I lost a good friend recently, (I wrote about it here) and, because she was a mother, leaving behind a girl and a boy around my kids’ age, it has really gotten me to thinking about my own kids, and would they be ok, if I were suddenly out of the picture? And, after I sobbed a while at that thought, I thought of the lessons I hope I can pass on to them, to help them in their lives, whether I am in it or not. Some of these are profound, but others are just practical. Some of the lessons I have mastered personally, but more are like giving them homework, setting them the assignment for things I never managed to figure out, but wish I had. Since my kids will likely ignor my advice or resent it, or both, you get it. Lucky you, lol.
1. It is impossible to please everyone. No matter how wonderful you are, there is going to be someone who doesn’t like you. It is just a fact of life. Even people who do like you, frequently have unreasonable expectations of what you should do for them. In the end, you might as well please yourself. Those who love you will understand, and those who don’t, don’t matter as much.
2. Forgive yourself, and forgive others. No one is perfect, not even you. Life is a school where no one gets straight A’s, no matter what it looks like. Forgive, try harder, move on.
3. Your priorities should be God, Family, Friends, Community and World, in that order. Also, self so belongs on that list, but heck if I can figure out where it fits in. Maybe you will figure it out and tell me. Wouldja please? Also, here is an easy test to see where your priorities are: Where do you spend your money? Where do you spend your time? Where you spend these two most valuable comodities is where your priorities lie.
4. Have one fancy “company” dish that you know how to make, and keep the ingredients on hand so you can throw it together quickly. Mine is sausage penne with marinara sauce–the sausage rope I keep frozen and it is pre-cooked so I can just thaw it (microwave) and throw it in; the penne boils up in 11 minutes, and the sauce is Barilla from a jar. I throw in onion and garlic if I have extra time, but otherwise, the whole thing is ready in 15 mins, tops. Why should you do this? Because being able to entertain and feed unexpected guests is a) necessary sometimes, and b) a pleasure if you are prepared.
5. When you hem a pair of pants, make a knot about every fourth stitch or so. That way, if the thread breaks in one area, the whole hem won’t come out. (I am a costume mistress for a children’s theatre and I hem a whole lotta pants. Also, I am short and hem all my own.)
6. Treat your kids like you want to be treated. Don’t yell, hit, embarrass, shame or hurt your kids. When you have to correct, do so in a calm, normal voice, with the intention to teach, not punish. Definitely do discipline, because sometimes “no” is the most loving word you can say. Remember that they are people and you are teaching them how to treat you and others by how you speak to and treat them. Do be the parent, set limits, and don’t worry too much if they “like” you. If you’re doing it right, often they won’t–for the moment. They need their mom or dad–they have plenty of friends, but only one of you. Here is a very important thing: don’t say “no” right away, but once you do, NEVER change your mind. If you do, your kids will know you do not mean “no” and that if they nag enough, you will give in. This is very, very bad. Don’t go there. Remember that your kids are not you, don’t try to make them live your dreams. They deserve to have their own dreams, and to make their own mistakes.
7. Write thank-you notes. That means snail-mail, on pretty cards. Even if you have said thank-you verbally, a prompt note is required. E-mail does not count! Texting? Do you really have to ask? It says, “I know you didn’t have to do the nice thing that you did and I really appreciate that you thought of me whether I liked the gift or not.” Everyone hates writing them, everyone loves getting them. Just do it.
8. Take care of your self. Be nice to yourself. Take time for a nice long shower, buy shampoo that smells good and makes you happy. Splurge on your favorite coffee or tea, or whatever little thing makes you happy. Eat healthy food and do a little exercise every day, just as a way of saying, “I love you” to yourself. Wash your hands frequently and avoid crowds to keep from getting sick, which makes you miserable. Get enough sleep! You only get one life: enjoy it.
9. You will never feel better about yourself than when you are doing something for someone else. Be careful not to spread yourself too thin, though, because the high you get from service is addictive. If you do too much, you wreck it by feeling resentful. Remember your priorities: take care of your family and your home and work, and then, in small doses, volunteer to help others. You’ll feel great.
10. You can’t have it all–at once. To everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. When you are young, it is time to party and play and have fun. When you get a job you love, it is time to climb that ladder, baby! Show me the money! When you have kids, they should be your first priority over job and party. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a job (sometimes you’ve got to) just that you need to figure out how to still be present for your children. Good luck with that, and tell me if you figure it out! Trying to be “super-mom” (or dad) will only make you miserable. Make choices instead.
11. Don’t worry. It does no good. Period. Expect the best, plan for the worst, and give it all to God. Also, eliminate un-necessary sources of stress. Always leave early and give yourself plenty of time to get places. Stress is toxic, and much of it is just a waste. Learn to go from, “Oh no!” to “Oh, well.” Accept life on its terms. Find a healthy outlet for feelings and stress. I recommend exercise (specifically walking because of its meditative qualities) and journaling.
12. Remember, love is a verb. If someone loves you, they will behave in loving ways. They will not deliberately hurt you, put you down, be sarcastic all the time, or do things to “get your goat.” Similarly, if you love someone, you will be patient and loving and forgiving, doing little things to make them happy and be there for them. Anyone can say, “I love you.” Find someone who shows it (outside the bedroom, too.) ;) Marriage takes a huge amount of work. Most people get divorced, unfortunately. Love anyway. Know that you will only be as happy with someone, as you were without them. Others cannot make us happy–that is an inside job. Unfortunately, the wrong someone can definitely make you unhappy. It takes a mighty good spouse to be better than none, so choose carefully!
13. Have a prayer life. Being able to go to God with all my problems, joys, sorrows, worries, and happiness has been one of the most comforting and best things in my life. I want for you the friend I have in Him.
Along with all of this, know that I have loved you, beyond my big-mouthed capacity for expression, beyond all measures. I treasure you, I am proud of you, I believe in you. You two are my light, my reason to smile in the face of anything. You have taught me so much, and it has been a privilege to be your mom. All my love, Always, Mom