As the only girl and the youngest child, I will admit I was spoiled for a good share of my life. I looked up to my mother as a child and, in my teens, while most of my girlfriends “hated” or fought with their moms, my mom and I were friends. Yes, of course we had our fights and tiffs, just like many mothers and daughters, but that is not what stuck out about our relationship.
I was fortunate to learn at such a young age how important a good relationship with my mother was. Not only do I enjoy doing our one-on-one mother-daughter things, but I have learned so much about life just by watching my mother interact with the world around her. She didn’t just sit me down and talk at me, she showed me. I learned by observing her capability, attitude, and reactions. I’m not even sure she knows the qualities she has shown me: like her kindness, her work ethic, and putting others first, to name a few. Most people see these in my mother just by talking to her. And while she did pass down to me a few unwanted qualities, such as compulsively re-checking everything is unplugged multiple times before leaving the house, she has passed down an uncountable amount of good qualities that made me the person I am today.
She and my father taught me the importance of a good work ethic. They both worked so hard, and carried multiple jobs, just to give everything they earned to my brothers and me. I look back at my childhood and how I made friends with the kids, who would get picked on, or ones with learning disabilities, or ones from bad homes, because my mother encouraged me to love and appreciate every person. I watched her kindness shine through as I saw how she cared for others above herself. It was her who taught me to love and befriend the unloved and friendless. People can tell you over and over how important these qualities are, but it isn’t until you see them first-hand that you know why they’re so important.
As I grow, my relationship with my mother grows too. When I was younger, I couldn’t exactly appreciate what she had done for me and the rest of our family. I couldn’t see how special the relationship between my parents was. They showed me what a beautiful relationship looks like and how to keep it strong for over 35 years. While I am not a mother yet, I’ve learned so many things to prepare me for motherhood and I know what I want my relationship with my daughter to look like. My dad used to work over nights, so my mom had a queen bed all to herself and she would occasionally let me sneak in to have a girls’ sleepover. As a child it was one of my favorite things, and when I grew up we would still have the occasional girls’ night sleepover together.
When I was a teenager, I thought I knew everything, obviously. I couldn’t have been more wrong and eventually, like (most) of us do, I grew out of that and came to realize that my parents were right about pretty much everything.
The older I get, I earn more respect for my mother and all mothers out there. I cannot think it is an easy job to take on. There may be many parenting books on the shelves, but nothing can tell you an exact formula on how to be a perfect mother, or how to make a perfect child. Often times, we put the blame on our mothers, but for most of us, being the child is the easy part, being the mother is what is difficult. My mom always trusted me and had faith that I would make good decisions. My curfew as a teen was usually 1 AM and my mother always said it was because she trusted me and the people I was with. She treated me with respect because she knew me, and that she and my father instilled in me the qualities I needed to make good decisions. My friends also grew close to my parents, so close in fact that they would call her mom (or “ma” as we say in New York), and they would confide in her. Not only did she take care of my family and friends, but also the numerous pets I begged and pleaded for—the ones I promised I would look after and clean-up for.
It has become harder now that I live across the country from my parents—I look back on all the things that I didn’t necessarily take for granted, but didn’t realize how important they were to me. How the simple things are the things I enjoyed the most. Like sitting in the afternoon and having a cup of coffee with my mom while watching House Hunters. Or watching “our shows” together at night. It’s difficult to no longer have those moments in my life on a regular basis, but it also makes them more precious. To me the little things in life mean the most and when I sit alone on the couch, across the country, I wish my mom was sitting next to me.
So I raise a glass to all the amazing mothers out there raising and instilling their highest qualities in us and preparing us for children of our own. Who teach us how to make a mean cup of coffee, killer eggplant parm, and amazing meatballs and still always have the recipes on hand for whenever we call to tell them we’ve lost it… again. It scares me how quickly life seems to pass by, but what I’ve come to learn from both my parents is that no matter what we have thought about family before, it is the most important thing and we have to appreciate it while it’s here.
Photo by Remi Coin