16 Essentials My Mother Taught Me
As we are preparing for my daughter’s Sweet 16 party, I am amazed at what a beautiful person she has become, very kind and trustworthy, helpful and considerate; she’s a happy spirit who is quite content with most of life, while aspiring to make the most of each day. She is blessed with many talents and can often be found singing as she creates new culinary delights or designs her next sewn creation. Her love of family is perhaps the first thing most people notice, as she and her siblings work together and often improvise fun activities together, too.
Watching her, I am quite fascinated by the resemblance she holds to my own mother, now at rest for several years. I wish my Mom could be here to see her granddaughter reach for adulthood. I know she’d be proud of her, but more than that, she would be imparting her wisdom as she always did with each of my children.
My mother was not a shy, grandmother sort; she was often pointed and blunt, but not in a mean way. It’s just that she seemed to know that life was short and the chance a parent might have to nurture, coach, and inspire would always be limited. But her advice and wisdom live on graciously as I find myself counseling my own children.
To follow Bethany’s Sweet 16 planning and party, see this page.
For her Sweet 16th birthday, I hope that I have at least begun to impart these 16 life essentials to my daughter, as my own mother taught me. These are in no particular order; my mother felt each was quite important!
- Happiness is a choice that we each make each day. You can choose to be content with what you have as you work toward your goals, or you can choose to be miserable that you have not already achieved those goals. The choice is always yours. An addition to this: Money will not make you happy. We didn’t have a lot when I was growing up, but we were usually very happy because we had a strong family and we knew to choose happiness.
- You should always be neat and clean, but it’s not important to worry about looking glamorous. My Mom had few clothes, but she took excellent care of them and always made sure she looked her best, even when relaxing at home.
- Just as with personal appearances, you don’t need fancy furniture and new towels to match the bathroom, but your home should always be comfortably clean and neat as you never know who might be dropping by for a quick visit.
- In whatever you do, always do your best. My mom helped my Dad with his homebased business (garage and tow service) while often running her own small business, volunteering, and raising four children. She was, quite honestly, amazing! When customers came, she smiled and invited them in to pay their bills. If a community member was injured, she helped coordinate a benefit dance to raise donations. When I was in 4H, she became a leader. And yet she was always there when we needed her. Was she actually 5 different people? I’m not sure how she did it!
- Bigger is not always better; new is not better than used. She could repurpose all kinds of things and found ways to economize which helped when money was tight (which was almost always!) Look for bargains! Mom loved garage sales and auctions. She could find some of the best deals and had a full attic and shed to prove it! Whenever a need arose, those auction specials came in pretty handy.
- Respect your elders, not out of fear, but pure respect. Respect others and yourself, too. Respect can never be overstated.
- Honesty is not just the best policy, it’s the only policy! Lies were not tolerated. Sure, sometimes that meant we were in trouble, but that was preferable to her finding us in a lie. Her trust was important to me and to this day, I am honored to have had it.
- Work hard and you will have the reward of having accomplished. I was involved in competitive projects in 4H and sometimes I won, sometimes I didn’t. But the reward was knowing I had done my best at the time. Ribbons and trophies were nice, but self accomplishment was even better.
- Life is not fair. Again, from 4H days as well as other parts of life, my Mom helped me through the “life is not fair” days. She understood and sympathized, but she also let me know that I should not complain nor pity myself; sometimes life is just not fair and we all have to deal with that.
- Your own “personal best” is yours alone. This one struck in with the Life is not Fair rule. I was a very good student; school seemed like a natural for me. Good grades were just expected. One time I had a B on a mid year report card and my mother was very disappointed. At first I was upset; she had never expressed disappointment in my sister’s B grades, or even C’s. I remember thinking how unfair that was. Then she explained to me (remember I said she was blunt?) that she just expected more out of me and she knew that I could do better. I had failed myself and I needed to bring that grade up to an A, since I was capable. Point taken and I did just that. Personal Best.
- Good enough is NOT good enough.Don’t settle. (an important point from my Dad, too!) Again, tying in with do your best, my Mom was always encouraging me to go a little beyond. Don’t settle for an A, go for that perfect score. Don’t settle for a good loaf of homemade bread, go for the best texture and flavor. And certainly don’t settle for friends that are not true friends, nor a lifetime partner who is not.
- Thankfulness, or an attitude of gratitude. We didn’t have a lot and like most Moms of her time, she made sure everyone else had their needs filled before her own. But she was very grateful for all we did have and made the very best possible. When one of us complained about not having something, Mom would (again, blunt!) remind us of all we DID have. She was forever grateful for family and friends, food on the table, her garden, our farm…life! She knew that all of that was worth more than all the gold in the world. And she made sure we knew it, too.
- Good manners will help define you to others and are therefore quite important. Always act as though others are watching; they probably are.
- Treat others as you wish to be treated, or maybe even better. My mother treated waitresses and janitors with the same respect that she showed to professionals. She knew from experience that those jobs were often more difficult and underappreciated. We were taught to respect each person and the job they performed.
- It’s important to speak well of others, too. My mother usually spoke of good things of other people and expected us to do the same. If you have a problem with someone, go directly to that person. It’s always best to speak very highly of your family and friends; it reflects well on you, as well.
- We start and end with family. My parents were always steadfast in their marriage and we children never doubted that they would always be there for us. Family will always be there. My Mom said it was so.