Dinner time is family time. In a family of 9, it's almost impossible to coordinate schedules to honor the family meal time. There were always lots of after-school activities, sports and jobs that kept everyone coming and going. Mom always made it a priority for us to sit down to a home-cooked, well rounded meal which included fruits and vegetables. Mealtime was such a priority that my parents had a custom-made, round table, with a lazy-Susan, built to accommodate our large crew. The importance was not missed. Mealtime is now a priority in my home and the homes of my sisters. Even when we vacation together, almost every night the 30-40 family members will sit down and feast together.
Say please and thank you. Mom stressed the importance of good manners. Through proper grammar, writing thank you notes and table manners she tried to make us respectable members of society. She's been know to take it a bit too far. One time, she corrected an Iowa news caster, while listening from another room, for saying, “Another great win for UNI.” The news caster was talking about the University of Northern Iowa, not “you and I”. But, her point was made. I almost never end a sentence with a preposition, try diligently to send thank you notes and usually know which fork to use.
Trust the design of the body and nature. The body is designed to give birth naturally, breast-feed, be fueled by natural whole foods. Babies are designed to need and be near their mothers. When I made the choice to have my children at home, it was considered by many to be a radical choice. In fact, it was a very natural, logical choice for my family considering my mom had her 2 youngest children at home and my sisters collectively had 10 children at home. My mom, blazed the trail by just doing what was natural and what was meant to happen with the body and birth.
Traditions are important. Traditions build connection, memories and comfort. Sometimes they were around how holidays were celebrated. It was also about not missing a birthday celebration, even if everyone was sick, just bring on the birthday Jell-O. One Thanksgiving, even though she was a vegetarian, she still cooked the turkey and slid the cranberry sauce out of the can because that was the tradition. (Why we trusted the turkey to the vegetarian, I don't know. The duties were later transferred to my dad. Also, I don't think anyone ever ate the cranberry sauce, it was just always there jiggling on the plate.)
Be empathic. She never gave up on trying to teach us to be concerned with the greater good. There were countless rice bowl projects, justice and peace conferences, rights walks and other efforts to teach us about the world we shared and the immoral conditions. She exposed us to a variety of people, places and challenges and helped us to realize that the world was bigger than just us. Trying to get my own kids to try a third-world lentil recipe as a sacrifice helps me to know how tough a job this really can be.
Make healthy choices. Throughout her life, she has gone through an array of exercise regimes, diets and lifestyle changes. All had the same goal of creating a healthy vessel. Today, she is a vibrant, healthy, raw, vegan, swimmer, cyclist, yogini and plans to live for another 70 years, I'm sure. She encourages this in others by sharing her passion for raw food, acting as the “bike-fairy” for her grand children and supporting other healthy pursuits (especially yoga).
So, thanks mom. The credit goes to you.
Mother's Day is just around the corner, don't forget about yours. What in your life can you credit to your mom? What have you learned from your parents?