5 Things I Got From My Mom… That I Couldn’t Be Happier About

Naturally I have to start my week of Kick Ass Women with my mom! It’s hard for girls not to be super influenced by their moms, so I’m lucky mine is such a great role model. Feeling like you’re becoming your mother seems to be a pretty common concept for women, at least in movies, books, and newspaper comics, and it is usually met with dread and annoyance. Personally, I am pretty excited about it since it means turning even more awesome! Here are 5 Things about me that I can already recognize are part of this process, and I am totally stoked about all of them:

1. The Drive to Find Something You Love, and Do It No Matter What

If you know my mom, you know she’s a math teacher. It’s impossible to not know this about her, it’s so much a part of who she is. It is kind of ridiculous how much extra time outside of school she spends preparing, grading, and communicating with parents and students. In one of the education classes I had to take in grad school the prof was telling us about how most teachers suck because they don’t communicate with parents. She finally admitted that some teachers will try to contact a parent if the student is doing poorly, but “have you ever heard of a teacher who contacts a parent with positive reinforcement?” I get that she was trying to make a point, but I still raised my hand and said, “Yes, I lived with her for 18 years and the rest of y’all really need to catch up.” Okay, maybe not that last part.

My mom, outside her classroom!

Because I grew up with this, I didn’t really think it was weird that she went in hours early and stayed hours late to help students before and after school, or spent entire evenings calling parents, or made breakfast for her classes before the big AP test. That’s just what you do when you have a job, right?

Well, in the real world, it turns out not really. This study found that only 20% of people are very passionate about their jobs, and that was back in 2005. The same year, coincidentally, that I got my first job and poured about 50-60 hours a week into making the library the best place ever. Sure, it’s not the most glamorous or well-paying job ever, but I love it, and I don’t mind pouring more time and energy into it than anything else in my life because I know it’s worth it. Just like to my mom teaching is worth it. Perhaps the most important lesson she taught me through her own kick ass example is to love what you do, and do whatever it takes to do what you love. Because in the end, happiness is more important than money or fame or any of the other things I might be hoarding if I weren’t so into librarianing.

Not as important as loving your job... but both would be nice

2. A Healthy Attitude About Beauty

This had to be on the list since a preoccupation with beauty standards is something it’s almost impossible to escape as a girl in our society. I’m not saying I was totally immune–I suffered through middle school just like everyone else, thanks–but it definitely could have been a lot worse if I was also feeling subconscious pressure from my mom. It’s not like it would have been her fault, but you internalize so much at that age she couldn’t have helped it. If I’d grown up seeing my mom plaster her face with thick coats of makeup every day before daring to show her face outside or spending hours “fixing” her hair I’m sure I too would have assumed I needed all that, just to be presentable. Instead, she never really worried about it.

"The only thing I'm worried about is why you are still taking pictures when it is summer in Houston and I am dying of heat stroke, DAD"

Pretty much every potential fashion/beauty discussion I ever had with my mom growing up centered around the question “Are you comfortable?”, from which shoes to buy to how to deal with my hair. It’s not that we don’t want to look nice, but that will always be a secondary concern to things like “Can I walk?” and “Am I melting because we live in Florida?” Seeing the money and effort and worry people expend on beauty in the real world, I’m glad I never learned to stress about it too much.

3. Bluntness

You may have noticed before, but I never really hesitate to tell people what I think. This is because I never learned not to. Steven sometimes still has a hard time getting over how weirdly blunt my family is, although usually he’s polite and uses words like “honest” or “earnest”. However you word it, it really boils down to Mom Ladd being completely unable to not tell you what she thinks of you.

Growing up in the wastes of North Dakota you were always too busy not being eaten by polar bears for subtlety or secrets.

I find it refreshing, because you never have to worry about what kind of an impression you’re making or where you stand. Sometimes it really frustrates me when other people are more cagey with their opinions, since I hate having to guess. If you don’t like me or something I’m doing, just say it, because I won’t hesitate to do the same, and there won’t be any hard feelings. Luckily it works the opposite way too, which is why I’m totally unafraid to start conversations with strangers on the streets of Carrboro if it means complimenting their hat made out of flowers or asking why they’re wearing a parachute in the grocery store. The answer (in case you are too afraid to interact with others) is “because it’s Carrboro, duh”

4. An Unafraid Ability to Try to Make Things

My mom is always making things: food, quilts, math Christmas elves, whatever.

This little guy is the one who leaves protractors and graphing calculators in the stockings of good little math students

In fact, till college I was largely unaware of the amount of premade food you could get at the grocery store in mix or frozen form. I just assumed you had to make almost everything from scratch because we always did. Similarly, I was shocked when I discovered that some people buy Halloween costumes, rather than cobble together a pattern in July and work on it till October 31st. On the one hand, this means that I still do lots of things the slow way. On the other, if the thing I want doesn’t exist at a store, I’m not really daunted because, like my mom, I’ll just figure out a way to make something similar myself. Because my mom gave me so much experience cooking, sewing, and crafting, I’m not afraid to try new things or plow right into something I’ve never done before, knowing that, like her, I’ll probably be able to figure something out.

She also taught me how to work around your own lack of talent. My mom tells everyone she’s a terrible drawer, which may or may not be true, but she still never balked at helping me with art-related school projects because 1) she’s fearless and 2) she’s smart, and could almost always find a creative solution that minimized the drawing ability necessary. Whether it was collage or tracing or just making the bad art its own joke, I still try not to be discouraged when I come up against a task I think I’m not very good at. My kick ass mom taught me to just look at it from a different way and try a new approach.

5. Storytelling

My family are super into math. I mean, obviously. So I think it was slightly baffling to my parents when I was more interested in writing stories than anything else in the world for most of my childhood. My mom always says that she doesn’t know where I get my creativity from, which is stupid, because it’s clearly, clearly her.

My mom loves telling stories. She doesn’t think of it that way, because most of her stories actually happened–at least, at some point, in a less embellished way–but it’s totally the same thing. Her students have even made a facebook group about the random stories she tells them in class before the bell rings. I have heard all of the classics so many times that I could easily tell them myself, but not with the excitement my mom brings with each new retelling; the Fork Story, the Dead Guy at Burger King Story, and the Pet Fly story are popular favorites, according to facebook. She even has a great sense of timing and build up. When I call home and ask my dad what’s been going down in groove town, he’ll probably say something along the lines of “Oh, we found a stray dog and got it home”. My mom will relate the same story by setting the scene dramatically: “…. and then I turned around and there was A STRAY DOG JUST SITTING IN THE CAR!!!” Then she’ll make you wait to find out the ending, dragging out the details for dramatic effect. Her students should recognize it too. Why do you think she always starts stories right before the bell is about to ring? So you are excited to come to class tomorrow and hear the end! She is like the Scheherazade of the math department. Without all the murder.

Obviously I could go on about my kick ass mom forever, but those are the top five I can think of right now. I will keep you posted if I start noticing other instances of me turning into her! And I will try to write about some other kick ass women (both real and literary) who had a good influence on a younger, gentler version of the Patricia you know and love.

3 responses to “5 Things I Got From My Mom… That I Couldn’t Be Happier About”

  1. Caryn Guajardo says:

    This is quite possibly the sweetest thing I’ve ever read. Love it!

  2. Uncle Bill says:

    Damn,

    I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the “Dead Guy at Burger King” story.

    Maybe I can coax that one out of her in Dunedin…….

  3. Susan Farias says:

    These are wonderful, I think your mom is kick ass too! I should be working and I can’t stop reading your blog!

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