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I'm Grateful My Mom Was Strict

"Give her an inch and she'll take a foot." That's what my mother used to say about me.

My mother was an old-school, nagging, no-nonsense Puerto Rican mom β€” the kind that threatened you with the chancla and made good on her threats if you didn't listen.

In the years when I began to want some kind of independence, I wasn't allowed to do much. Playing outside with the neighborhood kids and parties were rare. My mother wanted me home, not hanging out "in the street."

My mother was totally right about me. Whenever she granted me an inch of freedom, I took a foot, sometimes two. If she let me go to the movies, I'd come home hours after the movie let out. On the evenings I worked at our local church, it took me an hour to walk the 10 minutes it should have taken to get home. I'd cut school β€” mostly gym class. And always, always got caught.

She'd yell, I'd roll my eyes, and then I was grounded. It was a vicious cycle of freedom, fights and punishment from the time was 12 until I was too old to control.

Now that I'm a parent, I finally understand my mother. Our relationship is very different. We don't fight as much. And when we do, I finally hear her and her words.

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The summer I was 16, I decided smoking was cool. I was home alone when I closed the door to my room, lit a cigarette, leaned out my window and puffed away while listening to Color Me Badd.

I didn't hear my mother return home. All I heard was the banging on my door, demanding I open up. I threw the cigarette out the window, sprayed some Jovan musk and opened the door like no big deal. My mom went straight to the window.

That cigarette I threw out? It landed on the second-floor window awning. My mother didn't say another word. She stomped into the kitchen, came back with a screwdriver and took my bedroom door right off its hinges.

The slap across my face didn't sting as much as seeing my door propped up against the wall. I was grounded (and without a door) for the rest of the summer. And I didn't smoke in my room ever again.

Even when I wasn't being punished, my mother and I still fought. The woman nagged me about everything from clothes to curfews. And when we argued, her anger drowned out her words.

A recent study revealed that girls with strict mothers were more likely to succeed later in life. I can definitely attest to that. My mother may not have nagged me to go to college, but she set high expectations. She worked hard and sacrificed so that I could have a better life and the kind of opportunities she never had.

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My mother wasn't fighting with me, as much as she was fighting for me. Her strictness was to keep me safe. And it was her nagging that has made me successful. I can appreciate it all now.

Now that I'm a parent, I finally understand my mother. Our relationship is very different. We don't fight as much. And when we do, I finally hear her and her words.

I am reminded of our arguments. Yes, she wanted me to fear her. And I did. But underneath her angry words was also fear. It was fear that made her so strict. Fear that I may be led down the wrong path, fear of the unknown, fear of failure.

My mother wasn't fighting with me, as much as she was fighting for me. Her strictness was to keep me safe. And it was her nagging that has made me successful. I can appreciate it all now.

I know I needed those boundaries and all of her rules. I needed her tough love. I needed to fear her. Because it was that fear that always kept me from straying too far from the path she was trying to pave for me.

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