Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lessons from My Mom

As part of my gift to my mom this year for Mother’s Day, I decided to compile a list of things she has taught me – lessons that extended far beyond my childhood years to still resonate today. I thought I would share some of those lessons with you. I’m confident the world would be a better place if more of us were teaching these lessons to our young people!

1.     “Life is not fair. Period.” Kids (and adults) are always clamoring for things to be fair. If she gets to do it, I should get to do it too. The reality is that life is NOT always fair. You will not always get what you want. You will not always make the team. You will not always be accepted to the group. Young people can whine about it all day long but the sooner they learn to accept that sometimes life will throw them lemons, the sooner they’ll be able to start making lemonade. And the sooner they can begin to develop the skills needed to handle disappointment.

2.    “Sometimes the strongest thing you can do is be silent.” I saw my mother practice this more than preach it. I watched her in moments where she had every right to be angry, every right to lash back out at someone, when instead she took a deep breath, held her head high, and walked away. Much like the “life is not fair” lesson, this was powerful for me as a teenager – particularly when I felt I was being treated unfairly. When I think of the abundance of bullying that goes on today and how much work goes into trying to stop it, I also wonder if we’re equipping our young people to realize that someone else’s opinion of them does not define who they are – does not determine their worth. There will always be someone who will talk badly about them, gossip about them, be mean to them in general. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, the strongest thing they can do is take a deep breath, hold their head high, and walk away.

3.     “There are over a quarter of a million words in the English language so you should never need to use curse words. We might also work on how we put the others together when we are expressing ourselves.” This was a lesson my mom mentioned often in her classroom as a high school English teacher before retiring and that we often heard at home – particularly the last part. What if we were teaching our children to use words that build others up rather than tear them down?

4.     “Your clothes should draw attention to your countenance. Your face is what you want people to notice about you.” This is one I find myself sharing most often today when I speak to parents. Our sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandchildren, students need to understand that their value and worth does NOT come from their cup size or the circumference of their waist. When we teach them to dress in a way that does not focus attention on their bodies, we instill within them a sense that their worth comes from what is in their heads and hearts instead. This lesson goes along with another which is “You are special and beautiful because God made you, and God doesn’t make junk!”

5.    “If you are bored, it's your fault. There is too much to do in the world for you to ever be bored.” Growing up, this often referred to the mess that was my bedroom or clean dishes that screamed to be put away. My mom knew there were always things that needed to be done! But it also speaks to a greater notion of looking beyond ourselves to see the needs around us. When our young people tire of the DS and the iPad and whatever is on TV, does it occur to them to find out how they can get involved in their community? Are there soup kitchens that need servers? Are there food pantries that need shelves stocked? Are there community center programs for children that could use volunteers? Is there an elderly neighbor who could use assistance with yard work? We live in a world where the needs are unending, so to instill the idea of not accepting boredom – of seeking out things to do and ways to be involved – is critical. Not accepting boredom also allows young people to use their imaginations and discover their talents in ways that probably won’t happen through the latest Wii game or YouTube video.

Here are a few more self-explanatory lessons my mom taught me:
6.    “Remember WHO you are and WHOSE you are.”
7.    “When you make your bed, your whole room looks cleaner” (even if it isn’t).
8.    “A little bit of lipstick immediately makes you feel more pulled together” (even if you aren’t).
9.    “Overdressing a little for any occasion where you’re unsure of the dress code guarantees you’ll never be under dressed.”
10.    “Sundays are for church and napping – in that order.”
11.    “When you live with a song in your heart, you’ll find you have a song for everything.”
12.    “Be an encourager.”
13.    “Use punctuation correctly.”
14.    “Dust before you vacuum.”
15.    “Honor your father and mother.”

Many thanks to Mrs. Beth Green Becker for the content of this blog.

by Dana Becker, Spartanburg Community Specialist, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy 

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