Thursday, June 14, 2012

Five Very Important (and Sometimes Strange) Things I Learned from My Mother

By Susan McBride

I’m going off-topic here because I’m having pregnancy carpal tunnel (and about to deliver any day now—well, any day in the next two weeks!).  So I've updated a post I wrote for another blog. It's dedicated to my mother, since I’ve had moms on my mind a lot lately. I’m appreciating more and more what having and raising a baby entails (not that I thought it was ever easy!). Without further ado, a few of the valuable lessons my wonderful and crazy mother taught me:

Lesson #1:  Threats Don’t Work
I remember one particular time in my young life when I was furious with my mother…for what, I can’t remember.  I was about 10 or 11, and I recall very clearly telling her how she’d pissed me off and then letting her know I was running away.  Not only did she basically say, “Terrific,” I think she offered to help me pack.  I ended up leaving the house, heading down to the grassy triangle down the street and climbing a tree so I could see the house.  I was certain she’d run outside crying hysterically and shouting at the top of her lungs, “Susan!  Sweetheart, I’m so sorry!  Please, come back!”  I don’t know how long I sat in that tree, waiting and watching for her, but it had to be at least an hour (which felt like days).  My pride wounded, I slunk inside and found her in the kitchen.  “I see you’re back in time for dinner,” she said. “It would’ve been a shame to give the dog your meatloaf.”

Lesson #2:  Don’t Troll Mom’s Bathroom for Empty Boxes
I bought what was surely a fabulous present for my mother one Christmas long ago but I needed an empty box in which to stuff and wrap it.  So, of course, I poked around my parents’ master bathroom (this was before The Container Store, you see).  Lo and behold, on a shelf in the linen closet, I found a cardboard box that was light blue with tiny white flowers all over it. Gorgeous!  It wasn’t until Mom unwrapped the box and began laughing that I learned the box once contained Tampax tampons. Not sure at that point I even knew what that meant.

Lesson #3:  When It’s Dad versus a Kitten, the Kitten Wins
We always had at least one dog in the house.  When I was really little, it was a cocker spaniel named Cindy.  As I got older, we had a couple of golden retrievers and a giant mutt named Puppy.  At some point after my sister and I had started grade school, we started asking for a kitten.  My mom thought that was a grand idea.  My dad was not so keen.  “It’s either me or a cat,” he very sternly told us all one night at family dinner.  My mom told him, “You’re going to lose there, buster” then asked us, “So is it a kitten or your father?”  My sister and I looked at each other, grinned, and squealed, “Hooray, we’re getting a kitten!”  And we did.

Lesson #4:  Don’t Dump a Guy Just Because He Wears Weird Shoes
When I was a sophomore in high school, I dated a senior who was brilliant (he went to the Air Force Academy), talented (he played piano like a pro), athletic (he was a star on the soccer team), and hunky.  He also wore desert boots when no one else was wearing desert boots.  For some reason, that bothered me enormously. Superficial, I know. But then again, I was 15. My mom kept saying, “Don’t break up with this wonderful boy over a pair of shoes.”  But I did anyway.  Fast forward 26 years to when I met Ed. He used to wear this motorcycle jacket—a real one, with hard pads that made the shoulders stand out like a linebacker—only he didn’t ride a motorcycle.  (Oh, he had one. It was just not drivable and still resides in his parents’ garage because he won’t get rid of it.) My friends teased him about it unmercifully.  The meanies. But Ed wore it anyway.  He also had a neon-green striped shirt he donned for Christmas Eve dinner at my folks’ the first time they met him. The next morning, Mom asked, “So, what about that green shirt?”  I felt the same way about it as I did the motorcycle jacket.  Yuck.  But thank goodness I wasn’t 15 any more.  I recognized and appreciated all the wonderfulness of Ed that had nothing to do with his clothes.  To this day, I’m so glad I didn’t dump Ed over something as superficial as a silly jacket or a fluorescent green shirt.  I would have missed out on the best thing in my life.

Lesson #5:  You Can Never Have Too Many Books
I was one of those kids who salivated every time my teachers passed out a new catalog from the Scholastic Book Club. I wished I could order everything!  My mom always encouraged me to select a bunch, and I had no trouble finding a dozen or more that I couldn't wait to read. Mom was also great about taking me to the local library, where I would check out as many books as the library rules allowed. I filled bookshelf after bookshelf, aspiring to have as many books as were on the shelves in our family den. My mother was a big reader (still is). So she was a fabulous example for a little girl who loved stories, both reading them and writing them. I'm not sure I would have even contemplated becoming a writer if not for Mom's support of my book habit way back when. I hope I can do the same for my daughter!  I've saved my set of yellow-spined Nancy Drew Mysteries for her as well as the Harry Potter series. But until she's old enough for those, it's GOODNIGHT, MOON and lots of Dr. Suess!

Any interesting or memorable things your mother taught you?  Or that you taught your children?  I’d love to hear!  (And I’ll take notes!)

SusanMcBride is the author of Little Black Dress, The Cougar Club, and the forthcoming The Truth About Love and Lightning (William Morrow Paperbacks, February 12, 2013). She has also penned a short e-book about her experiences with finding love after 40 and surviving breast cancer called In the Pink to be released by HarperCollins this October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. At 38 weeks pregnant and puffy, she’s currently on doctor-ordered bed rest, so she’s trying hard to catch up on napping and reading.    


  1. What a sweet post, Susan! And best of luck on your delivery!! I hope everything goes easily for you.

  2. I love this! And, um, I once had a similar response when my younger son told me he was going to "escape"--his term for running away. He was back in time for dinner, too.

    Some lessons I learned/taught/want to share: remember to laugh, learn to say you're sorry and mean it, choose your battles wisely.

    Oh, and sleep when she sleeps.

  3. Such a fun post! When I ran away my mother acted the same way. Must be in the mom handbook.

  4. Loved this post, Susan! My mom is a big reader, too. Some of my favorite memories are our weekend library trips. We still share book recommendations.

    Motherhood has taught me to slow down. I also thought I was really patient until I had kids. Learned that wasn't the case!

    Good luck with the delivery. You'll be in my thoughts and prayers!

  5. Thanks, Brenda! Man, I hope the delivery goes easily, too! Crossing fingers (and dreaming of epidurals). ;-)

    Judy, so you didn't run after him, saying, "No, sweetie, please don't go!" And, Karin, your mom didn't chase you either??? There must be something to this tough love thing. :-D Great advice, btw, Ms. Judy!!!

    Sara, my mom and I still share book recs (and books!), too! I love that. Okay, patience is something I need to learn so I hope Emily can finally teach me. Thanks for the good wishes!!!

  6. I just had a vision of Miss Emily writing her own version of this blog . . . and it's going to be good!!!

  7. Congrats on Lesson #4, which leads me to the congrats on your upcoming delivery. A "spot on" post about mommies, one of which I've been on both sides.

    If I can share anything now that my youngest of five is close to 27, the dust will stay, using paper plates is not a social disgrace, and it's worth every roll of toilet paper to witness the expression on your daughter's face as she watches it unroll from one end of the house to the other.

  8. Mary, I would love to read that someday! ;-)

    Christa, thanks! Oh, my mom keeps telling me, "a little dust never hurt anyone," and I'm trying to embrace that. So funny you mentioned it! :-)

  9. Aw, Susan, loved the post! You,me and Karin must all have the same mom. I once announced that I was running away forever and my mom just shrugged and said "I'll miss you." I think I lasted 10 minutes outside the front door.

  10. Aw, Susan, loved the post! You,me and Karin must all have the same mom. I once announced that I was running away forever and my mom just shrugged and said "I'll miss you." I think I lasted 10 minutes outside the front door.