Hollie Grimaldi Flores: What did Mom teach you?
Another Mother’s Day is fast approaching. I was looking through a magazine piece recently that posed the question, “What is the single most important thing you learned from your mother?”
The inquiry gave me pause. For me, it was not an easy question to answer. I decided to query some friends to see what they had to say about their own mothers.
Their responses went from the practical to the philosophical including: “To always write thank you notes.” “She taught me how to be independent.” “She taught me to keep a clean house.” “She taught me the meaning of unconditional love.” “That I suffer the consequences or reap the rewards of my choices.” “To not put up with anyone else’s crap.”
And, my personal favorite (lucky lady) “She taught me how to be a good mother.”
There is no denying most of us are framed, at least in part, by a mother or mother figure who was, most likely, doing the best she could with the tools she had. I like to believe that anyway.
My mother passed away in 2012. I had moved away from home over 30 years prior and had made countless decisions based at least in part from things I learned from my mom. They were not all good! In truth, I realize I spent many years struggling because of a few of the lessons I learned from my mother, and those that ran deepest were things never spoken.
As a teenager, my mother was forced to drop out of school to care for her younger siblings, when my grandfather became ill and my grandmother joined the workforce. I never got the idea that Mom was encouraged to pursue any kind of life outside of wife and mother. Her dreams of becoming a nurse squelched, she married young and was soon raising children of her own. At the time, she did not really know how to cook, and she could not drive. She relied on a man, who ran the roost. I was told that the only time she really stood up to my father, he left. As a result, I learned that speaking up for myself was a no-no. That speaking my truth could have dire consequences.
As I grew older, and she remarried, I watched as she “swept things under the rug” and “just waited it out.” I learned to express my deepest desires through sarcasm or to “bite my tongue.” None of these examples served me well, and I have spent much of my adult life working to overcome them.
In her defense, I am certain she was taught the same.
Of course, I learned many valuable lessons from her as well. As I watched her work multiple jobs to keep a roof over our heads, she showed me that it is possible to overcome obstacles and the importance of a strong work ethic. From her example, I never doubted my own ability to take care of myself and to survive tough circumstances.
We did not have many material possessions — never the newest, latest, or greatest anything. She taught me that wasting something one day meant going without it the next. And that if the shoe fit, it did not really matter where it came from. To this day, I do not give much merit to brands or labels, preferring functional to fashionable and long-lasting to the “flavor of the month.” She helped me learn that “stuff is just stuff,” which served me well when I had to walk (run) away from my first marriage, and much of what I had acquired with it.
When I found myself raising two young children on my own, I did my best to make certain their needs were met. To some that may have meant making sure they had all of the material goods they desired, but I was lucky enough to understand all they really needed was to know they were loved beyond measure.
Like many parents, I had doubts and second guessing, and worried endlessly about how the decisions I made would affect them. Mostly I wondered how they would afford the therapy they would undoubtedly need once I was finished raising them.
This week I decided to ask my kids the same question I had posed to my friends: “What is the single most important thing I taught you?” I already know they speak their truth — far better than I.
My daughter wrote, “That I am capable. That you always have my back. To be kind. To think about what the other person might be going through. Grace. To honor myself. To give back.”
My son responded, “That I don’t need to do anything to be loved… and to always check price per ounce.”
As it turns out, I taught them many things I learned from my mother. I could not be prouder.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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