The Big Question: Be Nice To Mothers Edition

Happy Monday, gang, how’s every little thing?

Me? I’m fab. Signed the lease on the teensy new Plumcake Cottage in my equally teensy new village where my neighbors are the Pacific ocean, a motionless shriveled man who is approximately 300 years old and looks like Voldemort’s granddad (but, you know, in a nice way, although if he doesn’t move soon I’m going to have to check if he’s dead) and about three dozen dusty old trail horses who seem very interested in what’s going on with their new neighbors and ohbytheway was that a bag of apples they saw being loaded into the kitchen?

Nice work if you can get it.

Back in the states several of my friends still act as if I’ve moved into an uncharted, cannibal-filled area of New Guinea instead of a blissfully bucolic seaside village where, okay, the closest gas station is 20 miles away and if you want eggs for tomorrow’s breakfast you find the tree with the hand-painted wooden sign reading “Huevos Aqui” and follow the shakily pointing arrow to your cholesterol-laden destiny; but it’s also a place where you can walk for six miles on a white sand beach without meeting anyone except an escaped horse and and –at low tide– plump old women peeling mejillones (marine mussels) off craggy semi-submerged rocks.

Still, it’s a long way off from the hipster haven of Austin, Texas or the international moving and shaking of Washington, D.C.. So why the drastic move?

Simply put, I never thought I wouldn’t live in other countries, especially developing ones, and that in a large part has to do with my mother.

Born in Hong Kong, her formative years were spent moving all over Asia.

All her brothers and sisters were born in different countries and as a child I would delight in hearing their stories of cobras and monsoons and peasant revolts…a life totally different than anything I could know from the Benneton-diverse (you can be any color you want as long as you’re rich) confines of privileged suburban D.C..

Love and luck took me to Mexico specifically, but I’ve always been jealous of my mother’s experiences and believed a life lived entirely in your native country is something to be mourned, not cherished.

Although she’s no longer a part of my life and the tell-all fodder far outweighs the Hallmark moments, I thought we could take this week to discuss and yes, even appreciate, our mothers.

Since mother-daughter relationships are so complicated, especially when there’s a weight issue involved –raise your hand if your mother put you on a diet as a child because she couldn’t control her own size so she’d at least try to control yours– we’ll get into the deeper stuff later, but I thought it might be nice to start out on a generous foot.

Today Miss Plumcake wants to know:

What’s the most valuable gift your mother gave you, not by being a bad example, but through positive influence or personal inspiration?

 

 

 

29 Responses to “The Big Question: Be Nice To Mothers Edition”

  1. JenniferP May 7, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    Great question.

    My mom took me to the library every single week as a kid, and let me read as much as I want. She supported me in pursuing my education in school and out of it. For example, she helped me fund some school trips abroad during high school (she would pay up front, I would pay back half the cost from my job wages). And she set a great example by continuing her own education – going back to graduate school when we were teenagers.

    She loves her kids and my dad, but she always emphasized the importance of work and education – finding work I cared about, being excellent at it, not depending on others to support me or tell me my path – and she walks the walk in her own life. Her retirement later this year will be well-deserved.

  2. Melissa May 7, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    My hand is definitely raised, but the greatest gift my mom has given me is always telling me I’m beautiful. I’ve heard it so many times throughout my life that the message is deeply ingrained; no amount of fat-hate can take it away. I have my fair share of body image issues (many from her), but nothing can shake what I know to be true.

  3. Liz May 7, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    My mother taught me to never, ever put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want the world to see. wiser words were never spoken.

    I was on diets as a child, many. i remember many humiliating weightwatchers meetings sitting next to my mother waiting to weigh in in front of all teh other moms. it sucked, but i don’t hold it against her – she did the best she could. i was fat, and . no one even now understands why some of us are and others not. she tried to rectify the “problem” as best she could, and while it was painful for me to be “wrong” as a child, i knew she always loved me and was just trying to help. it’s so complicated for everyone – i fell bad for my mom that she felt that she had to solve that problem for me – it was unsolvable adn she felt that it was her fault. it sucked for her as much as for me.

    but all the diets aside, my parents wanted me to be not fat for my health and not for my self worth – education and talent were the measure of that, and i never felt that my parents didn’t believe in me 100% – they thought i was destined to be a STAR and i find it kind of hilarious, but they still do – fat ass and all.

  4. harri p. May 7, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    Not to take crap from anyone, but especially men.

  5. Thea May 7, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    A sense of style. Pre-video days (shuddup)my mother and I would stay up til 3am because that was the only way we could see old movies. She would dissect each actress’s figure ‘issues’ and explain to me how the studios would dress to accentuate or camouflage different aspects of an actress’s figure.

    It gave me insight and perspective into both the art and science of dressing.

    And she got me my own library card at 3

  6. Missie Sue May 7, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    My mother, for all the complications in our relationship, always let me know that I am loved unconditionally.I know that, were I suddenly to morph into an evil serial killer who kicked puppies as a hobby, she would be incredibly upset, but she would still bring me cookies and fashion magazines every week in prison. I can feel secure in the knowledge that whatever happens, and however we may disagree about religion, politics, and proper social behavior, I can always count on her to be there for me.

  7. jen209 May 7, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    I got my practicality from my Mom, which balances out the “head in the clouds” intellectual tendencies I got from my Dad. It has served me well. So, I do basically what I love, but I also have things like, you know, a retirement plan.

  8. jojo.k May 7, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    Love this. And there are so many things, that picking one is a challenge.

    My mother taught me that external measures of success weren’t the most important. That so long as I tried my hardest at any endeavor, I was a success. And that attempting new or difficult things was a better reflection of my character than being good at any one those things.

    Also, as a resident of NoVA, ‘a life totally different than anything I could know from the Benneton-diverse (you can be any color you want as long as you’re rich) confines of privileged suburban D.C..’ rings startlingly observant to me.

  9. Ellen W. May 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

    My whole life I have heard my mother try to see things from another person’s point of view- the mean waitress probably had painful feet, the bank teller who didn’t know how to do anything is probably a part-time employee they never bothered to train, an erratic driver might be sick, might have a screaming child in the car, and if she can’t think of anything she just says that we need to remember that we never know all the burdens another person has to bear.

  10. erylin May 7, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    my mom taught me to really truly actually give of yourself to another human in needs. I don’t give money to large “charitable” corporations, but instead actually help people when they need it….a place to stay here, dinner there, 50$ for meds to another. Some would call it being a sucker, but i know the difference between a scammer and someone actually down on their luck. the right aide and the right words can turn lives around. I’ve seen my mother do it and i have had the pleasure of seeing myself do it too. Sometimes, the person goes on to do nothing…other times, you help a man with his legal fees, and he goes on to get off drugs, start an art career and have a baby boy.

  11. Monica Quijada May 7, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    The greatest gift my mom taught me was that anyone can fix stuff around the house. I always hated the messages 80’s sitcom television gave us and enjoyed fixing stuff around the house. We may have used butter knives instead of screwdrivers, but drawers got fixed when they needed it. (Not until someone with more testosterone had time to do it!)
    I know this sounds like a trivial thing, but having this kind of skill makes you feel like you can tackle anything in the world.

  12. Lisa from SoCal May 7, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    This is going to sound so bizarre, but when I moved thousands of miles away for college, she called at random, and I was in a bad mood because I couldn’t get a roll of quarters from the bank to use at the laundry. A few days later, I got a heavy box in the mail, with three rolls of quarters in it. I have no idea why it touched me so much, but it does to this day. The other thing is that she always, always, always addresses her letters to me Dr. Lisa from SoCal. She loves that title. I love that she loves it.

  13. Jezebella May 7, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

    Mama raised me to be a hostess. The woman can throw a bridal shower for 40 with 48 hours’ notice if she has to. I’m not quite to that level (my house isn’t big enough) but I can throw a fabulous dinner party with about 12 hours’ notice. I can also go from freshly-showered to black-tie-formal in under 30 minutes, thanks to her lessons on shopping, appropriate attire, and how to stock a closet.

  14. Kate K May 7, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    My mom gave me two important gifts in the form of advice:
    1) be kind, decent, polite and gracious to everyone, no matter what.
    2) Work hard.

    I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of success in my life because of the second bit of advice and because of the first part of advice, I’ve done so in a way that makes me (and my family) proud, while accumulating a great group of people who support me and want the best for me.

  15. Margo A May 8, 2012 at 3:15 am #

    (Raises hand) The best thing my mother did for me, personally, was to teach me to sew, which became the basis for my career. However, for an awful lot of other women in our small town, my mother was an inspiration because she went back to school at 37 and got a law degree. This month the Bar Association is honoring her for 40 years of practice, and for being the oldest practicing attorney in town.

  16. ZaftigWendy May 8, 2012 at 3:43 am #

    I only get to pick one?

    Okay, then. My mom taught me that I couldn’t control everything and that lots of things in life were going to completely SUCK, but that that should not stop me from living joyfully, because for every sucky thing, life would give me even greater good things.

    Mom had a career as a concert pianist taken from her by Multiple Sclerosis, and she could have let it stop her from even looking for joy, but she didn’t. She learned that there is joy even in a wheelchair – joy in the slow life – joy in a well-told story – joy in the flavor of a good hot chocolate.

    There’s always joy to be found if you open your eyes and look. My mom taught me that, and she was right.

  17. barbara May 8, 2012 at 4:38 am #

    My mom read to me. From just about birth on. My whole family read together, especially on camping trips and so on, but my mom was the guiding force. We still read together to this day, and I’ve been an adult for quite a while now. I’m having surgery in a couple of weeks and she’s coming out to help, and we’ve planned a list to read together!

  18. Desideria May 8, 2012 at 5:02 am #

    My mom taught me to survive during times of adversity and thrive during times of opportunity: she raised three children alone with few economic, educational, or social resources. She is a lady (kind, generous, accomplished, refined) who retains her dignity and composure during even trying circumstances. If all that were not enough, she always takes the time and trouble to present her most stylish self to world: a silk flower to match every pigskin pocketbook.

    Oh, and Lisa from SoCal, once, while I was spending my time pursuing studies at university (and very little time caring for myself), Mom arrived at my door with a casserole, a bookshelf, and three pair of panties. That was twenty years ago, and I still feel grateful. Love you, Mom.

  19. Jassy May 8, 2012 at 7:20 am #

    My mother taught me that if you could only have one pair of shoes, let them be Clarks (I was raised in the UK) and always have the clerk in the shoe store check your width fitting. She used to impress upon us that even if your clothes were cheap, they should always be neatly pressed, with no threads hanging – but as she made most of our clothes that was usually a moot point in childhood. She taught me how to darn socks, and how to make a roux so that I would never have to use a packet to make cheese sauce. I also credit my mother with my love of books, music and singing – and the value of Elizabeth David’s cook books and a lifelong love of cooking.

  20. laura512 May 8, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    Just keep going and do what you have to do to get through this moment right here. If the world is falling down around your ears, you get up, you go to work, you pay bills and you pick up what you can. Keep going and doing because stopping to worry about it never got a problem fixed.

  21. Liz May 8, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    Reading.

    She let me read whatever I wanted. And if that meand that she got concerned calls from my Ladybirds (younger version of Brownies – which is a younger version of Girl Guides) saying that I had been seen reading “The Diary of Adrian Mole” while waiting for my father to pick me up from meetings, so be it.

    And if that meant that she got cornered at family gatherings by the family sociopath, who was outraged at an 11 y/o reading PD James and Patricia Cornwall, then fine. (She did, however, advise me to lie to this particular person in future.)

    It got her grief. Having worked with children, I’m amazed at her bravery. I’m sure she blanched at some of the things she found me reading, but to this day books are something we can always bond over, no matter how angry we are at each other in the rest of our lives.

  22. Nomi May 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    A love of flowers and plants and a healthy dose of her own knowledge on matters horticultural and plant-aesthetic. I can’t drive or walk or bike through any area without noting everything that’s growing, its condition, its genus-species-variety, its smell, its color, etc etc etc. I’ve done my best to pass this on to my kids AND to make sure they know it comes from her. We didn’t get along but there is that.

  23. retna May 8, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    My mama let me be weird, geeky and a total nerd. She encouraged me to try whatever and whenever (always within legal limits) as long as I didn’t hurt others. She’s amazing with animals and taught me to appreciate other species. And she always listens. Love you mama!

  24. SaraB May 8, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    When I was in grade school, my mother told me “You’re not going to like everyone you meet, and not everyone’s going to like you.” This is something I still repeat to myself and find very liberating.

    She taught me good manners and how to make small talk (yes, even with the people you don’t like or who don’t like you), skills that have served me well throughout the years.

    And finally, she returned to school not once, but twice: in her 30s to get her accounting degree, and in her 50s to become a nurse. Her actions taught me that I should never be afraid of taking off in a new direction or changing things up. This might explain why I moved to the inter-mountain west from IL with no job, no place to live, and a U-haul.

    We’ve had our differences, but my mom is pretty awesome. I just hope I can be as great to my own kid as she was to me.

  25. Ellen W. May 8, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    Liz- My mom and I struck a bargain when I was 12: I could read whatever I wanted when I turned 15 or if she ran out of things for me to read before then.

    I can’t imagine the work it took for her to keep up with me, but she did it, I think I “graduated” from the bargain at 14 1/2 with her blessing. It was nice that for awhile there my favorite books had been her favorite books at the same age. But yes, when I was reading Poirot at 9 she got some side-eye from the other moms I think.

  26. megaera May 9, 2012 at 7:18 am #

    There’s a lot my mom has taught me, and picking one thing is hard but in light of this particular blog, I’m going to go with this example:

    I am not really a big girl, unless you count my breasts (which are large enough at this point to exert the gravitational pull of a small moon). But my mother is decidedly a big woman and, rather than spend my childhood worrying that take after her and restricting my food in anticipation of that day, my mother chose to let me eat the way I wanted. If I wasn’t hungry (and as a child, bar my two “big” growth spurts I had the appetite of a lethargic gnat,) I was never forced to finish my food. If I was hungry, I was free to eat, (as long as it wasn’t too sugary- candy was a special occasion thing.) My sister and I were always free to eat until we weren’t hungry anymore, and as a result, neither of us have any problems stopping eating when we’re full. OK, my sister does occasionally go on the family diet called, “If it hurts, STOP EATING, DUMMY!” I on the other hand, am pretty much physically incapable of eating past when I’m full. As I’ve seen my friends obsess and try to overcome eating/dieting habits that were inculcated as children, I’ve grown increasingly grateful to my mom for basically breaking the cycle of food insanity that I know she got from her mother.

  27. Jennie May 9, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

    It’s a toss-up.

    A) My mom never made me join Girl Scouts or soccer or learn piano if I didn’t want. Consequently, my non-school time was mostly my own, which I treasured.

    B) She worked at a giant government contractor in the eighties, and went to the Vice President with documentation when she was being discriminated against re: pay. I always believed her and Barbie: I could do anything!

  28. beacuz May 12, 2012 at 2:47 am #

    My mother is extremely religious and spiritual. As a result, in my most challenging times, I call her and we pray and I always know that the outcome will be whatever the outcome was suppose to be and somehow it always seems easier to accept the outcome this way.

  29. Jo May 16, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    Financial independence. My mother is smart, extremely hardworking, and over her career worked up to a six-figure job even though my father could have supported us just fine with no help. To my sisters and me, she passed on the belief that we alone were responsible for defining financial futures. There was never the unspoken expectation that I’ve been surprised to find in friends that it’s okay to be cavalier about picking a job because your husband’s higher earnings are part of the equation.

    We’ve pursued this in different ways: one sister is a highly-paid business woman, I’m a semi-starving artist :), and the other sister took a middle path (law degree to work for a non-profit). But I think we all got two lessons from it. One, overwhelming confidence in our own abilities (you can’t opt out of competing if you want the top salary in your field), and two, the complete freedom to pursue romantic relationships for love.