my little hands. My mom was skeptical. “She’s memorized it,” she thought. But as she handed me book after book, I read each one aloud to her. Her passion for books and the time we spent bonding over them before bed started my love of reading. More important than the ability to read, she taught me to value reading and how to read for pleasure. Sure, reading books for school is fine, but she opened a new world for me; one where you could get lost in a book, become friends with fictional characters, and change your life in 500 pages. We would sometimes share a special bond, where one of us would slink down the stairs in the morning, clearly exhausted. “Did you not sleep?” “No, I had to finish that book.” It’s understood.
2. How to create
It’s no secret that my family is one of creators. My grandfather builds beautiful pieces out of wood, my grandmother sews, my father builds, the list goes on and on, but my mother has always been an advocate for creative thinking. From the first time I used a sewing machine to make my very own outfit. My mother patiently watched, carefully helped, while allowing me to experience it all on my own. It was mine. I made it. In my mother’s eyes, anything I could ever want could be made. Because of this, I have a hard time shopping for anything without thinking, “I could make that.” Arts and crafts have always been a soothing experience for me. I studied graphic design in college. The ‘art’ of creating is in my blood.
3. How to work hard
My mother works hard. She really does. She’s a teacher of music and drama at two schools, the choir director at a church, and she’s a full time mother, sister, daughter, and wife. She’s a “leave at 7:00am, come home at 9:00pm” type of woman. And, she wouldn’t have it any other way. If there’s one thing my mother has, it’s a stellar work ethic. It’s inspiring.
4. “Wear lipstick”
Back in middle school, I fought with my mother constantly about her not allowing me to wear makeup. I thought that in order to fit in with the other students in the school, I too needed to wear blue eyeshadow and mascara every day. After granting me permission and purchasing a few things for me, she quickly found that I favored eye makeup over anything else. “Wear lipstick, you look sick without it,” she would warn. It wasn’t until I got to college that I really understood what she was saying. She was telling me that I have a feature that is beautiful and I wasn’t showing it off. She could see that I looked better, healthier, and happier with a shade of pink on my lips.
5. “Family is vital”
My parents never really had an abundance of friends. Sure, they have their social circles and I’ve met many of their close friends, but they never had friends like some other parents I knew. It was because of family. Coming from a large family, you have built-in friends. People who will help you, come to your aid, listen to your problems, offer advice, and sometimes, drive you crazy. There was no problem I could have that couldn’t have been fixed by a family member. And, since birth, my siblings and I were always taught (and shown) the value of a loving family. It is my hope that I one day can have a family of my own that can expand the already beautiful family I have now. And with those children, I will instill the same values that my mother and father taught me. Family is vital.
6. How to be self-sufficient
My mother didn’t “baby” me. Sure, she took care of things I could not handle, but knew me well enough to understand my need for independence and my abilities to take care of it myself. She nurtured me in the way of self-sufficiency. Do you need a shirt washed? Take care of it. Do you need 50 cupcakes for your class tomorrow? I’ll teach you how to bake them. It might sound a little like neglect, but it was nothing like that. She was slowly teaching me how to be an individual, how to take care of myself so I can one day effectively take care of others.
7. “Let it go”
Forgiveness is difficult. Yet, my mother seems to be a master at it. Sure, she can hold a grudge for a little while, but after a short time, she just lets it go. I can admit, begrudgingly, that I do not have the same abilities to forgive and let go as she does. But she shows me that it is possible, and those things you hold onto only prevent you from experiencing the new and good in the world. This is a lesson she is still teaching me.
8. Appreciation of music, theater, and performing arts
My mother is music. She always has been, always will be. It is through her that I have an appreciation for music. One of my oldest memories of my mother’s music was a time she was singing at a wedding. “Morning Has Broken” I can still remember the beautiful song, even though I was probably only 4 years old. As she sang, me sitting in between my brother and father, I can remember the pride I felt. That’s MY mother. She sings, and it’s beautiful. Genetically, I didn’t receive the same singing abilities as my sister and brother, but she still passed to me a divine love of the arts and theater. I danced, I played the flute, I helped in every musical and concert she put on. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I know of its importance and I still value the discipline it taught me.
9. Be generous
She is one of the most generous people I know. Even when there isn’t much to give, she gives what she has. She is generous in her time, her talents, and service. It is inspiring how she has taken the skills and abilities she has been given and helps others with it. Whether it be teaching music for Vacation Bible School kids or cooking meals for sick neighbors, she offers what she can.
10. How to love
If my mother does anything, she loves. She raised three children who all grew up knowing that they were loved. Never did we have to question if our parents loved us. It was known. It IS known. She loves her parents, and my father’s parents. She loves her siblings, her in-laws, she loves her students, and she loves all those who surround her. In the same way, she loves my father and is a perfect example of how to foster a relationship and keep it healthy. When I had my heart broken in a million pieces, she said, “I only hope this doesn’t affect your ability to love.” She knew that to truly love another (and to have them love you in the same way) was something incredibly special and she didn’t want me to miss out on that experience.
My mother has taught me a lot of things, but in her mind, there are no categories. There are no “Top 10 Lists”. She taught me all of these things because she wanted me to be a beautiful person, inside and out. She knew my entire life that I could do amazing things and she wanted me to believe it too. So, thank you, Mom; for everything you’ve taught me – and for what you continue to teach me every single day!