Monday Musings: To teach without talking

Today I’m thinking about my mom and appreciating what an amazing teacher she has been to me.

She was a stay at home mom for almost all of her adult life. She raised eight kids while our dad worked. She and Dad are on the old fashioned side as far as husband/wife roles. Mom always did the housework, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning. She also made Dad’s lunch and ironed his clothes!

(I cracked myself up making this image. Lol)

She raised the children for the most part. Dad provided the income and was the more dominant, decision-making, authoritative parent. He laid down the law and enforced it. He always had words of wisdom like “choose your friends wisely” and often spoke about being respectful, working hard and doing the right thing. He’s the one who gave us “a talking to” which usually happened when we were being scolded. He had some great advice but, thinking back, I now realize his approach wasn’t always the most effective for me. It’s hard to learn from someone when they are angry or disappointed in you. I know he meant well and did learn some valuable lessons from him. I definitely have gotten my hard work ethics from him.

Recently though, I’ve been realizing how much I really learned from Mom. She is a woman of few words. Those words are usually more insightful than they originally seem.

For example, I recall telling her my problems, not too long ago actually. I was crying to her telling her a story of some trauma that happened to me in the past. She lovingly listened. I know she really heard every word and felt my pain. However, in the end she only said, “you’re ok now.” In her infinite wisdom she knew that it wouldn’t make sense to continue to dwell on it and that I needed her to just hear me. Truly, it was all I needed to hear from my mom. She didn’t say anything negative about my dwelling or the person who hurt me or anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. Truly, that is so wise. It totally took me out of my head and into the present moment. I felt so safe after hearing that.

Her replies were always gems while I was growing up too. She never argued or even raised her voice at any of us kids. How that is even possible, I do not know. Don’t get me wrong, she did occasionally raise a wooden spoon. Lol I don’t remember being swatted by her though. It was always just a threat. It was almost comical like “uh-oh, Mom’s really mad now. She’s got the wooden spoon!” She had plenty of reasons to scold or swat us to be sure. When all of us were together there was always a commotion. It seemed like one of us was always getting into some sort of trouble.

I recall complaining as a young teenager that I didn’t have anything nice to wear to school. This was an ongoing morning battle cry for a while. Mom always said the same thing. It drove me absolutely crazy at the time. She’d say, “then go naked.” It wasn’t even really sarcastic. It was just her answer to my ridiculous rants about how everyone else had more than I and whatever I had wasn’t good enough. She knew that I would inevitably find something to wear to school. And I did. My complaints were pointless. So one day I stopped complaining, realizing it wasn’t getting me anywhere with her or doing myself any good.

If I was fighting with my sister she’d say, “stop fighting before you get hurt.” Of course, we’d end up hurt and go crying to her, blaming the other. She didn’t coddle us if we did get hurt, choose sides or yell about it. It just was what it was. We knew she told us so and she knew she told us so. It didn’t need to be said. She simply allowed us to work it out, get over it and learn our lessons.

Mom taught me that you don’t need to raise your voice to be heard. You don’t need to say more than is necessary to make a point. You don’t have to have the last word. To be soft spoken can be very powerful. To be open while listening is to truly hear and understand someone. You don’t need to take credit for anything you perceive to be good or feel guilty about some mistake you perceive to be bad. There is strength in being able to go with the flow even though it doesn’t look like it.

Mostly my mom taught me things through example hence the title of this post. She is a natural beauty who never wears a lot of makeup (though she does “put on her eyebrows” and wear lipstick and a little blush for special occasions). She dresses simply and never tries to impress anyone. She’s always true to herself. She appreciates the little things and never seeks material possessions. As a teenager, I used to think she was out of fashion or too simple. I just didn’t understand what classic beauty was. At the time I didn’t understand what being down to earth meant and what a beautiful trait that is to have. To truly not worry about what anyone else thinks is an authentic way to live. People strive for that and sometimes never attain it.

Mom treats everyone with kindness and compassion. She has always done what needed to be done for the family without expecting anything in return. Everything she does is with her whole heart. I think that’s beautiful.

When I was younger I saw my dad as the hard worker (and hard-working he’s always been!) but my dear mom had a baby in diapers (cloth, mind you) every year for about ten years. Not to mention every bottle she gave us was boiled in water on the stove to be sterilized. She didn’t have a dishwasher back then. Most of the time while raising us she didn’t even have a microwave!

Occasionally, she gets meals that are simple to prepare now that it’s just her and dad at home, but when raising us she cooked full meals every single day.

She’s the best cook because the main ingredient is always love (I really do believe that). Seriously, she can even make a sandwich to die for. She has the magic touch in the kitchen.

She loves us all equally and has been there for us always.

She is so real. I don’t know how else to explain her personality. She thinks, speaks and acts in alignment with herself with whomever she’s interacting. She’s genuinely herself at all times.

I wish I’d thought about all I learned from her sooner. I’m 50 years old and am just realizing this for some reason. I’ve always known I was lucky to have her, don’t get me wrong. Mom’s always been one of my closet “people” during my whole life. Maybe now that she’s approaching 80 I have a different perspective. Now that I’m older too, I have a lot to reflect back on.

Recently, my oldest sister posted a comment on my Facebook page in regards to a selfie I posted. She said I looked just like Mom. It warms my heart to think that I look like her. I’d like to think I’m becoming more like her all the time.

I wish everyone had the type of mom I had growing up. I’ve been so lucky and blessed. She should write a book on parenting. Maybe I’ll interview her for some of my posts.

It’s funny how we’ve been shaped by our parents in ways we might have never really thought about until much later. It just shows the importance of parenting and how different parenting styles affect us. Maybe some kids need more of a disciplinarian like my dad. It’s fascinating really.

What lessons have you learned from your parents that you realized later in life?

Thank you for reading.

May you be happy and well.

A letter to my younger self.

Here’s some advice I would have given to my younger self if I could have. Maybe some young person will read this and be able to take it!

No regrets here. I think we all have to go through some trials in order to become the best version of ourselves. Trials teach us empathy for others. Trials teach us how strong we are. Trials teach hope and perseverance.

It’s not that I wish I had learned things sooner because we all have to learn things in our own time. I’m just using this format to reflect on things I did learn and what I went through to learn them in hopes that someone else who might need to read this does and that it could ease their life a little bit. I’m so very grateful for all of my lessons because they brought me to the place I am today.

Dearest Chrissie,

1. Your parents are only people. They never promised you that they had all the answers or would never make mistakes. They are doing the best they can with the knowledge and experience they have. Forgive them for mistakes. One day, when you’re a mom, you will hope and pray that your child will forgive you for yours as well.

2. Truly, do not fret about what other people think. Learn this lesson early or it will eat you up inside and cause all kinds of unnecessary sadness, stress and anxiety throughout your life. It’s a lot harder to undo negative thought patterns than it is to prevent them.

3. Don’t waste a single day worrying. The present moment is your life. The so-called future that you seek to bring you happiness will never come. It is only your relationship to the present moment that matters. Unless you realize this, almost all of your unhappiness will come from how you conceptualize what is happing around you, not what is actually happening. Being at peace with the present moment is a way of living, just like stressing out and running around like a chicken with your head cut off is a way of living or being deeply depressed is a way of living. Choose wisely. This moment is your life, not tomorrow or five years from now. It has always been and will always be this moment.

4. Our days our numbered. Our parents days are numbered. Our sibling’s days are numbered. Our friends days are numbered. Your husband’s days will numbered. Even your child’s days will be numbered. Cherish the people you love. Tell them you love them. Better yet, show them you love them. Don’t be angry for too long. Be patient with others. They are doing the best they can.

5. I know your heart. It’s going to hurt…a lot. Just know this: life isn’t fair even for good people. Keep being good. Just remember advice number two. That will help. Also, know that it’s ok for your heart to feel for others but don’t turn into your pain. One day, when you become a nurse you will need to learn early on that bad things happen to good people all the time. Sometimes people will suffer seemingly unnecessarily. Don’t beat yourself asking why. You will never find the answer to that question. Just acknowledge your feelings then let them go. Don’t hold onto the pain. Your mind needs rest. If you don’t, you will make yourself sick over it.

6. Exercise! I know you hate it but it would be good to incorporate it into your life while you are young and have the energy. If you don’t, you will gain weight. As you get older it becomes a lot harder to lose it. Just keep it under control. And stay away from sugar like it’s the devil or it will become your poison.

7. This is a good life. You’re going to be blessed with so many wonderfully good times. Everything is going to work out. One day you will have learned the lessons above. You’re going to be married to a man who loves you unconditionally. Be nice to him. Together you’ll raise a beautiful son. You’ll get to watch him grow into adulthood, become successful and find the love of his life. And he’ll still love his mama even when he’s grown!

One day you will realize that the littlest things done with love were really the biggest and that we are all connected on this planet. We are all living and breathing under the same stars. Each of us doing the best we can. We can help each other or hurt each other. The choice is ours.

You will choose to help and that will be your life.

I love you, Me