This post is in response to a challenge presented by the blog Et Tu?
As you read this please keep the following in mind--my mother raised my sister and I mostly by herself with some emotional and financial help from her mother. My parents divorced when I was three and most of my childhood was spent living with my grandparents.
When I was younger, I used to tell my mother that I'd raise my children exactly like she raised me because she did such a good job. Perhaps it was a bit of an ego boost to Mom, but at the time, I really meant it. Now that I'm married and starting a family of my own I have changed my mind a little on this particular subject. Part of this change is due to Sean's childhood experiences and part is due to my own understanding of how my mother's decisions affected me. Even so, there are some things Mom did right.
I would have to say that the first thing my mother did right was to teach me to be myself and not make my decisions based on what other kids said. I never wore brand name, or often even new, clothing as a kid. My clothes were either handmade, passed down from my sister, or purchased at the local thrift store. We couldn't even afford WalMart. Even so, I was never ashamed of the clothes that I wore. Mom tells me that the moment she knew she raised me right was when I told a more wealthy friend of mine that "I don't need somebody's name on my butt to make me special".
The second thing my mom did right was to make me always try food before I said I didn't like it. If I decided I didn't like it I didn't have to eat it but I had to at least try. This insistence led me to a variety of dishes that I probably would never have loved had Mom allowed me to act like some kids do and claim "Ew, I don't want that". An unexpected result of this dinnertime rule led me to be more open-minded about other experiences, probably the biggest would be my choice of church. If I had followed my fundamentalist Protestant family's advice that the Catholic church was "evil", I doubt I would have stepped foot in St. Peter and St. Paul's Episcopal Church when Sean and I were dating, or have been confirmed in St. Alban's a couple of years later. I am now a devout and practicing Anglo-Catholic and take part in several ministries of the church, my husband is an aspirant to the priesthood, and my son will be baptized on Easter Sunday (God willing) at St. Alban's.
The third thing my mother did right may sound like a bit of a cliche, but I mean it most sincerely. Mom read to me. I'm not sure if she did it every night, but as far as I can remember until I was four, Mom read to me. She didn't just sit next to the bed and read out of the book, she laid down so I could snuggle up next to her and see what she was reading. Sometimes she'd follow the line with her finger as she read, and by the time I was four, I would sneak the book out during the day and read it for myself. One night she sat down and opened the book (The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to be exact) to the point she had left off the night before. I informed her (probably with an attitude) that I had read the next chapter to which she replied that my learning to read was great but if I wanted her to continue to read I'd better let her read. From this point on she would let me read aloud with her and it gave me a chance to sound out difficult words. Since then, I cannot count the number of books I have read in my lifetime, but suffice it to say I keep the local library busy. I don't just read books, I devour them.
I do believe my mom did a great job in raising me, although I do wish she had done some things different. I hope I can raise my children with as little to no corporal punishment as possible, I don't smoke and would never raise my children in a house full of secondhand smoke, and I'm married and plan on staying that way until death do us part. So I'm not exactly like my mother, but I will do my darnedest to instill the values in my children that my mother instilled in me, especially the ones listed above.