The relationships between mothers and daughters is a sacred and complex bond that cannot be understood by any onlooker, whether your relationship with your mother is positive or negative it is certain you have learned something from her – whether you realize it, or not.
Perhaps your mother was on time for everything, needed everything perfect, and if anything was out of place became extremely aggravated and overwhelmed? You most likely learned the importance of being on time, but also saw the frustration that came from living day to day as an extreme perfectionist. Growing up with a narcissistic or abusive mother may have taught you some unhealthy coping mechanisms and left you with trust issues – but as you grew you learned that setting boundaries with toxic family members is healthy.
Personally, I grew up with a single mother who did her best to keep me alive while I struggled with pediatric intractable Epilepsy. She was always stressed, never slept a full night until I was seventeen years old, and had brain surgery to control my seizures. Aside from being my personal nurse she also worked as a pediatric home care nurse for children with medical and cognitive disabilities, and now works with adults with intellectual disabilities and co-occurring mental health issues.
She was not always perfect but watching her fight and advocate for me with everything she had made me realize what a gift I had. In this article, I plan to share important life lessons I learned from her as I watched in awe as she navigated our life and the challenges we faced.
The first life lesson I learned from my mother is how to be resilient. I watched, fully aware of the level at which we often struggled due to the limitations my epilepsy put upon my Mother’s life, and career opportunities – and she never complained or gave up. As an adult, I can only imagine the weight of the burden she carried upon her shoulders caring for me alone.
According to AboutKidsHealth.com, “The responsibility in single-parent families can be immense because the one parent must oversee all aspects of the child’s care, including monitoring the child’s seizures. Exclusive responsibility for parenting a child with epilepsy may limit the parent’s opportunities to engage with friends and extended family. Social outings may be difficult to plan because of the unpredictable nature of seizures. Feelings of isolation and loneliness may be challenging at times.”
Despite her isolation and exhaustion, she fiercely fought against the administrative systems that sought to minimize my abilities and take away my right to access equitable education services and experience as normal an academic environment as possible. She kept meetings with principals and school nurses who told me I was no longer welcome in their school, guidance counselors who ordered me to stop seizing, and CNAs who refused to arrive on time causing me to miss class.
The second lesson I learned growing up was the value of a good bargain! Every Tuesday evening when I was in elementary school, my Mom would take my best friend Laura and me to the BOGO small cheese pizza special at our favorite pizza place and then the $5.00 movie at West Boylston Cinema. For about $25 we got to eat delicious pizzas and see amazing first-run movies – and I learned to never spend premier prices at the movie theater. I knew that money was best saved for when we went on vacation and frequented our favorite consignment shops.
This brings me to the third, and one of the most enjoyable lessons and values my Mom instilled in me: the importance of thrift and consignment shopping. At the time, thrift/consignment shopping was the most practical for us – and is aligned with our goals to be as sustainable as possible.
We loved to support the thrift shop at Abby’s House, a local shelter for battered and abused women that only sells women’s clothing. Another favorite of mine was this sweet little shop we always hit on our way up to Gloucester, my Mom knew where all the upscale consignment shops were that had gorgeous designer clothes for the cost of a t-shirt at Wal-Mart. She taught me to shop smart, shop sustainable, and shop secondhand and I will always be grateful for that.
The fourth life lesson goes quite well with shopping on a sunny Spring day, and that is singing in the car with the windows down is the perfect way to travel from store to store – or the beach. My mother loves to sing, and when I was younger, we would listen to classic rock, and as we sang along, she would quiz me about the artist and the song’s album. She taught me to love music and to sing like nobody was watching – which proved to be quite therapeutic in managing my stress from my seizures.
Children with epilepsy often are referred to some form of art therapy, be it visual or musical arts. When I was in the hospital starting the Ketogenic Diet, I found myself meeting with a music therapist and learning how to compose songs – it became a wonderful outlet for my emotions. The SingUpFoundation shares that, “When you are singing you are fully focused on it. This allows you to ‘turn off’ your stream of consciousness and live completely in the moment, distracting your mind from negative thoughts, focusing on the sound, the action, the breathing, the feeling and the pleasure of song.”
Not only was singing an incredible outlet for me emotionally, but my love of music also became a way for me to socialize with others. I joined the city children’s chorus in middle school and became a member of the Madrigals in high school while taking voice lessons at my Mom’s insistence. It is possible I would have found music on my own, but the passion for learning about it and understanding how the lyrics fit into the tapestry of our country’s history came from her.
The fifth, and most important lesson I will share with you all that was imparted upon me is to dream as if anything is possible and then follow your dreams. She has always been the only one to believe I could do anything I set my mind to, despite those who told me I was going to fail or had no hope of a future. She told me to keep dreaming, and when I declared a new major for the fourth time, she still supported me as my dreams morphed.
You see, we all are growing and evolving – I do not believe we ever stop learning or becoming who we are meant to be. I have had the blessing of watching my Mother morph into a woman who is free of being my caregiver and discovering what else may lie ahead of her. Conversely, I have seen my dreams shift as life’s currents have pulled me in directions I never expected – and I am happy to follow where I am being led.
All my heart hopes you never stop dreaming, never stop believing you can do or have what has always seemed just out of reach – you are so many beautiful things deserving to fulfill your desires and passions. Any passion or hope can turn your life in a new direction and create your wildest, most beautiful dream. I know this because my mother taught me.
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