My mom passed away two weeks before 9/11 at the age of 81. She had a good life and was beloved by her family, but that doesn't mean we still don't miss her every day. My mom was a homemaker, devoted to her husband and family, and like many women of her generation she didn't work outside the home. She took child raising very seriously (I have two siblings) and adored her grandkids. But there were a few things she forgot to teach me, and here they are:
1) My mom forgot to teach me how to be sarcastic and cutting. I learned these things when I got a job in the real world, but as a child I never heard my mom say anything other than what she really meant, served straight up, exactly the way she intended it (kindly).
2) My mother did not teach me to swear. Again, I learned this at school, and at my first newspaper job. In my entire life, I never heard her utter the F-word, the S-word, or any other word that could not have been said at church. The worst I ever heard her say was "darn," and that was on a really bad day.
3) She forgot to teach me how to be impatient, especially with children. I witnessed my mother around plenty of "naughty" kids (myself included) and I never once saw her lose it. I'm sure she did (she was human, after all) but she must have gone into the bathroom to scream because she never let anyone see or feel her impatience.
4) My mother neglected to teach me to judge others. My mother appeared to accept people from all walks of life equally. Fat, slim, smart, less-than-smart, normal, crazy, of any and every ethnicity, you name it. She had a little bit of intolerance for snobs, however. I once heard her say that a woman she knew was "a little bit snooty."
5) My mom forgot to teach me to care about the coffee table, which was located at the hub of the house -- in the living room by the couch, across from the TV. She let her children, grandchildren, and visiting children of various neighbors and relatives eat cookies and drink milk on the coffee table, have morning cereal there, color in coloring books, cut out paper dolls, or put puzzles together there. Needless to say the table was a bit beaten and ringed, but my mother didn't care. Children -- and their enjoyment -- were more important to her than household furniture.
6) My mother forgot to teach me how to "dis" my husband. Never in 50 years did I hear her insult my father, though he could be a rather stubborn man. Whatever went on between them, however, was kept private. And when I complained to her about my husband, she'd simply shake her head and say, "Just listen to him." She was very good at listening.
7) Virginia (that was her name) did not teach me to argue. She didn't agree with everyone (in fact, dad always voted Republican and mom usually voted Democrat), but she wouldn't engage in debates about politics or anything else. If she disagreed she would say so, but that's about as far as it got. She had better things to do with her time.
8) My mother did not teach me how to neglect the laundry, the ironing, or my spiritual life (I have neglected them all at various times, but I didn't learn to do so from my mother). Laundry was done every day, ironing every other (the last time I touched an iron was... well, frankly, I don't remember), and church was every Sunday. She didn't proselytize or try to convince anyone to follow her spiritual path (she was Presbyterian), but she made time for it every week. Church and an afternoon soap opera were her gifts to herself.
To be honest, my mother also did not teach me how to dance (though my parents did pay for ballroom dancing lessons in elementary school... gee, those came in really handy!)
But every day, and especially on Mother's Day, I am grateful for the things my mother did not teach me, and I know I am blessed to have been raised by a woman who valued love and kindness above everything else.