In the spirit of Mother's Day, I've been enjoying the sublime collection of essays What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most edited by Elizabeth Benedict. The anthology is rich in stories and memories, and like all good books, it forces us to reflect on our own lives. I am a mother, a step-mom, and a daughter, and it's funny how becoming a mother myself has made me appreciate just how much my own mother has given me over the years, a delightful bouquet of gifts -- life lessons large and small. Here are the top 20 that are worthy of celebration in my metaphorical book:
- Let go of your perfectionist tendencies. You'll never measure up to perfection, nor will anyone else you love.
Read, read, and read some more. It's through stories that we can travel to other worlds and learn to empathize with many different kinds of characters and, thus, people. Use spray starch when ironing. It really makes a difference in getting the wrinkles out. People give what they're able; don't be disappointed if someone doesn't deliver in the way you would have or would have expected them to. Make your bed every morning. It will give you a fresh start to each day and make you feel as if you've already accomplished something. Don't forget to put a few drops of water in the bottom of your votive candle holders. The candles will unstick much more easily when it's time to replace them. Classical music can actually be relaxing and soothing and you should listen to it sometimes. For goodness sake, put the toilet paper on the dispenser when the roll is empty. Be kind. You don't know what kind of day someone is having. Listen. Often being a good friend, wife, daughter, mother means listening, not talking over someone. You'll never sleep soundly again once you have a baby, but that's okay. You'll be able to steal naps here and there, and eventually you'll appreciate all that training in sleep-deprivation when hot flashes hit. There is pretty much nothing you can't make with condensed cream of chicken soup. Color-sorting laundry can be a waste of time, especially if you wash in cold water. If your husband forgets to push in his chair, let it go. He's a good man and that's why you married him. Remember that. Take some time for yourself, whether it be reading a book, taking a walk, appreciating the sunset at night. You'll find it helps you to stay centered when life is at its craziest. Be good to your siblings. Family will mean everything to you eventually. Surround yourself with a strong group of girlfriends. They can help you through thick and thin, not to mention they'll make life a whole lot more fun and interesting. Trust your instincts. If a career choice or something else isn't working out as you'd hoped, be willing to make a change. You'll be surprised by the opportunities that will present themselves. Keep engaged with the world, whether through the newspaper, classes, volunteer work. The world is larger than your own and remember John F. Kennedy's words: "One person can make a difference, and everyone should try."Love, love, and give more love to your children. You can never give them too much.
Thanks, Mom, for all your gifts. Oh, and Happy Mother's Day!