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Things my mother never taught me

So here's the thing.
I have an excellent mother. I'm fortunate beyond words to have a mother (and father) who raised my siblings and I with kindness and strength and adventure, and took care of every need we had and then some.
My parents are brilliant teachers in different ways. It's not unusual to hear myself rattling off some solid piece of advice they have breathed into my life. My mother has taught me A LOT about a lot of things. And this is kind of about that. But mostly about the things she never taught me.


My mother never taught me how to be the perfect daughter. Or girlfriend. Or mother.

Or the perfect anything for that matter.
My mother is not a great believer in perfection or the pursuit of it, nor the maintenance involved in maintaining the illusion of it. She is a woman who wholeheartedly embraces messy. She likes the imperfect, the unruly and the unkempt. It's funny because the signs for this were everywhere. In the way she favoured the silly photos over the posey ones, the way we never owned a matching dinner set, the way that she didn't dilute her emotions for the sake of appearances - when she felt joy you knew about it and she really didn't care if you did or not. She never asked us to chase perfection in any aspect of our lives - from school to relationships. Often she was the one that helped us see the futility of it when we found ourselves blindly striving for it. She never claimed to be the perfect mother, the perfect wife or the perfect friend - mostly because she wasn't convinced it could be achieved. She did however, teach me about how to understand my imperfections and their implications and learn to work them in my favour. 

My mother never taught me how to get my ducks in a row.
Some mothers advise their daughters to make a five year plan, believing with all good intentions that a plan maketh the man. We have this natural tendency in our teens and even our adulthood to make a plan to follow; steps that lead naturally and smoothly up the ladder to success. Not so - well at least that's not what my mother taught me. Recently she advised my sister that not all the ducks had to be in a row; that not all aspects of a plan had to be organised neatly in order for her to progress to the next season of her life. I can imagine she was chuckling at the sheer unlikelihood of aquatic birds coordinating themselves and travelling in single file anyway.  

My mother never taught me how to be quiet. 
Did you hear that? That loud, firecracker laugh that disrupted the hum drum of ordinary life? That's my mother. She has this laugh that you can hear down hallways and half way across the street. It makes her easy to find in a crowd. It used to make me shrink down in my seat in dark movie theatres. My mother is an outspoken woman. While the volume of her laugh is impressive for her small stature, it is sometimes the profound wisdom that she speaks quietly that leaves your ears ringing. She taught me what it means to have a voice and use it, how the truth is equally important as the tone in which it is delivered. She never taught me to be quiet about injustice or the causes that are carried close to my heart. I think there must be days as a mother when you can't handle the noise and you really do just want to silence your child. I'm glad she never did. 

My mother never taught me how to budget.
To be fair, she really tried. This has nothing to do with her financial finess and everything to do with my lack of self control and concentration. (My little brother was the one who eventually taught me, go figure). My mother is extremely astute with money; she knows how to scrimp and save and how to sometimes splurge (because it's fun and you need to). She tried with limited success to teach me about the value of a dollar and the importance of good investments. She had far more success in teaching me about the value of relationships and the importance of investing in them. I think the latter is priceless. 

My mother never taught me how to feel about my body.
Mothers of teenage girls everywhere, my condolences. You have the toughest job as the chief determiner and setter of examples for the way in which your poor hormone-riddled angel navigates her pubescent body image issues into adulthood. I started writing out this point and quickly realised this is a bigger post for another day, but I need to quickly note that my mother never made me feel bad about my body or like it was something that, even in its determination to change without my permission, was something I should be embarrassed about. There was an open dialogue in our family about everything and anything, bodies included. If she had insecurities about her body (and don't we all), I was never aware of them as a teen. She helped me navigate my own body and I'm more grateful now than I can say. 

There are plenty of other things my mother never taught me.
She never taught me how to save face because she valued honesty and vulnerability over facade. She never taught me how to make the perfect dinner (because that was totally my father's forte), but was the only one who patiently taught me how to bake. She didn't teach me how to do my makeup because it wasn't her thing, but she always made sure I had brushed my hair and put lipgloss on whenever I left the house. (To this day I cannot deal with lipgloss.) She never taught me how to put myself first because she always, always, always put herself last when it came to anything - clothes, food, time. She always put the needs of her kids before her own. She did't teach me how to dim my light because she believed it was important to shine as bright as you were built to. She didn't teach me how to compare myself to others, how to compete against other women or how to make sure life treated me fairly. 
She taught us a lot of things and I think she would say she enjoyed it. I know she has said she considerers us her greatest achievements. It's a flattering sentiment but I'm beginning to appreciate just how much that might have cost her. 
Here's to mothers and all the lessons they are teaching (and not teaching) their children.

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