It’s a tale as old as time: The older we get, the more we realize how much the good advice our parents gave us was actually really amazing. Things that used to make me roll my eyes like getting homework done early before going out or not eating cake for breakfast actually make a lot of sense to me now. Come to think of it, I have room to be a more efficient time manager (and house cleaner, as long as we’re admitting to domestic weaknesses) and starting better habits as a kid probably would have helped me in the long run. That said, I was pretty busy looking up Backstreet Boys gossip on Altavista, and carefully crafting an intriguing yet subtle away message for AOL Instant Messenger, written in purple Comic Sans. I’m not sure how I would have squeezed it all in if I had actually tried to listen to all of my mom's advice.
However, there are a few things my mom used to say, and still says, that have resonated with me. As far as areas of expertise, I consider her kind of a love and family generalist. She’s still married to my dad, her high school sweetheart, and has two grown children. And speaking of those two grown children, I may be a bit biased, but neither of us are in jail nor do we belong to any cults (as far as I know). So, she knows what she’s talking about. Here’s a list of her greatest hits:
"Never Show Fear"
The women at my baby shower were kind enough to write words of encouragement and advice with me on cards that I still have. My mom’s card, among other things, encouraged me never to show fear when it came to motherhood. She’s since clarified, and explained that it’s more about showing strength and letting your kids know they can rely on you, as opposed to the literal meaning which sounds like something that has to do with bears or cows.
"If You Can’t Sleep, Get Whatever You Can"
I vividly remember hearing this one the night before summer camp, when I was 13 years old. I was so jazzed, I tossed and turned for hours. Mom pointed out that relaxing in bed was still a version of rest, and was still good for me, probably so I wouldn’t freak out about not getting any sleep and go into one of those deep spirals of late-night despair over still being awake. Now, nearly 20 years later, when I’m sleeping horribly thanks to our bundle of joy, I remember that even some rest is better than no rest.
"Do A Load of Laundry Every Day"
Every time my mom visits, she inquires about our laundry situation. “Do a load a day,” she told me when our son was brand new. “It’ll never get backed up,“ she said. Easier said than done, though the mere point in trying is that I’m not saving all my laundry up for weeks at a time, which makes me feel like I’m actually adulting.
"Go Big With Your Baking"
My mom’s bilingual, and her second language is Cookies. At an early age, she instilled upon me that baked goods are currency. Someone does a favor for you? Give them cookies. People coming over? Give them cookies. Going somewhere? Bring cookies. Bored? Make cookies and MAKE ALL THE EXTRAS SO YOU CAN GIVE THEM TO PEOPLE. Have questions about anything and everything? Cookies are the answer. Even if cooking and baking aren't your thing, guess what? Eating is everyone's thing. You can spend an hour in the kitchen every now and then for the sake of having some universal currency available.
"Your Grades Follow You"
Sounds intense, right? Mostly an ominous line that was relevant during high school, the message behind it was about working hard and developing a track record so more doors open later. As frustrating as it was to have both my parents heavily invested in my academics. (I was a good student! Chill out, guys!) I’m actually pretty thankful now for the opportunities those report cards afforded me.
"Wear Something Because You Love It, Not Because It’s In Style"
As a middle schooler, I remember flouncing around a junior’s store at the mall, bummed out that I couldn’t get this, like, black polyester shirt concoction that surely would have fallen apart in the dryer after two wears. I didn’t push the limits too much when it came to fashion, but I remember a few occasions when my mom vetoed something, drilling into my head that just because something was trendy, that didn’t mean I needed to have it. It was a good lesson for a teenage girl to learn (admittedly, it took me a while to fully embrace it) but thankfully I think I have a pretty low rate of wardrobe malfunctions overall (not including my last trimester of pregnancy, when it was off the charts). The point is: Know what you like, and buy only what you love, and leave everyone else to be chase trends.
"Read To Your Kid. Then, Read More. Repeat."
I mean, most people will agree that reading to your kids is a good thing. But, if you talk to my mom, it is the BEST THING EVER. I'm glad she feels that way because when she visits, she gladly steps up for book duty, because one can only take so much Dr. Seuss.
"Even Diaper Changes Can Be Special Time"
When my son was brand new, my mom went on and on about how she used to enjoy diaper changes when my brother and I were babies. Apparently, she would talk to us, and sing, and play, and apply baby powder and lotion; the whole nine yards. Our little one doesn’t like sitting still for changes these days, but I still try keep her idea in mind, if only because it forces me to make a bit of an effort, slow down, make eye contact, and stay in the moment with him.
"Eat Dinner Together Whenever Possible"
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that my family managed this nearly every night. My parents, my brother, and I all had our respective spots around the table (as the youngest, I was the only one who face the kitchen, everyone else could see out the windows). Meals were simple and delicious; spaghetti, tacos, and my dad’s barbecued chicken and corn on the cob were family favorites. Now, our toddler son is just now getting to the age when he can sit in his high chair with us at dinner, and I’m really, really hoping we can make it more of a routine in our house. After all, I’m still talking about my family’s habit even though I haven’t lived at home in over 10 years. Some things stay with you.
"Pack Snacks Everywhere You Go"
Basically, never be caught without some sort of snack for your kiddo, both for their satiation and your sanity.
"Do Chores As You Go, Instead Of All At Once"
This is the hardest one for me, you guys. My mom was just in town, subtly putting dishes in the dishwasher as we went about our day, instead of letting them pile up for one monstrous post-dinner scrubbing session like I normally do. In theory, I love this idea. In practice? Yeah, sorry, I can't stop to load the dishwasher while there's a toddler dangling from my waist.
No, my mom isn't Kenny Chesney. She just knows a thing or two about how fast the time goes.