Growing up, the greatest influence in my life was always my mother. Some will say that led me to be metrosexual, feminine, sensitive and emotional, but to the complete contrary, I think it was the exact thing that led me to the man I am today. A man that is secure, unafraid to be vulnerable, considerate, a good listener, empathetic, and a gentleman, but most importantly, my mother taught me to follow my heart and live with love and passion. For this I will be forever indebted to her and helping prove to her that everything she did for me growing up didn’t go unnoticed, but rather built up a colossal I-Owe-You account that I intend on slowly paying back.
I’m sure there are going to be a lot of sons out there reading this that could easily compile their own individual lists, but this is mine (so there!). This is the list of golden life lessons my mother taught me. I only hope there are enough out there who were as lucky as I was and just so happened to be the most inspired by the woman in which they came from.
1. Follow your heart: I know this is ridiculously cliché and redundant to the point of exhaustion, but it was the truth in my upbringing. My mom is the definition of the type of person who wears their heart on their sleeve. Whether it was coming home after a late evening workout to find her in a pool of tears over some hokey situation that had just ensued on the Bachelor, or some story on CNN that had moved her to the point of uncontrollable baby tears. Her and I have shared a lot of tears over the years and that helped us get through to the good moments. It was through these weak moments that she taught me, “It’s okay to be weak, a mess, and confused” because you’re the most human in these moments. It was through this confession of love, support, and emotion that she gave me the strength and freedom to go after the things I wanted in life with complete disregard for rejection and failure. She always taught me to do what it was that made me happy. She never pressured me down any particular life path, but rather sat back and watched me figure it out for myself, all the while being there to support me when I needed her most. I always knew she would be there to give me a good cry if things came crashing down. That alone was always enough to lead me into the fray of life willing to learn and make mistakes.
2. How To Have Fun: Yes, I know I’m probably an anomaly for saying this but it’s the truth. My mom is my partner-in-crime (although she won’t admit to those exact words). I’m a twenty-something male and my sixty-something mother taught me the definition of fun. She taught me to stop being so serious and to enjoy life. She taught me that life’s best first-aid kit is having a sense-of-humor. I can now remember all of our adventures together: stocking our favorite hockey team over new years in Dallas, taking shots and hitting the dance floor at Ghost Bar, salsa lessons, yearly Vegas trips, as well as all the pre-drinks where she joined in with all of my friends and just became one of the group. I remember one particular moment where my mother’s “coolness” and our unique friendship really struck me. We were at the Spearmint Rhino Strip club in Vegas (where we ended up by accident she will claim), and I come back from the bathroom, and stripper-after-stripper is approaching my mother asking if she would like a dance. Now you would think this is where most moms would lose their mind and become completely cagey and uncomfortable, but my mom had the most jubilant smile littered across her face. She found it hilarious, and that’s where I really learned the lesson of rolling with the punches and having fun in life. I mean if my mom could handle herself with a smile at a Las Vegas strip club, then I had no excuses for becoming an uptight male who took himself too seriously.
You see while most kids were embarrassed of their mother, I felt like a cooler person for having her as my mother. I think you can see why.
3. Your friends will make life’s best dance partners: My mom’s friend circle is so crowded that it puts my number of Facebook friends to shame. She has so many people who love her surrounding her that it amazes me. How does she do it? How does she manage to keep up with people the way she does? It’s because she makes the effort. She makes the people in her life feel like they’re the most important people on the planet. For that, her friendship is contagious and everyone wants to have her in his or her life. I can remember all the times that she would challenge me over the years, “So what are so…and…so up to?” and every time I wouldn’t have a sufficient answer, she would tell me to make sure I kept up with that person. It always stuck with me as a reminder that no matter what happens in your journey, none of it will matter if you don’t have the right dance partners to share the moments with. Through my mom’s example, she has taught me about the value of friendship.
4. Don’t be a hopeless male: I’ll admit growing up in our household, these were words that were said often, but not reinforced enough. I was given a little too much leeway when it came to picking up after myself and helping out around the house. But that’s not to say that the words don’t still play through my mind, as I’m a fully functioning adult now. I often revert back to the moments when my mom would say; “One day you’re going to be married and you don’t want to be that guy sitting on the couch, drinking his beer, while your wife cleans up after you”. Now every time I see one of my roommate’s dishes lying astray on the coffee table in the living room, or I stupidly promised a girl that I would cook for, I always come back to these words she would tell me often, running through my mind like persistent fire drills.
5. How To Be Positive: This is something that still to this day I’m working on, but my mother is the most positive person I know. She has that unexplainable sunny disposition that some people have. It’s often hard to fathom how she does it, but she does. It’s as if she wakes up on the right side of the bed every morning and takes an injection of serotonin. Growing up, my best impression of her was always this outrageously high-pitched shriek that my friends found absolutely hysterical. It might have been a joke, but the way in which she constructs her attitude towards life is no laughing matter. She doesn’t get weighed down by the small things in life and is always upbeat to the point that she becomes annoying. It’s through this constant attitude reminder that I have learnt that your thoughts and how you approach life is ultimately what you’re going to get out of it.
6. How To Accept Love: Still to this day, I have the hardest time finding ways to show and tell my mom how I feel about her. I think that’s normal for a lot of sons, though. It’s difficult for us to express and emote to our moms all that they mean to us. That being said, I know that no matter what, I will always be able to count on my mom to be my biggest fan – glitz and glamour, or rags and rats, she will always be there waving her pom poms and chanting my name. This has taught me how to accept love. You’re going to find people in life that you love uncontrollably, and unconditionally, don’t push them away but embrace them and let them love you as much as they do do. These are the people that are going to give you strength in life. They’re going to make the struggles bearable, the lessons important, the good moments worth it, and success that much sweeter when you get there. Don’t fight and push away those that love you most, but let them love you with all their heart.
7. She Taught Me About Standards: I’ve always had the highest standards with women, and I have my mother to thank for this. So I guess I should thank my mom for the fact that I’m still single (just kidding…but seriously). I remember a conversation I had with my sister recently about marriage and finding the one, and she said this: “You’re going to meet a girl and fall in love and get married very quickly….I mean….you have great friends and you have the best mother-in-law a girl could ever ask for”. Ever since that conversation, it has become apparent to me that my astronomically high-standards are because my mom is such a cool woman. She has blazed a trail that is going to be very difficult for someone to follow after. I mean if I were a woman, I would not want to have to fill the massive daughter-in-law shoes that a girl is going to have to fill one day. My mom makes Robert De Niro in ‘Meet The Parents’ seem like a feeble opponent. But truth is, when I do find the right one, my mom will be there with her party shoes on and shots in hand, excited to get to know her new dance partner.
The love a son has for his mother is tough. It’s hard for us to show emotion. Our mothers smother us with love our entire lives and we spend most of it shoving them away and telling them to leave us alone. But all the while, we know that they own our love. We’re suckers for our moms. We love our moms. We know that they would do anything for us, and we know that they did everything to make us happy throughout our childhood. All we can do is try and slowly pay them back for all the lessons they taught us by first, letting them know they’re appreciated. That everything they did for us growing up didn’t go unnoticed, but rather, served as a great collection of experiences and memories that helped shape the men we’re today.
So thanks mom, for teaching me to dream and live with a full heart, to treat people around you the right way, to be unafraid to fail and make mistakes, but most importantly, to enjoy the time you have. To make sure you put on your party shoes, throw on your best smile, and start dancing while the music is good.
If it weren’t for the life lessons my mom taught me, I wouldn’t be the man I am today.