Neither of my parents have ever been big on giving advice--they've always been lead-by-example types, who dole out capital A Advice pretty sparingly. I honestly think that if you asked me when I was ten or eleven something concrete my mom had taught me about life (besides like, walking) I wouldn't have even been able to articulate something. I've been considerably further around the metaphorical block at this point, though, and I know I owe her an awful lot. So here's some important things I learned from my mom.
1. How to Not Give a Fuck
My mom, Katie, homeschooled my siblings and me until I was in the seventh grade, something I don't think I even appreciated all the way until recently. Although homeschooling might be why I was ridiculously shy until I was about 16 (maybe that's just biology, I don't know) I know that being raised that way gave me some of my strongest and best traits as well. Homeschooling taught me to be an independent learner, to follow what you're interested in, and--ready, this is cheesy--to be myself. Because if nothing else, homeschooling teaches you not to give a fuck about what anyone else thinks. I hope I'd have the patience and the courage to do that for my own kids someday, but I honestly don't know if I would--so I have to be pretty in awe of that.
2. How to Like Your Small Boobs
When I listen to my friends talk about how fat they're feeling or how they can't wear that top because it makes their legs look weird or how much they hate their nose/hips/elbows/chin/thighs, I send up a little "thanks Mom." Girls put themselves down a lot and I'm convinced that although friends make it worse, it many times--not always--starts with mom. If all you hear is "fat talk" from the time you're eleven, that's going mess you up a little. Now, my mom's approach to all of this is, again, something I didn't even appreciate until recently. Her approach was always to feed us very healthy food, make sure we were active and otherwise, for the most part, leave us alone. I went through a time where I was pretty "sedentary" (her words) and she always pushed me to get out and move, not because I was going to get fat (although obviously I probably would have), but because it's just healthy. And it's not healthy to get fat, either, but my mom placing that constant emphasis on eating well and exercising because it's good for you definitely gave me a healthy outlook on life and --blech--"body image."
So she got the big stuff right, although I don't think anyone ever showed me how to put on makeup, and I know that I didn't learn to tweeze my eyebrows (she did eventually show me that) until at least eighth grade, because there is a class photo of me looking like Frida Kahlo in a polo shirt. But, priorities.
And my mom's final piece of advice about body image: "Don't wish for bigger breasts. It's a pain in the neck when you exercise, and when you get older....well, gravity is a cruel mistress."
3. How to Have a Happy Relationship
My boyfriend and I agree that one of the best things our respective parents did for us was a.) stay married and b.) seem genuinely happy to be married. I feel hugely lucky to have my parents as an example of a happy marriage, and I don't underestimate how important that has been in my life (again, I feel like this is the kind of thing you definitely don't appreciate when you're twelve).
4. How to Feel Better
Go for a walk.
5. How to Tell Left From Right
I have a mole on my left hand. I still refer to this periodically.
6. How to Fake it in Math Class Despite Your Crippled Left Brain
Do all your homework. Get A's in English.
7. How Not to Be That Girl
Don't drink when you're sad.
8. How to be Polite
Put your napkin in your lap and always write thank you notes.
9. How to Let Go
(Mom holds out a closed fist)
"It's a red balloon..." (opens fist) "Let it go." I'm always embarrassed by how well this works.
10. How to Help in a Crisis
Make a lasagna.
what, there are no not-gross songs about moms.