Everything I Learned, I Learned from My Mami

Everything I Learned, I Learned from My Mami

One mom reflects on the biggest lessons she learned from her mom.


When I jumped into motherhood, I jumped headfirst: I read all the books, I talked to all my mom friends, I researched absolutely everything, and of course, my husband and I waited until just the right moment (haha).

And then, when I finally became a mom, I realized how unprepared I was. Having a new baby was completely overwhelming. And as that new baby grew from newborn to infant to toddler to preschooler, I soon learned that every stage of motherhood is totally, completely overwhelming in its own way.

Children are a whirlwind. Wonderful, squishy, lovable (and occasionally exasperating) whirlwinds. Every time my little whirlwind upgraded himself to a hurricane, I’ve realized how very much I wanted my mami. I have called her for advice; I have needed her shoulder to cry on. I have had questions; I have been completely confounded by my son’s latest antics.

It didn’t take me long to realize, despite my adolescent objections to the contrary, how much my propia madre had taught me. It may have taken my becoming a mom to fully understand the role a mother plays in her child’s life, but I understand now.

Here are a few of the lessons my mom taught me, and that I strive to instill in my son:

1. When you Say “Te quiero,” Mean It. In my family, “te quiero” is not a simple salutation for signing off a phone call or saying goodnight; it’s a phrase full of significance. Mami said it to me often, at times when it mattered – when I felt like a failure, when I had skinned my knee, when I was nursing a broken heart. And especially when she was angry or disappointed in me: she always loved me. She kept reminding me of this, even as I faded into adolescence and became too cool to say it back.

2. It’s Not a Mistake if You Learn from It (aka Be Resilient). As a perfectionist kid who loathed failure, a mistake always felt like the end of the world. But my mami always reminded me that I didn’t need to be perfect and that one blunder wasn’t the end of the world. If I learned from each moment, it wasn’t a mistake; it was a lesson – a map to do better next time.

3. Always Aspire to be Helpful and Kind. Many times, childhood is about learning what to do in the face of tough decisions. When I asked her what I should do, my mom always asked, “Are you being either helpful or kind?” Empathy and compassion are celebrated in my home.

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4. We are ALL Valuable. Mi madre didn’t distinguish between a lawyer and a sanitation worker: they both did very important jobs. We respect both equally.

5. Don’t Settle. Children must learn self-respect, and part of that process is learning what to accept from others. Mami was unwavering in her advice on this – don’t settle. Never let anyone – not friends, not boyfriends, not even authority figures – treat you poorly. Good relationships, even professional relationships, are built on respect. Period. End of story. No exceptions.

6. Be Emotional. Okay, so we’re Latinas and this may be a given, but my mother was big on emotions. Laugh. Cry. Yell. Hug. Don’t hide your feelings. (I’m proud today to tell my son it’s okay to cry.)

7. Be Grateful. Show Gratitude. Wow. This one has been completely eye-opening with my own child. Teaching gratitude – not just the words “thank you,” but the actual, deep-down feeling of genuine gratitude – is difficult. Mami taught me, at every opportunity, to be thankful for all things great and small. To appreciate everything I had.

8. Be Courageous. Sometimes the most difficult thing is taking the leap. As parents, we have to teach our kids to take risks. We have to teach them that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the decision to act even when we are fearful.

9. Carpe Diem. The new term is YOLO, but the idea is the same: seize the day – because you only live once. Treat each moment like it’s precious, because you never know when will be your last time to hug a special someone, or eat that cupcake, or travel to that far-flung destination.

10. Never Neglect Yourself. As a kid, I never, ever understood why my friends’ moms would spend every waking moment shuttling them everywhere, doing absolutely everything for them, while my mom insisted on reserving a smidgen of time to pursue her own interests. Now I get it. I SO get it. We are better when we nurture ourselves, too.

¡Gracias, mami!

What has your mami taught you about being a mother? Tell us in the comments below!


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