When I look back on the past, there are so many things that I regret. I regret not spending enough time with my grandparents before they passed away. I regret not calling my dad more before he died. And one big thing I regret is not appreciating my mother like I should have until I was in my 20’s.
I’m aware this isn’t uncommon. Small children view their parents as chauffeurs, maids and waitresses. I know that teenagers, especially, think their parents don’t know anything and of course, don’t think their parents had any kind of life or identity prior to becoming parents. It’s not until we become parents that we figure out they were right all along. And it’s not until we become mothers that we turn into actual versions of our mothers, unknowingly imitating everything they’ve ever done.
Having been a mother now for a few years and having faced my share of trials and tribulations, I’m reminded more everyday just exactly HOW right my mother had been. All of those things she said day after day turned out to be true, and I now find myself calling her daily for all the advice I turned away all those years. Now that I find myself in the mom driving seat, I call on her wisdom as much as I possibly can so I can share it with my daughter. And there are few soul-touching truths that stay in the forefront of my brain on a daily basis. Truths that guide me through this journey of life and remind me that though life is stressful, everything is going to be ok.
1. Courage and Confidence
My mom would always utter these words to me, for as long as I can remember. As a young girl, she always taught me I was strong and capable. These 2 words summed things up for her. She always taught me that courage would give me the strength to conquer my fears and chase my dreams. And confidence is what exudes from us, showing people around us just how capable we are. She raised me to believe that even though I’d be challenged, doubted, and left out, if I managed to have courage and confidence, I could handle anything life threw my way. These 2 words are now something I tell my daughter every morning when I drop her off at school, because I want her to know from a very early age that if she finds courage and confidence inside of her, she can accomplish anything. Even in pre-k.
2. There is nothing that a warm bubble bath with candlelight can’t fix.
My mom worked long, grueling hours in the restaurant business. She’d come home late on the weekends, always exhausted. I remember waiting for her to get home and drawing her a hot bath, lighting her candles and pouring her wine, because I knew after a long night at work, that was the quiet sanctuary she craved. She’d sit in the tub for awhile, then come out and manage to give my brother and I the time with her that we needed, despite feeling exhausted from work. That time in the bath charged her batteries. Maybe it’s the dark room. Maybe it’s the flickering candles. Whatever it is, it’s the cure to a rough day, a bad breakup, or a challenging day as a mother. I find myself soaking in the tub with bubbles and candles, and thinking of the sacrifices she made to give us a good life, and it energizes me and makes me feel close to her.
3. Make your own roux
Being the good Southern woman she is, she loved to cook and was a patient teacher. On busy weeknights, we’d pick up Chinese food. On Fridays, she’d cook personal pizzas for us, and our Sundays were usually devoted to an all-day cooking spaghetti. Once I acquired an interest in cooking, she spent time with me teaching me great short cuts and ways to prepare meals that weren’t extremely time consuming. But, one thing she never compromised on was that as Southern women, we make our own roux. She taught me all about the colors, how it turns from peanut butter to chocolate. She helped me appreciate the smells, how it can instantly change the mood of your home. She’d talk about how “some people” didn’t have the patience. But, if I took the time to stand at the stove, constantly stirring, I’d be able to create a masterpiece that is a necessary skill for South Louisiana women to know. After all, I’m responsible for passing down these special traditions to my children. After ruining a few rouxs and having to throw them in the trash, I eventually mastered the art of roux making, and I’ve never bought roux in a jar. It’s a special labor of love that makes me feel close to her, no matter how far apart we are.
4. Always show up.
My mother displayed a great work ethic and taught me that no matter what job I have, I need to show up. She raised me to believe that I’d make her proud no matter what I did for a living, as long as I cared and showed up. Every day. She taught me that even on the hard days, it’s important to put on your makeup, fix your hair, and show up, ready to work. Even when you’re struggling on the inside, it’s important to put your best foot forward and push on, because in the end, that perseverance is what’ll get you through the hard times.
5. Tell the truth.
My mom used to tell me “If you lie, you have to follow that lie to the end. You have to remember the lie, live the lie, and carry the lie. That is hard. MUCH harder than telling the truth.” I still find this so important and true. I value honestly so much, and my mom often tells me I’m “honest to a fault.” Honesty helps your loved ones confide in you, as you are reliable. Honesty helps you appear as someone with integrity – the person people want to hire, marry, and befriend. Being a constant role model to our children, displaying honesty encourages them to be honest, too, opening up the doors of communication and allowing them to trust you. Honesty is the value that keeps on giving.
6. The truth about grace.
Life is hard. My mother never tried to sugar coat that. We will be faced with challenges almost daily and will be forced to make hard choices. We will face hardships, death, betrayal, and sometimes feel like we’re carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. But, there’s a thing that carries us through. Grace. My mom embodies grace, carrying herself with strength and dignity even when faced with life’s hardest problems. Grace is not only something that we embody, but something we receive from God. Grace takes the form of mercy, forgiveness, healing and strength. If we recognize the grace God gives to us, we’re able to shower it on others. It’s a never ending gift that Southern women naturally possess, and something that can strengthen if we acknowledge it.
I’m forever grateful for these lessons from not only my mother, but other strong Southern women in my life. Some people may think that Southern women have it “easy,” as they are typically in good spirits and are trying to help others. But the truth is, Southern women are made of grit, strength and grace. And everything we know, is because of strong, Southern women who came before us.