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What I learned about parenting from my own mom

by Karen on May 8, 2011

For new moms, today is pretty much like every other day. Wake up earlier than you’d like, change diapers, feed the baby, step over the boxes in your living room, pack your entire house, deal with your husband’s wounded hand after he sliced it on a broken glass. What’s that? That’s not what you’re doing today? Well, that’s what I’m doing. And it sort of stinks. The parts about the moving and the flesh wound, that is. I don’t mind the baby stuff.

But it’s okay, because today is a day for reflection, too. As much as today feels like any other day, it’s the first Mother’s Day since I became a mother myself. My own baby is too young to express his gratitude (though he did sleep for 7 hours straight last night for the second night in a row!), I can be grateful for my own mother and reflect on what she taught me about motherhood.

This is my mom, Peggy.

And here are a few things she’s taught me about being a mom:

Don’t feel intimidated. My mom has four children, and we’re all about two years apart. She was pregnant or caring for an infant for about a decade. And it only got crazier as we got older. I can see how it would have been easy for her to hide out at home until we were old enough that we wouldn’t make her crazy in public. She didn’t, though. She got up, got us dressed, and got us out of the house. She carted all four of us to the grocery store while my dad was at work. We went on fun outings in the summertime. She was counting heads constantly to make sure she hadn’t lost anyone, but she never let herself feel too intimidated to live life with four children.

Play. We were always doing arts and crafts, playing games, and having fun. It helped that there were enough of us — including the neighborhood kids — that our house felt like a small daycare. It was never boring, and she was always right there with us playing and having fun.

Foster independence and individuality. None of us ever had an interest or hobby that my mom didn’t encourage. But she never pushed us. She gave us space to figure things out for ourselves.

Understand. Looking back, I realize that my mom never forgot what it was like to be a kid (or a teenager), and she tried her hardest to relate. She understood that we were going to make mistakes and get into trouble, and while there was discipline, she didn’t overreact.

Respect. My mom never talked down to us, even when we were small. She’s always said that you should talk to children like little adults, and it stuck with me. She never used baby talk, which is part of the reason we all ended up with an above average vocabulary, I’m sure. There was no idea or concept that we were “too young” to understand. If we had a question, she had an answer.

Trust your kids. My mom recognized that I was a good kid, and she gave me a lot of freedom and privileges because of that.

You don’t have to be irresponsible to be a “cool” mom. We’re all familiar with the cool mom stereotype. The immature, irresponsible mother who flirts with her daughter’s boyfriends, serves alcohol to minors at parties, and thinks being an irresponsible parent is a good way to hang on to youth. That was definitely not my mom. But that doesn’t mean she wasn’t cool.

She remembered what it was like to be young, and I could always depend on her for understanding even when it came to things that most other parents wouldn’t get. There were rules, and she didn’t make it easy for us to break them, but she did know that we probably would. She gave us room to make our own decisions and mistakes. When we made the wrong choices, she taught us about real world consequences without being overbearing or unyielding. She understood that breaking the rules is part of growing up, and she gave us room to make those mistakes, but she always held us responsible for our own choices. Most importantly, she knew how to have fun.

Let your kids grow up. Now that we’re adults, my mom still offers advice and guidance, but she really is more of a friend than an authority. This seems like a simple obvious thing, but I know there are parents out there who can’t let go of their authority role over their adult children. Now that we’re grown, she doesn’t admonish or judge or push her advice. She recognizes that we’re adults who are free to make our own choices without her interference. She let our relationship grow as we did, and I’m thankful for that.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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