When I was only eight, my entire family was in a horrible car accident that left some of us in the hospital for a month. It was a gruesome experience that I believe ultimately changed us all for the better. It taught us to try to appreciate each day and never wait to tell someone how much you love them.
In that spirit, I try to use special holidays like Mother’s Day to really reflect on and express what people mean to me. Since becoming a mother, this holiday holds even greater significance, since I’m not only grateful for the love my mother has shown me, but also the examples she has set about being a woman and a mom.
My mother was only twenty years old when I arrived and derailed her plans to finish college. She has told me that, at the time, she thought it would be a miracle if she could ever get her bachelor’s degree. But by the time I was in college, my mother had decided to re-enroll at the state university. Working full-time, raising my brother, caring for our home, and attending classes at night was extremely challenging for a perfectionist like her. But over the course of almost the last decade, my mother has slowly chipped away at classes toward both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in education, graduating summa cum laude. I’m so proud of the way she set what some might have seen as an unreachable goal, she stuck with it, and ultimately changed the course of her life.
Each time my daughter struggles to complete her wooden puzzle, I offer her words of encouragement: “Good job! Keep trying!” But I also know that the most powerful way to encourage her as she gets older is to demonstrate perseverance myself.
Positive Body Image
It’s so obvious to me that all women struggle with their bodies, my mother and myself included, but it is SO important for young girls to have women in their lives who demonstrate acceptance of the bodies they were born with. This is not to say that we shouldn’t take care of ourselves, but women who obsess over “love handles,” “bubble butts,” and saggy breasts aren’t doing their daughters any favors.
I didn’t really notice it as a child, but my mother struck a good balance between exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet, and never demonstrating guilt over having a slice of cake. She would acknowledge that there were parts of her that weren’t her favorite features, but she never acted as if they bothered her enough to make her self-conscious. Instead, she would dress her body to accentuate what she liked and draw attention away from what she didn’t.
I realize now that I have to consider the way I talk about my own body, and what I put into it, to set the same positive example for my daughter, because she’ll be watching, even as a very young girl.
One of the most striking features of my mother’s character is her kindness, toward family and friends, and even strangers. As a kid, I remember her pulling over to the side of the road to pick up elderly people who we’d see walking home from the grocery store carrying heavy bags. In the classroom, her students often accidentally call her “mom,” probably because she makes each of them feel so special (an elementary student’s Freudian slip!). And at home, we were luckiest of all to have a mother who was present, interested in the trivialities of our lives because they were important to us, and so giving.
Too often, people reserve expressing heartfelt thanks for eulogies. I’ll take this little spot on a blog about mothers, days before Mother’s Day, to express how very much I love my mom and what she means to me and the legacy of our family.