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8 Things I Learned From my Mom

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I always saw my mother as untouchably amazing, but once I became a parent myself, my appreciation for her shot off the charts. Though I can’t begin to count all the things she’s taught me, in the spirit of Mother’s Day here are just eight things I’ve learned from my mom about parenting.

1. Have a Sense of Humor

My mom has sarcasm and a sharp wit. I became a fan of her skills at an early age. I’ll never forget when my grandfather resisted putting his seatbelt on for a family trip. While all of us children were strapping away, grandpa turned his nose up at the suggestion and mumbled something like, “I don’t need to wear a seatbelt.” My mom turned around and dryly addressed him, “You need to wear your seatbelt, because if we get into an accident, you’ll fly around and kill everyone.” I looked at my siblings who were looking back at me with the same wide-eyed, crooked-smile face: half-pleased at the comedic quality of her comment and half-mortified that she had the cajones to say that to her father-in-law. Grandpa sort of gave an unspoken touché when we heard a simple, click.

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2. Don’t Forget Yourself

My mother's “mom responsibilities” were full-on. She carted all four of us children around, each of us only 2 years apart, all of us with schedules full of lessons, practices, competitions and activities. She also helped run the family business. But she had her own thing. She was a passionate education advocate and became President of our State School Board Association and a Board Director for the National School Board Association. Whenever I got to see her publicly speaking, I would always feel so lucky that that amazing woman was able to be my mom.

3. Be a Badass

When I was 5 years old, my mom—carrying my then 1-year-old brother—was efficiently marching the other three of us, single file, to the garage to get into the car. As she stepped down the two stairs leading from the house into the garage, she slipped, fell and badly broke her ankle. She landed on her back but had skillfully shielded my little brother from harm on her way down. She was in obvious pain, we could all see her clenching her jaw, but she managed to skillfully and calmly talk a 7-, 5-, and 3-year-old through the steps to get her comfortable, call our father and get help, while watching our baby brother. We all knew mom was gangster, but the way she handled that moment was next-level badass.

"If you eat while lying down, you’ll grow horns."

4. Not Having Manners Is Not an Option

There was no wiggle room. We were downright scared into manners. Of course, being Japanese, the fear of shaming the family is in our DNA. Mom was Yakuza with it. She had an array of superstitions, which threatened anything from simple disappointment (which was bad enough, believe me) to severe physical maladies to keep us in line. Address adults formally, or you will offend them. If you eat while lying down, you’ll grow horns. If you leave your chopsticks stuck in the rice, SOMEONE WILL DIE! Turns out, that’s not a very common nursery rhyme.

5. Take the Time to Serve Others

She took us to clean up litter at parks, take gifts to the elderly at nursing homes, and to volunteer for community service and give of ourselves when possible.

6. Go the Extra Mile

Mom never cut corners in anything she did for us. And I’ll never forget how special it made me feel, from her running back and forth on a snow-covered porch shaking “reindeer bells” in order to help us believe in Santa to sending regular care packages to my dorm room. She even made our Halloween costumes. And I’m not talking simple costumes like a pirate with “tattered” pant legs and a sash or Dracula with a cape and drawn-in widow’s peak. I’m talking Mother Goose complete with a perfectly sewn goose, which I appeared to be riding: fake legs hung off the goose, and my legs were the goose’s legs. It was elaborate and amazing. And one year she made an Alf costume for my brother. Let me repeat that. She. Made. An. Alf. Costume.

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7. Be Tough

Mom meant business about certain things. Having four kids and no outside help meant she had to ensure that we listened to her, respected her and stayed on task. Our studies came first, any lessons or practices came second, chores came third and then free time followed. We were clear about the rules, and were onboard for the most part. But one day, when we were ranging from ages 6 to 12, mom ran out to run a quick errand. And though we were far from having earned the free time reward, we couldn’t believe our luck that she had left during the Cosby Show time slot. TV went on, and we all stood there watching the screen like Rain Man. Five minutes in, my sister frantically points to my mother’s car pulling into the driveway! In unison, and weirdly instinctually, we all dropped to the ground and proceeded to army crawl out of the family room and back to our work stations. To this day, I usually steer clear of watching TV, and if I do, I pay bills or accomplish something while I’m watching.

8. Be Gentle

Mom made sure to give me the quiet moments with her. I would lay on her lap while she stroked my head and talked to me. I had her undivided attention and love at those moments. Even now, I channel those moments with my mom when I need to feel peace. She melted every worry with her gentle presence. And as I listened to her voice and felt her love, I knew I would never know a more beautiful woman in my life.

Here’s to you, mom!

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