I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately, which accounts for a lot of thinking. And for some reason, one day I started thinking about all things my mother taught me that she didn’t even know I picked up on. Sure, she taught me about manners, kindness, compassion, importance of education, and life skills, just like mother is supposed to do. But there are other things I have learned from her that impact my life daily. I’m going to try not to get too mushy here, because that’s not the look I’m going for. I’ll save the love and mush and all that other stuff for another day.
1. Open all the curtains and blinds daily. Every morning, my mother goes through the house and opens all the blinds and curtains, and every night she goes back around and closes them all. As a child, this bugged me, for some reason. It seemed like such a waste of time to open every single set of blinds, even in the rooms we didn’t use often. But now that I am older, I can really enjoy the atmosphere of fresh sunlight peering into my home. It gives the rooms so much life. Guess she was right after all.
2. Make up the bed every morning and turn it down 30 minutes before bedtime. This was another one that drove me crazy when I was a kid. Why in the world must I waste my precious morning time making up my bed just so I can jump back in it again that night? What a dumb thing to do. She must think I have nothing better to do with my time then pull around covers and move around pillows. What am I, some kind of maid or something? Turns out, she was right again. Now, as a grown woman, I can’t stand an unmade bed. And I can’t sleep well unless it’s turned down neatly when I get in. Every night I straighten the sheets and comforter into a hotel-quality fold, place the pillows in a perfectly straight line, and ensure my end table is neat and orderly. I have been known to make my hubby get out of bed while I adjust the pillows and blankets if he gets in before I do and doesn’t set it up right. Sorry babe…
3. Always have a fresh pitcher of sweet tea in the fridge when guests come over. Maybe it’s a southern thing. Or maybe it’s my minor sugar and caffeine addiction. Either way, my mom always makes a new batch of tea in the same pink plastic pitcher she’s used for almost thirty years when I come over to visit. I just think it is the most welcoming thing to enter her home and be greeted with the phrase, “Would you like a glass of tea?”
4. Fried potatoes are the best cure for the blues. To a teenage girl, even the slightest mishap seems like the end of the world. In the drama-filled high school years, it often feels like nothing can make your frustrations go away. One particular day, (Who knows what was wrong with me. I could have lost a pencil or something. Teenage girls are weird.) I came home in the worst mood. My mom said “how ’bout a snack?” and thinly sliced up some potatoes and popped them into some hot oil. This “snack” turned into a bonding moment with her where I unleashed the details of my “horrible” day. Now, as an adult, even the worst day can be cured with a small plate of fried potato slices. Try it. It’ll work. I promise.
5. Always use correct grammar when speaking and writing. Yes, my mother is an English teacher. But these values were proven to me way before she even finished her teaching degree. Watching her speak to friends, parents of students, and professionals, she always seems so intelligent. Like she just oozes confidence. Speaking the way she does is an instant respect-earner. I now take pride in the way I speak to others, just as she does, and even write out all words and punctuations in text messages and emails. I’ve done it so long that it just comes naturally to me.
6. You can spray paint anything! This woman would spray paint her pets if she could. She’s got a stash of spray paint in her garage that even Home Depot would be jealous of. From door handles to furniture to flower pots to a metal screen door (and everything in between) she puts spray paint to good use. Old items found in storage and $2 thrift store items are turned into beautiful treasures by the time she’s done with them. I have a whole new respect for spray paint after seeing her work.
7. Grown ups are still allowed to do kid things. My mom never misses the opportunity to play a board game with her adult children, color in coloring books on a rainy evening, and play pretend with her grandson. She has really shown me that no matter what age you are, it’s important to have fun. One of my favorite things about her is when she gets excited and does a silly dance all over the house.
8. Learn to like the music your kids listen to. Some of my best memories with my mother are riding in the car as a preteen girl singing along to the songs on the radio together. I thought it was so cool that my mom knew the words to my favorite songs. Now that I am a mother, I still astonish my son when he sings along to a new song in the car and I jump in with him. He says “you know this song? That’s awesome!”
9. Be sentimental. I never understood why she always kept my not-so-great artwork, old stuff that belonged to her grandmother, or Christmas ornaments with broken antlers. Seemed like a bunch of junk to me. But as I began to hear more stories about the picture I drew the day I graduated from Kindergarten, or the sewing machine her grandmother made her clothes with, or how the reindeer ornament got broken during an indoor father-daughter basketball lesson, I realized that these items were irreplaceable. Things that have history are so much more important that something you buy at Target for a great deal in the clearance aisle.
10. Lead by example. This one is the most important lesson she’s ever unknowingly taught me. Kids are funny. You can tell them every single day to brush their teeth and clean their room. Every. Single. Day. And what do they do? Not brush their teeth. And not clean their room. I think my mom knew that. She’s a pretty smart lady. I’d see her clean the whole the house and I’d be embarrassed of my how my room looked compared to the other rooms. I’d see her dance around in the bathroom as she brushed her teeth and made it look like it could actually be fun. I’d see her lose weight by eating healthily and exercising and realize that it’s important to take care of yourself. Kids don’t learn by pounding the same words in their heads every day. They learn by seeing. And who better to show them than their parents?
What is the most valuable lesson your parents unknowingly taught you?