7 Everythings I Learned from My Mom

For this “7 Everythings I’ve Learned” post, I wanted to honor my momma for Mother’s Day and share what she has taught me through the years.   Everyone says that their mom is the best.  Well, that is not even a thing—there are no perfect mothers.  There are, however, some dang good ones, and I will argue that mine is one of them.

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With my mother and my daughter.

I’ve been in public education for the past 12 years, and I’ve witnessed some down-right crappy parenting.  Every year I am more and more appreciative of how my mom raised me.  A decade ago, I became a mother myself and realized how challenging this thing called mothering actually is; that has deepened my appreciation for my mom.  As a parent, I have consciously attempted to mirror the positive experiences and lessons I had with my mother with my own children.  

When thinking of what all she has taught me, it was extremely difficult to narrow this down to only seven areas, but I guess that leaves me with more material for the future {wink}.  Here are the 7 everythings I’ve learned from my momma and what I strive teach my own kids.

  1. Talk Openly with Your Kids

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Circa 1989.

My mom talked to me about all the tough topics: sex, drugs, rock + roll . . . {okay, not so much the latter}.  Studies show that children whose parents talk to them regularly about these uncomfortable topics are more likely to make better decisions in life.  My 13-year-old-self may have rather had math homework every night for the rest of my life instead of enduring these awkward conversations, but seeing that I was mildly rebellious in both high school and even college . . . it must have paid off.

She also didn’t just tell me not to engage in certain activities; she explained WHY I shouldn’t.

There’s a huge difference.

In addition to discussing these topics.  My mom simply talked to me.

A lot.

There are still times I call her up and we have a two-hour conversation.  I know she is a safe person to vent to, to gain advice from, and to bounce ideas off of.  That has been invaluable to me.

2. Do Something Nice for Yourself

Being a mom is exhausting and requires copious amounts of sacrifices.  I am incredibly frugal, so it is difficult for me to splurge or to pay for something I can do myself. Sometimes, you just need to take a break and pamper yourself before you go stark raving mad.  So, every once in awhile, hire a cleaning lady, have pizza delivered, or get a massage.

Oh, and for heaven’s sake, never highlight your hair with a store-bought kit.  Pay good money to go to a professional at a salon.  {I may, or may not, have been traumatized by such an attempt when in the 8th grade . . . }.

3. Go Above and Beyond for Your Kids

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With my mom after I graduated with my master’s degree.

First, let me be clear that I think it’s important for moms to have their own life and identity other than just “mom.”  With that said, for the first 18 years of your child’s life, a large part of your life should be focused to them.  Each child should have at least one person in their life who is dedicated to their well being, who loves them something fierce, and who constantly makes them feel important.  If you have a child, that person should be YOU.  If it’s not, they will most likely seek love and attention from the wrong people and places.

My mom never missed a sporting event or a parent-teacher conference.  She was always a working mom so that my parents could afford to send me to college.  She helped me study and sought out resources when I struggled as a student.  She made a point to know my friends and my friends’ parents so she knew who was involved in my life.  

Having a parent who went above and beyond gave me a deep sense of self-worth, and it greatly enriched my upbringing.

4. Choose Your Friends Wisely

Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” and if there is one piece of advice that I continually remember my mom giving me, it was that I needed to choose my friends wisely.

Are your friends kind?  Are they bullies?  Do they have strong morals?  Are they loyal?  Are they going to peer-pressure you?  Can they keep a secret?  Are they going to challenge you to be a better person?  Are they catty?  

These questions were always on my mind.  When I was in high school, some of my friends started making not-so-awesome choices.  Because she had instilled this advice in me, I knew I needed to start distancing myself—and I did.  My life was better because of it.  As an adult, the above questions became second nature as I started meeting new people from college and work.  I can say that I for sure have some life-long friends who have been wisely chosen.

Oh, and one of the most important questions to ask when choosing a friend: Are they fun?

My mom has the greatest friends {one of whom has become my mother-in-law}. She and her girlfriends from high school still keep in touch almost 45 years later.  She also still has slumber parties and most of her friends are in their 60s or 70s.  

Now, that’s fun.

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My mom {front, center} with her friends in high school. Circa 1971.

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My mom with her high school friends over 40 years later.

5. Live the Example

“Do as I say, not as I do” is one of the worst parental philosophies.  

Ever.  

Rachel Cruz coined the phrase that more is caught than taught.  My mom raised me to have strong morals and to live a Christian lifestyle.  She also lived it out herself.  Many-a-mornings I have walked in on her while she was praying or doing devotions.  She has been faithfully married for over 40  years.  She has helped those in need.  I’ve never witnessed her cheat, steal, or lie.  I’ve never seen her drunk.  I’ve never heard her tell someone off. In fact, I’ve never even heard her cuss.  

Well, maybe I did hear her once.

Okay.  Twice.  

She is by no means perfect, but she knew the kind of character she wanted me to have, which was set pretty high.  She lived the life herself by example and taught me through my observations.

6. Let Your Kids Spread Their Wings

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Momma and me.

I am my mother’s only child, so she was always overly protective of me; however, she never held me back from being my own person or crippled my ambitions.  I ended up going to a college that was two hours away.  That may not seem very far, but I know it was difficult on her.  She never asked me to change my mind and attend a closer university for her sake; she let me go.  

When I turned 20, I had one of those “Oh-My-Goodness-I-Don’t-Even-Know-Who-I-Am-I-Need-to-Find-Myself” moments.  I decided to live in Texas with a friend for the entire summer of 2002 to get away from everything.  I drove the whole 15 hours by myself from Ohio to the Longhorn State for the three-month adventure. The next year my mom encouraged me to pursue student teaching assignments on a Navajo Reservation in Chinle, AZ and later an inner-city school in Charleston, SC. Then I was gone for good when I married and moved 700 miles away from home.

All of these experiences were vital in shaping my independence. While I’m sure many of these decisions of mine scared the crud out of her, she sat back as I spread my wings.  

And without my wings, I would have never been able to fly.

7) Grammar is Important

Since I can remember, my mom has corrected my grammar for fear that one day I would grow up to sound like an imbecile and shame the family.  All the nagging paid off since I now make a living off of having proper grammar {AKA – English teacher}.

 

Momma,

Thank you for your wisdom and love.  I owe so much of who I am to you, and I hope to raise my kids as well as you raised me.   Happy Mother’s Day.

Love,

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Seven Everythings I’ve Learned from My Dad

Eating ice cream. Circa 1984.

Eating ice cream with my dad. Circa 1984.

I’m starting a series called “Seven Everythings I’ve Learned.”  Here I’ll feature seven “everythings” {because . . . blog name}  I’ve learned from various people and experiences.  I’ll also feature guests posts from people I find intriguing.   I figured since Father’s Day is today, it was only fitting for my first post in this category to be what I’ve learned from my dad.

I don’t remember my father ever sitting me down and saying, “Courtney, when you grow up, you need to do X, Y, and Z.”  Rachel Cruze teaches when it comes to parenting, “more is caught than taught,” and that is exactly how it’s been with Papa Jack.  He never had to sit me down and have such talks—he was teaching me by my observations.

1. Live Below Your Means

Daddy/Daughter dance at my wedding.

Daddy/Daughter dance at my wedding . . . that he paid for.

My dad is cheap frugal.  Every trip to the grocery store results in him asking for rain checks on discounted sold out items.  He will politely argue with cashier if he was shorted even a penny.   And I was mortified whenever he would make me scalp tickets at KU basketball games so we could get better seats on the cheap.   We never drove new cars, rarely went on vacations (other than visiting family), and the only beverage I was allowed to order at a restaurant was water.

But because my dad was a penny pincher, he was able to pay for my college and my wedding.  He has freedom to be incredibly generous.  He could buy more expensive items if he wanted, and he’d pay cash instead of going into debt. His frugal ways have definitely rubbed off on me as I now see myself putting his tightwad techniques into practice; they pay off in the long run.

2. Work Hard

My pops has always worked, and he’s worked hard.  When I was younger, he had numerous paper routes to put himself through college.   After an MBA, he became a business man and the head of the purchasing department at his job.   I worked in the factory at his business to make extra money in college.  I’ll never forget when an employee pulled me aside one day and said, “You know, if your father ever left this company, it would completely fall to pieces.”  I swelled up with pride at this comment—that was my daddy he was talking about.  His work had become invaluable, and when your work becomes invaluable, you gain purpose and security for you and your family.

Like father, like daughter.  At my graduation for my master's.

Like father, like daughter. At my graduation for my master’s.

3. Education is Important

I was expected to do well in school and go to college.  I wasn’t even allowed to take an easy load my senior year of high school. Before I turned in my proposed schedule, my dad made me switch everything around to take all the harder classes, dang it! Because of his high expectations, I went on to get my bachelor’s, and one of my proudest moments in life was finally being on par with my pops in degrees by attaining a master’s.  Education has stamped out the ignorance in my life and heavily molded me into the person I am today.

It wasn’t just formal education my father emphasized—it was a love for learning.  Before Google, my dad had “The Red Dictionary”–a tattered old thing that seemed to always be within arm’s reach of him.  Whenever we were uncertain about anything, we’d consult said lexicon.   Even though I am now a teacher by profession, my dad has taught me to forever be a student.

4.  Be Cool

If you surveyed 100 people who know my dad well and asked them to describe Jack in just one word, I’d bet “cool” would be used more than any other.  He’s seriously just a cool guy and I’ve never met a soul who doesn’t like him.   So . . . Be Cool = People Like You.

5. Quality Time Matters

Catching a Boston Red Sox game in Boston

Catching a Red Sox game together in Boston

Some of my favorite memories with my dad are taking road trips, attending ball games, and playing euchre.  Now that he has grandchildren, he makes it a point to spend quality time with them, too. I guarantee those memories will be more significant to them than any gift they ever receive.

6. Invest in Others

My dad was a part of a bus ministry back in the 1970s where he picked up kids for church. Through this ministry he was able to build relationships with numerous boys and become a fatherly figure.  Over the years he’d hire them to deliver newspapers, took them to Royals games, and mentored them spiritually.   He still has a close relationship with many of them, and one in particular says he wouldn’t be the man he is today if it weren’t specifically for my dad in his life. Watching this as an adolescent majorly influenced my decision to become a teacher, a teen leader at my church, and a volunteer.

7. Eat Ice Cream

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Passing on the art of eating ice cream to my kids.

I’m pretty sure there is a direct correlation between ice cream and happiness.  If my dad is visiting, you can bet there will be ice cream in our fridge.  He may even splurge and we’ll go out for some.  You don’t want to live a life full of regrets—a life without ice cream is sure to be regretful.

And . . . Mmmmmmm.  Ice cream sounds #sogood right now.  I think I’m gonna stop typing and fill a bowl.

I love you, Dad.   Thanks for the lessons.

Happy Father’s Day.

Love,

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