Photo by Eden Frangipane
When I was growing up, I thought my mom and I were so incredibly different that I would be nothing like her when I grew up. We couldn’t be more different, and it’s not just because I was adopted. We didn’t look alike, sure, but we also had completely different tastes and personalities. Years later, with age and with my own children, I’ve realized how strong nurture really is.
Although the list of ways we are different is still pretty long, there are many habits, ideas and parenting philosophies that I can directly trace back to my upbringing. I’m truly turning into my mother.
1. Making homemade things to eat. My mom was, as I like to tell people, a pioneer woman – we ate so much off the land, it seems amazing now. Then, my friends thought we were weird. We had a large garden in the back that I picked vegetables and fruit from for most of our meals, and what we didn’t have, we spent the summer going to orchards and picking, to then can, freeze or turn into jam or applesauce. I would like to say that I have followed faithfully in her footsteps, but I haven’t come close to her dedication. However, I am working on it. Last fall, I spent 4 hours one Sunday making homemade applesauce (pureed gold, I tell you) only to have my kids say they didn’t like it. However, they love hers and her jam, so I am refining my technique. The more I read about the questionable ingredients in so many foods, the more I appreciate her efforts, and strive to be like her.
2. Good shoes, warm coats and boots. We grew up, like many, on a small budget, so my mom had some philosophies about how to best use it. For clothes, we bought few and well-made, from consignment shops sometimes. But, since we lived in a cold climate, she made room in the budget for good shoes, warm coats and boots. We played outside for hours, and she made sure we were comfortable. Now, I do the same. We have many hand-me-down clothes and swap liberally with friends, but my kids always have sturdy, well-made coats, shoes and boots.
3. Quality over quantity. This goes along with her clothes philosophy, but she always strived for quality over quantity in all things. If I picked something out, room decorations, clothes, whatever it was, I was expected to use it until it wore out or didn’t fit. Changing fashions had no place in our house. We bought quality items for house and person, and we stuck with them.
4. Team player. I’ll give this one to my dad. As my soccer coach, he stressed team playing over everything. If I was a hotdog, scored four goals and won the game for us, he considered that a fail. As part of a team, I was expected to support my team members, cheer for them and do all I could to make my team successful, and he considered those efforts more important than the final score. Now that my kids are playing team sports, we encourage the same behavior.
5. Conserving the environment. As a landscape architect, my dad was a treehugger in a time when it wasn’t popular, and as kids we had toys without batteries and kept away from motor sports. Living on the Great Lakes, our friends embraced motor boating and jetskiing, while we canoed and kayaked in silence, taking it all in. Today, my kids sail, paddleboard and kayak in the same peace.
6. Put everyone to work. You know when you are a guest at someone’s house, and you offer to help put dinner on the table or something similar? Well, at our house, you would be put to work, no matter who you are. My mom did a lot of work around the house, but did not appreciate other people lying around. Everyone had chores and tasks to help out. She worked outside the house and we all were expected to help with household tasks.
7. Responsibility. My mom (and dad) were big on responsibility. If you said you were going to do something, you did it. Even if you didn’t feel like it, you went to practice or kept plans with someone or volunteered. If you did something wrong, you admitted it.
8. Importance of family. That says it all.
9. Community service. My mom started a low-income health care center in the basement of our church, and sews quilts for foster kids so they have something to hold when they are removed from their homes. She set a high bar. I haven’t saved the world yet, but maybe my kids will.
10. “Because I said so.” I hated those words growing up, and now I say them constantly. Sometimes that should be the only reason for doing something. Every mom knows that.
Most days I fall short of most of these things, but at least I feel like my mom (and dad) gave me a good framework to strive toward. For all the times I said I would never be like my mother, well, I take it all back 🙂