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Mothers, Your Children Are Learning From You, But You May Not Live To See The Results

Today would have been my mother's 80th birthday,.  I  refer to her in this blog as "She Who Is Exalted," or SWIE.  It's funny to me how so much of what she taught me I only started applying after she died.  So my message to all you moms out there is this:  Your children are learning from you, but you may not live to see the results.

One of the things I learned from my mother was to be observant of people and pay attention to what they say and do, then plan how to deal with them accordingly.  Like my mom, after I've seen and heard enough, I've pretty much sized someone up and I plan accordingly.  Unlike my mom, I didn't get good at this until later in life.  There's at least one person who is gone from my life who my mom warned me about from childhood.  Another person in my life is someone she met while I was in college and said, "Something ain't right about" that person.  It took me years to see what my mom saw after only one meeting.  And she was right.  Still is.  But she didn't live to see that I learned the lesson.

There are a lot of little things I learned from watching my mom that, when I don't do them, my life gets chaotic.  My mom was vigilant about always making sure we never ran out of toilet paper (no small feat with a family of eight); making sure there was always, always food in the fridge (for her, poverty wasn't a lack of money; it was an empty fridge); paying all her bills on the first of the month (which I now do); packing lunches and laying out the next day's clothes the night before (me, not so much); doing laundry daily (she washed towels every day -- again, we were a family of eight); keeping her house and us on a cleaning schedule; and making sure she never had less than a half a tank of gas in her car (she was afraid she'd need to get a sick child to the hospital in the  middle of the night).

My mom's standards about children are those I hope to live up with kids of my own because they are seared on my brain.   My mother would never let us leave the house in wrinkled or dirty clothes or without our hair being combed.  When I see a child out and about with wrinkled or dirty clothes or messed-up hair, I instinctively cringe and  hear my mother say, "Where do you think you're going?  Not like that you're not." My mother believed that children's appearances represent their parents' best efforts, and she refused to be misrepresented, especially when she worked so hard to keep us clean and fed.

My mother also insisted on manners.  We were taught not to ask for as much as a glass of water when we were visiting someone else's home.  We could have whatever was offered to us, and not too much, but we were not to ask.  And we were never, ever to open someone else's fridge.  My mom didn't want us acting like we hadn't been fed.

My mother also had higher expectations for her daughters because she felt the world was not fair when it came to women, and women had to be smart and fend for themselves because there were usually children depending on us.  She drilled into our heads to never, ever, EVAH depend on a man.  We girls heard this time and again:  "Do for self."  "Always have your own job, your own car, your own money, and your own home."  "Get your education so you don't have to depend on no man."  She didn't live to see all four of her daughter become homeowners, but she did live to see all of us girls get some kind of college degree, have our own money, and have our own cars. She knew before she died that we were capable of taking care of ourselves.

When it came to romance and men, my mom's advice was practical.  "You better try on them shoes before you buy 'em."  "Use birth control.  Ain't no excuse to get pregnant nowadays if you don't want to be."

The three character traits my mother could not stand were laziness, stinginess, and whining.  Whenever we were getting too lax with our chores, she'd go on a rant and rave that would have us all ducking for cover and running for the exits.  When we didn't want to share, she'd threaten to take whatever we were hoarding away from us and shame us into sharing by saying , "That's your sister (or brother)!  You're supposed to share with her (him)."  And when we whined about life not being fair, she'd suck her teeth and say, "Hmpf. Who promised you fair?  Well, they lied to you!."  Even now when I start to indulge in a personal pity party, I am reminded of what my mother said and become thankful for the times when the pendulum of good fortune swang in my direction.  And when the pendulum of good fortune swings away from me, I'm reminded of another lesson my mother taught me.  "Everybody falls down. Everybody.  You can lay down there for a while, but then you have to get up."  To this day, I have no patience for laziness, stinginess, or whining. I am my mother's daughter.  And as much as I doubt it sometimes, I am resilient.

So mothers, I write all this to say that even when you don't think your children are learning from you, they are.  They really are, but you may not live to see the results.  Just keep on planting those seeds of wisdom, even if they sprout in your children's heads and hearts after you're gone.  You will have done more for your children than many other parents who had no wisdom to impart.  And here's the kicker -- the wisdom gets handed down to your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, some of whom you might not ever meet.  My husband, Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB), is constantly quoting his grandmother:  "Don't say once what you can't say twice." "Cain't nobody ride your back if you don't bend over." "I'ma give you what you need.  If you need a hug, I'ma give you a hug.  If you need an ass whuppin', I'ma give you that, too."

Another lesson my mother taught me that she didn't live to see play out in my life was this:  "You only get one mother.  Y'all gonna miss me when I'm gone."

Truer words were never spoken.

Happy Birthday, Mom.


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