Seven Simple Secrets of Motherhood
With Mother's Day right around the corner, I have been thinking a lot about my own sweet mother. We lost her four years ago, but I think of her daily, usually several times each day. It's not that I'm still mourning her loss or dwelling in the past. It's simply the fact that when one person plays such a pivotal role in shaping your thoughts, values, and beliefs, you are never really without them even when they've passed from this life. The lessons that I learned from her will travel with me forever, and will live on in my children and hopefully one day my grandchildren! Below are some of the secrets that I learned about motherhood from my own wonderful mother.
Secret #1: Don't take yourself too seriously.
Anybody who knew my mother knew that she knew how to have a good time! She was constantly laughing and telling stories. She just knew how to enjoy life. I think that was because she never took herself or life too seriously. She understood that she would make mistakes and that I would too. She was not a perfect mother, because there is no such thing!
I can remember when my oldest son was very young, I had purchased several books about parenting. I would literally agonize over every little detail of being a new mom. Was he eating enough? Was he getting enough sleep? Oh no...he is sucking his thumb. Was that bad? When I look back now, I realize that my mother is the person who helped me to overcome my insecurities about being a mother and to just embrace the journey!
Secret #2: Be grateful and enjoy the little things.
I truly believe that one of the reasons that my mother was always so fun loving and happy is that she had learned this secret at a very young age. She was a optimist to the core. I believe that her overriding optimism stemmed from a deep seated feeling of gratitude. She could always find something to celebrate. I learned that from her and have passed it on to my children.
I'll never forget how excited that she would get over the simple act of eating! She was always a huge supporter of her grandchildren and all of their exploits. That included her attendance at literally hundreds of baseball games over the years. She would look forward to her visits to the concession stand of all things. Her enthusiasm for something so simple as a Frito pie was infectious and has stuck with me. She had a gift for living a life of gratitude and and a love for the simple daily wonders of life.
Secret #3: Give the gift of time.
The older I get the more I understand the true value of the gift of time. My mother understood this, as well. She knew that we can never regain time that is lost. She also understood that it is so important to choose carefully what we do with our time. Mother chose to spend as much time as she could with her family! I learned that lesson from her at a very early age, and it has stuck with me to this day.
Family is our most important gift, and so any time that we can spend with them should not be squandered! I have become even more aware of this truth in recent years. Having lost two parents and a grandmother in the span of four years, I am all too aware of how quickly time passes. I now literally soak in and savor any time that I can spend with my family, as I am reminded that, "tomorrow isn't promised."
Secret #4: Allow your children to make mistakes!
My mother taught me that children need to be allowed to make mistakes and suffer the consequences. This is so important! Having been a classroom teacher for twenty years, I saw so many parents make this mistake. They would rush up to the school with their child's forgotten homework or scramble to finish a project that they waited to do until the last minute. Mother never would have bailed me out like that. Not because she didn't love me, but because she understood that she was preparing me for real life!
I told both of my sons before they started to drive that if they ever got a speeding ticket, I would not be paying for it. Sadly, both of them had to learn that lesson the hard way! I believe that this particular parenting lesson from my mother is one of the reasons why both of my boys are completely self sufficient, responsible, and hard working young men. My mother was tough, and she knew that sometimes a little bit of, "tough love," is a good thing.
Secret #5: Teach your children to entertain themselves.
Another thing that I frequently witnessed as a classroom teacher is a growing trend towards parents feeling an obligation to schedule every minute of their child's day with fun and engaging activities. My mother, on the other hand, would send us outside and tell us not to come back inside until she told us to... LOL! That might sound a bit harsh, but I can tell you that I learned to use my imagination. I learned about nature, and I had a great time! In other words, I learned to entertain myself.
Because of this lesson learned from my mother, my own children learned the same valuable lessons. They both learned from an early age that I wasn't going to fill their every moment with fun and entertainment. They spent tons of time outside riding their bicycles, playing in the dirt, and probably doing lots of other things that I don't want to know about... This is why neither of my boys are easily bored and actually like spending time alone.
“I think it’s necessary to let kids get bored once in a while—that’s how they learn to be creative.” Kim Raver
Secret #6: Give your children wings.
"It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings." Ann Landers
This is the hard one. I can remember a long time ago having a conversation with my mother about my oldest son. It was on his first day of kindergarten. Mother went with us to drop him off at school. I had been a stay-at-home mom up until that point, and I was a complete basket case. I actually started sobbing inconsolably right in front of the elementary school principal. It was pretty embarrassing to say the least. That was when my mother reminded me that the purpose of raising children was to eventually launch them and to, "give them wings."
I will always remember that moment. Those were the words that helped me to understand my true role as a parent. My job was to help my boys to become independent, self reliant human beings, so that when the time came they could fly! I took those words to heart. Both of my boys learned to cook, clean, do their own laundry, and so much more. Now that they are adults, they don't really need me anymore. That doesn't make me sad at all. It means that I did my job well.
Secret #7: Set a good example.
"Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you." Robert Fulghum
I can't remember a time that I didn't want to be just like my mother. After all, who wouldn't want to be funny, smart, hard working, resourceful, determined, and beautiful... My mother was everything that I wanted to be. More importantly, that didn't happen by accident. Mother knew that we were watching her. She knew how influential her actions were. She always set a good example for us. When she made mistakes, she admitted them, learned from them and moved on. What more could you ask for?
While I will never be able to claim to be a perfect mother, I had a great one to model myself after. She set an amazing example for my sister and I. If I was ever in doubt about how to handle a situation, I could always ask myself, "What would Mother do?" What a gift!
As a result of losing both of my parents within a reasonably short period of time, I have had quite a bit of time to reflect. I have written about the legacies of both my mother and my father. When my children were young, I just focused on what I needed to do to help them to grow up to live happy, fulfilling lives. It didn't really occur to me that those lessons that I taught them would most likely be passed on to their children. What a wonderful feeling to know that your legacy continues on through your own children and beyond.