Tag Archives: parenting

What I learned from my mama

So…it’s Mother’s Day. I don’t remember much about Mother’s Day when I was little. I don’t think we ever fixed her breakfast in bed or took her out for dinner. The truth is, she probably cooked for us on those days, but I could be wrong. You’d have to ask her.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that most of us don’t come to really appreciate our moms until later in life when we finally realize what all they taught us.

My own mother turns 90 in about five weeks. 90. Wow. That simply amazes me. This is the woman who is still teaching me new things nearly every time I’m with her. She might not realize this, because often these are things that I learn simply from watching her and listening to her.

Yesterday, I called her at 8 a.m. and began to apologize for waking her up. She just laughed and said she’d been up for hours and was out walking “way out here in Birch Court”, which is probably a good half mile from her place.

So there you have it. One of the things I learned from her is the value of exercise — at any age, and despite whatever aches and pains might be nagging at us.

My mom and dad raised five kids on a small college professor‘s salary, supplemented by her earnings as a piano teacher. She sewed, gardened, preserved the produce, and knew how to stretch a dollar. And while I learned to sew and garden, the one thing I regret never really learning is how to budget. It scares me. But I did inherit her tendency toward thriftiness — also known as “cheap”. 

When I reflect on the many things I learned from my mom, the one I value the most is the ability to sew. Because of her, I’ve always made clothing for myself and my daughters. One of the first things I remember making was is the early 60s when wrap-around dresses were popular. These resembled the hospital gowns that have three armholes. She made one for herself and one for me, and I made one for my doll.

And that was how I learned the art of sewing. From doll clothes, I progressed to simple clothing for myself. Of course, this is also where I learned my propensity for perfection. If I made a mistake that had to be ripped out and begged her to fix it, she’d fix me with a look and say, “Nope, you do it.”

That drove me nuts. It often resulted in my throwing the item down and running off to do something else. But eventually, I returned to complete the project. As a result, I can read nearly any pattern, change whatever parts I don’t like, and alter just about any item of clothing to fit me.

Now that I’m thinking about this, I’m pretty sure I’ve never thanked her for teaching me to sew, to look at a ready-made clothing item and instead of buying it, thinking that I could make it for less and know it would fit better.

So Mother, thanks. I love you. For many, many reasons.

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Random thoughts about raising daughters

Oh my. It occurred to me this morning while walking with my oldest daughter, that she’ll turn 28 on her next birthday. We’ve had countless discussions during our walks over those 28 years. Our walks have morphed from the early practice of taking along a bag in which to carry the treasures she found along the way, to cautioning her to stop at the next intersection and not cross the street until I caught up, to our present-day routines of walking as fast as possible.

The important thing, though, is the conversation. Which, as I understand, is something many parents don’t do often enough with their children. Maybe they don’t have the time, or don’t take the time,  or think they have nothing to talk about. An old friend once told me he hoped he would someday have the same kind of relationship with his daughters than I have with mine. I just wanted to say to him that it’s all about respecting his daughters and encouraging them to be individuals. If they make choices that differ from what he wants them to make, he shouldn’t criticize them. Don’t expect perfection. Let them make mistakes and allow them to learn from them. And tell them how much he loves them and is proud of whatever they do. I don’t think I said any of that. I’m not sure he’d have gotten it.

My friend, JP, and her daughter were weeding my garden recently, when she came into the house to tell me how much fun she was having. It wasn’t about the weeding. It was about the conversation that the two of themf had; she didn’t give any details but simply said how much she had learned from her college-age daughter while they worked side by side.

This is something I learned long ago. If I want to really engage in a conversation with one of my daughters, I have to find some alone time with her. The interesting stuff really comes out when you’re doing something together like walking or gardening. Don’t interrupt. Just let them talk. Don’t laugh at them, but laugh with them. If they say things that shock you, let them keep talking…keep the criticism to yourself.

Admit your own mistakes. Come on, you made them. You know you did. As they grow into adulthood, you have to treat them as such. They’ll appreciate knowing you weren’t perfect and did some silly things along the way. Do things with them even if you have other plans.

Here’s an example. A few years ago, my husband’s office pool of OSU games produced for him the tickets of the decade: the OSU-Michigan game when they were 1 and 2. I was finally going to go with him — he’d always taken the girls to those games. We were in the car with our youngest daughter when she asked if he still wanted to go to the Doo-Wop show of some of their favorites (i.e., The Drifters), and then named a date. Same date as the game. Suffice to say that he sold the game tickets at a hefty profit. We went to the concert.

Moral of the story: Listen to your kids. Really listen.