Growing up, my mom and I butted heads often. We didn't have a rocky relationship by any means; maybe "pebble-strewn" is a better descriptor. I found myself sometimes resentful that my mother was always so busy and I'm certain that she in turn was exasperated by my reactivity and middle-school long lust for expensive jeans.
It took me until college to fully appreciate how rad my mother is. I came to realize that every single thing my mom did—no matter how it might've made me feel—stemmed from a place of deep love. I know this because after an ex once broke-up with me unexpectedly, my mother drove the three hours round trip to Wesleyan just to hug me. I am one seriously lucky kid.
Although in many ways my mom and I are very different, I can see in certain moments just how clearly we're cut from the same cloth. We share the same arched feet and love of reading. We're both super feelers and kind of crazy cat ladies. I know I am her daughter because I have inherited my insane desire to do and utter lack of common sense from her.
In celebration of Mother's Day, I want to share five lessons I've learned from my mom that have truly changed how I live my life. I am so grateful for my mom and wish for everyone to have a mother, whether biological or adopted, as compassionate, caring, and courageous as mine.
TAKE PRIDE IN BEING A PAIN
As a teenager, I was mortified by how opinionated my mom was. If she didn't like something, if she wanted something done differently, she said so. She talked openly and honestly with my friends when I wanted her to stay upstairs (teenage girls are a treat). During a trip to Israel that was so tense it's since become the stuff of family lore, I froze my mother out after I felt that she pushed too hard for something or other.
Years later, while out to dinner with my friend and his parents, I watched as his mother patiently accommodated her curmudgeonly husband. He kept grumbling about this and that and she kept sweetly squeezing his shoulder and nodding yes, I know, yes of course and I left the dinner weirdly unsettled. I realized it was because that was so not the dynamic in my family. This is partly because I've never seen my father act rudely and partly because my mom would not tolerate that shit. My mom is incredibly gracious—but she's not a pushover. She speaks her mind and goes after what she wants. She's taught me to take pride in being a pain, as it were, when the stakes matter.
I admire how my mom has become a surrogate mother to so many of my friends by virtue of (1) loving fiercely and (2) feeding everyone who crosses her threshold absurd amounts of food. Although she has a strong desire to protect the people she loves, she is never overbearing. Her Mama Bear spirit encourages me to take care of my friends and family and to give love (and homemade granola) generously.
FOOD IS LOVE
Whenever I come home, my mom always has the pantry stocked with my favorite fruits and vegetables and savory snacks. It makes me feel exceptionally taken care of. More recently, she's taken strides to adopt a diet that reflects the environmental and ethical values that matter most to me. It means the world to me that my mother is so open to tweaking her perspective. I want the people I love to feel nourished and listened to in the same way.
PRIORITIZE YOUR GIRLFRIENDS
My mom hangs with some seriously brilliant and badass women. She's given me so many role models to learn from and I am very inspired by how easily she cultivates new connections and forges fresh friendships. She's got a great sense of humor, sure, but I think part of why she has such strong friendships is because she prioritizes being a good friend. She strives to meet people where they are and to treat everyone she encounters with warmth, mindfulness, and a kind heart.
DO YOUR OWN THING
Pretty much every time I call my mother, we have twenty minutes to talk because she's got to run into the city to see a show with friends or fly to Spain to lead a trip along the Camino or host a writing workshop (seriously). She leads a truly interesting and engaged life; I love that she's always seeking out adventures, both near and far. I know my brother and I are my mom's world but we're not her whole world, you know? She does her own thing.
My mom says that when we pursue our passions, it's like we're squirrels going out into the forest to bring nuts back to the nest. That sentiment has stuck with me throughout my life. Whenever I'm afraid of taking a big next step, I think I'm just a squirrel going out to collect nuts and no one worry, because I'm coming back to the nest. Lucky for me, I know I always have a nest to come home to. And if my mom has anything to do with it, that nest will be STOCKED with all my favorite food.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom. Keep doing your thing. I love you to the moon and back.