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4 Lessons My Badass Mother Taught Me Without Even Knowing It

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Another Mother’s Day, another six hours spent choosing the perfect Edible Arrangements. This year, however, I want to recognize my mom, Pat, in a different way, one that honors her fantastic approach to raising a hellraiser like me. Bad words, bad attitudes, and all.

1. It’s okay to shit on someone’s plate.

There’s a feeling out there, especially among women, that to critique is to complain, that the negative should always let the positive ride in the front seat, whether it called shotgun or not. I can’t tell you the number of times in business I’ve heard women do what they are paid to do — tell the client like it is — while hinging that expertise on phrases like “I say this with love” or “You know I mean well.” Frankly, who cares about niceties when we’ve got a job to do?

Throughout elementary, middle, and high school, I received the same announcements and updates from administration I’m sure many of you did. Crisp, white envelopes mailed home with news on standardized testing or fundraising or athletics. They came in droves, as administrative notices are wont to do, and as quickly as the mailbox spit them out my mother sent them back, each one edited within an inch of its life. Aligning tenses, creating verb-subject agreements, reminding academic authorities where exactly to put the period among quotations, my mother wielded that proofreading pen with great might, shitting on more than a few plates along the way. She never included an introduction, never once told the schools how special they were in spite of these errors. She simply did her job, sans superfluous refinement, while reminding others of their jobs... and just how much they were sucking at them.

2. Good manners go a long way.

We live in a time when “sorry 2 hear bout ur gma” is an appropriate condolence. If this is you, I assume you were raised by wolves. I’m fortunate enough to be of the first generation of this millennial generation and vividly remember a time when telephone etiquette meant something, handwritten thank you cards were a must, and taking off your hat inside was a sign of respect. I’m also fortunate enough to have a mother who raised me to know what it really means to practice good manners.

Today I see zombies walking through doors that are held open for them without so much as a nod of recognition. A table of people ravenously eating their meals while one diner still waits for his food. Idiots walking into places of worship in tube tops and cut-off jeans. I hate people, eat my food too quickly, and don’t believe in a God, but I’ll be damned if my mother hears that I neglected to cover my shoulders and put out a spread before guests came by for a shiksa seder.

3. Life can be tough. Shut up and deal with it.

A lovely Irish lass from the great city of Newark, my mother was the youngest in a family of five in a one-bedroom apartment. Shine shoes for lunch money she did not, but the securities and opportunities I enjoyed as a child she certainly didn’t have. I’m a lucky kid to have grown up never needing for anything, but that doesn’t mean I got everything I wanted. Not by a long shot.

No matter how half-full your glass is, life can still feel like a string of disappointments, an endless stream of challenges that are too big to face, let alone overcome. This is the reality of being a human and I learned early on that it just is, that it always will be. You’ll never have enough money, it will never be the right time, people will always let you down. You simply can’t get everything you want and the days don’t always unfold like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. But that’s life, it can be tough, filled with a bunch of crap you don’t like and don’t want to do. You can feel sorry for yourself or you can get on the phone with my mother and she can remind you to just shut up, deal with it, and enjoy the hell out of the ride.

4. You don’t have to be a crook to be a thug.

My mother is the biggest square and baddest chick I know. She’s never had an interest in drugs, stays just five miles over the speed limit, and wakes up early every day to pack her lunch before work. She also has no problem taking a five-foot-two attitude with anyone who wants to step, throwing around old school slang like a frisbee, and feeling at home both in the streets and among scholars.

She’s a teacher’s pet rolled up in an episode of the Tom Joyner Morning Show. Some years back, I put on a funky ‘70s track that I had fallen in love with and assumed she hadn’t heard. The beat didn’t even drop for the full 16 before she exclaimed, in her warped Jersey cadence, “Oh yeeah, gangsta white walls! You need ta get out more, ya mook. How could I not know this, who do you think I yam?” A fucking thug, mom. An absolute fucking thug.

She then proceeded to sing along to the bridge of “Be Thankful for What You Got” before waxing philosophical on Chamillionaire’s debut album.

Happy Mother’s Day to my fabulous mother and all the other moms out there teaching life’s real lessons without even knowing it.

Top image via Pinterest/Puchalore

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Maeve Roughton is a writer, artist, and strategist living and working in downtown New York City. Pee-wee Herman is her idol. Follow her at strangeways.me and on Facebook.

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