For some of us, that's a wonderful memory because our mothers were guides and teachers who cheered us on and loved us unconditionally. For others of us, those voices can be painful because our mothers were flawed individuals who made mistakes in their own lives and in parenting us. Honestly, I think most of us have mothers who were mixtures of both. Some of you might think that's a radical thing to say aloud, but I don't think seeing our parents as mixtures of good and bad, right and wrong, flawed and trying are bad things. While there is a tendency to romanticize the memories we have of those who are gone, I work really hard to take the best parts of my mother and emulate them and to take the worst parts of my mother and learn from or avoid them. That effort has definitely impacted the kind of person I am today and the kind of parent I was (am) to my daughter.
As I was thinking about writing this blog post, I thought it might be fun to make a list of the things I remember my mother saying to me and to ask my daughter to do the same. I wanted to know what she remembers hearing me say, not what I remember telling her. I think there's a significant difference between the two. Here are a handful of those memories.
Whenever I was in trouble - "Tiffany Lynn Lowder, come here right now." variation "Young lady, come here right now."
When I would dawdle or hem and haw about the first request - "Don't make me come after you. When I call your name, come right away. If I say jump, you say how high!"
Pretty much constantly - "You are the smartest, prettiest, sweetest daughter I could ever want. You can do anything you want to do with your life."
When I'd be an obnoxious kid - "I'm going to count to three, and then you'd better straighten up, or I'll jerk a knot in you."
From my teenage years - "Don't you do anything to embarrass this family. Your reputation matters."
From my childhood onward - "We wash our clothes but shampoo our hair. We paint houses and polish our nails." There were more, but those are the two that stand out in my memory.
When I was pouting or otherwise angry "Don't you roll those eyes at me, young lady; I see what you're doing."
On teaching me how to be a good person "There are two kinds of people in the world: givers and takers. I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure you're not a taker."
Here's a photo of Kelsey at age 5 - for some reason, this is the age I often picture her as in my mind's eye.
My daughter says that she hears my voice telling her:
Anytime she was wearing something stained, ripped or unacceptable - "People are going to think you're an orphan."
On the weekends when I didn't want to be awakened too early - "Don't wake me up before the clock says 8-0-0 unless you're bleeding."
Just a couple of weeks ago when we went to the ballet - "It's unsophisticated to fill your wine glass to the brim- only half at a time."
Ever since she was a toddler and would complain about feeling any kind of sick - "When was the last time you pooped? I think you just need to go to the bathroom."
Daily, just because - "I love you, Fred!"
From her teenage years - "You gave me Tourette's when I taught you how to drive a stick. I thought you were trying to kill me!"
Her entire childhood whenever I'd mention something from school or something risque - "You know you should never repeat this, right?"
Whenever she did anything wrong or embarrassing or questionable or whenever she adopted a bad habit - "You didn't get that from me."
Ever since she was 16 years old whenever she experienced any kind of car trouble - "Is your car out of gas? Tell me the truth. Are you sure?"
Ever since she was a teenager and could borrow them - "Do you still have my credit/debit card or did you lose it? Be honest."
I had honestly hoped Kelsey would choose something more profound that she remembered I said. Instead, it seems like she remembers a lot of the nagging and not as many as the inspirational things. How about all the times I told her it cost her nothing to be kind? How about all the times I told her to listen and be a good friend? What about all the times I encouraged her to do the right thing even when her friends were not? I'm going to try not to dwell on that and instead be glad that she at least remembers some of my 'wise' words. ;)
What does your mother's voice say to you? What lessons do you take from that even today?