On this Super Bowl Sunday, my thoughts wander to memories of my mom. She was the one who taught me to really love football, insisting I understand the game before I attended my first high school football game. Shortly after I entered my 40’s, I suddenly and unexpectedly lost my mother. Though we spoke often at the time, I didn’t realize just how much she was still my sage. Like most women out there, my mother had been my first mentor. She taught me so many things about “what it is to be a woman.” For most women, it is a mother, for some, a grandmother, aunt, family friend, or other consistent female that serves as primary role model in the formative years. In motherhood, we transfer what we have internalized to the next generation when we become the role models. Through our example, we teach our daughters and sons our definition of a fulfilled woman worthy of support, love and respect.
Through my teenage eyes, my mother had a larger-than-life, over shadowing personality. At times, ours had been a contentious relationship. She raised 9 children , 6 of whom were daughters. Despite her experience, I often rejected her advice as outdated, inapplicable, or hyper-critical. Regardless of the type of advice, be it mothering, marriage, or womanhood, my pride routinely served as powerful earplugs, blocking my ability to absorb her messages. Casual conversations regularly yielded pearls of wisdom whose beauty, sadly, went unseen, unheard, and unacknowledged at the time.
I like to think we grow wiser with age, and, with maturity, I have come to recognize the timelessness of her wisdom. One “pearl” I clearly remember came when I was in my early thirties. I had told my mom how much I was enjoying my thirties. She responsed, “Thirties are good, but oh honey, wait until your forties. Fifties are even better!” She was right, forties have been pretty darn good, but I miss her guidance, tremendously.
Rarely do we scrutinize what we have internalized, going through our closets of old beliefs and discarding what doesn’t fit anymore. Whether as a consequence of my mother’s death, being the mother of teen girls myself, or in preparation for the transition years, I began to do just that a few years back. Though I still embrace all that my mother taught me, creating my own definition of what it is to be a woman, wife and mother has been transformational. I am not a carbon copy of my mother, nor do I routinely reject the parts of me that reflect her. Today, I gather “pearls of wisdom” from books, my sisters, friends, my daughters, and the echos of my mother. I am inherently myself and a unique refection of them all.
As I approach my fifties, I understand why my mom said “fifties are even better.” Hindsight is often 20/20. In reflection, her “larger than life” personality, that I struggled against as a teen, was really the glow of a woman embracing her uniqueness. Becoming the best, original version of ourselves is the best gift we can give ourselves and our families. By becoming my own woman, standing in my own light unimpaired by anyone else’s shadow, I can fully appreciate the importance of stepping out-of-the-way so that my daughters can bask in their own light, unobscured by my shadow, as they develop their own unique identities.
We are their role models, and they are watching our every move, internalizing our modeled beliefs . Someday, my daughters will scrutinize what they have learned from me. Hopefully, they will shed what does not fit. I learned a lot from my first role model, most importantly the joy that comes from “growing into your own skin” while allowing children to grow into theirs. For this I say, “Thank you, Mom. Your pearls have not been lost.”
Ask yourself, “What am I modeling today?”