I didn’t have a lot of time to spend with my mom, she passed away when I was just fourteen, but in those few short years she taught me valuable lessons for life. My children never met my mom but by passing on the lessons she taught me, they will forever have a connection with her. In no particular order, here are 12 things my mother taught me:
- Manners matter. Please really is the magic word and you really do catch more bees with honey than vinegar. Some people are awfully polite when speaking with people “who matter” such as your boss or boyfriend’s mother and yet forget their manners when speaking with wait staff in restaurants or the dry cleaner – people who are helping or servicing them in some vital way. Most people will thank a perfect stranger for holding the door open for us but forget to thank the person who makes us dinner every day or works hard to support us and put a roof over our heads. It takes very little effort and only about a millisecond to say “thank you” and yet the impact it has on the other person is huge and lets them know they are appreciated. My boys thanked me for dinner every single night – it made me happy and I am sure it would make my mother proud.
- Always wear clean underwear. Mom taught me to never, ever, ever leave the house without clean underwear. This was not only because cleanliness is next to Godliness but because in the off chance I was in an accident it would be very embarrassing to be wearing dirty underwear. I was in a very bad car accident once. I was knocked unconscious and woke up a while later in the hospital. The second thing I thought was “Phew, I’m wearing clean underwear!” Thanks Mom!
- There are two sides to every story. My mother was British, I am American. Mom called the American Revolution the Colonial Uprising. While this didn’t help me very much in history class, it taught me that truth for an individual is determined by from where or how they view the events. There is no absolute truth, no absolute right or wrong. Attempting to understand the other person’s viewpoint can go a long way in resolving a conflict.
- Never make promises you can’t keep and always keep promises you make. You are only as true as your word. If you keep your promises, people will know they can depend on you. People will trust you. Trust is much more valuable than pie-in-the-sky promises.
- Often you can learn more by living life than you do by reading books. Don’t get me wrong, my mom was big on book reading, we read every day. However, she had no problem taking us out of school for a couple weeks to go traveling; she would say “you can read about Thailand or you can go to Thailand and experience it.” We traveled a lot and I learned more about the world by doing so than I ever could have in Geography or Sociology class.
- Take three bites. I was taught that you will never know if you like something, especially food, if you don’t try it. We had a rule in our house, we had to take three bites of something new. Why three? Her philosophy was that that’s what it takes to truly taste something. The first bite didn’t count because when trying tongue or snails, one may be quite skeptical, convinced it will be gross and so it probably will be. The second bite didn’t count because we could still be a little squeamish and trying to prove to everyone else it really is gross. By the third bite, we realize we probably aren’t going to keel over dead with grossness and have an opportunity to really taste the food. After that, if we didn’t like it, we didn’t have to eat it – unless it was liver, which we had to eat every month, like it or not. But that’s a different story. (Just for the record, I never made my boys eat liver – sort of a backhanded way of passing on a lesson!)
- Being bored just may be the best thing that ever happened to you. Imagination is bred from being bored. My sisters and I were not entertained every minute of our days; we had no video games, we didn’t watch much television, we didn’t fill our hours on computers watching YouTube videos. Yep, we got bored. But then we figured out how not to be bored. We did art projects, read a book, played games – created ways to fill our time. We are all creative, self-sufficient gals who do not rely on others to entertain us.
- Don’t give back the jewelry. Unless you break off an engagement, jewelry given to you as a gift from a loved one is yours to keep. It may seem temporarily satisfying to throw a gold bracelet in someone’s face during a break-up but really, the relationship may have been worthless but the gold bracelet is not.
- Be interested. My mother was dazzling and charming, she could talk with presidents and gardeners with equal ease. People were drawn to her. What was her secret? Be interested in the other person, don’t try to be interesting to them. People really do like talking about themselves, especially when the other person is genuinely interested in what they have to say. Not only will you be charming and dazzling, you will learn so much this way!
- If you are going to do a job, do it well. I probably heard this every day of my life for 14 years. Truth be told I would have been happy to never hear it again in my life. But I did hear it – again and again, when I uttered those same exact words to my children. Mom was right, any job that is worth doing is worth doing right. Good is in the details. Never produce a product you are not proud of. Shoddy work makes for shoddy self-esteem. These may be clichés but they are true. Every bit of success I may have can be attributed to this concept. It doesn’t matter if I am developing a recipe, laying up a magazine, taking a picture, or doing the dishes – I always strive to do the best I can. And I have my Mom to thank for that.
- There is such a thing as “too much honesty.” Mom wasn’t trying to teach me not to tell the truth – on the contrary, the punishment for lying about something was way worse than for doing something bad. What she was trying to teach me was that “brutal honesty,” especially when unsolicited, is just that – brutal. There are ways of answering the question “does this make me look fat?” without crushing the person. And telling someone something terrible about themselves when it will serve no good purpose does no one any good.
- It’s what’s underneath that matters. Mom used to tell me that no amount of nail polish will make up for dirty nails. She wasn’t just speaking literally (although my sisters and I did have our nails inspected on a regular basis) she was also speaking figuratively. While it was encouraged that we girls take pride in our appearance, it was more important that we try to be beautiful from the inside out. True beauty comes from being kind, considerate, caring, and thoughtful.
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