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What I Learned From Watching My Mom

One of my strongest memories from childhood is watching my mom get ready in the bathroom.

My mom with me and my baby brother.

Whether it was putting on make-up or doing her hair, I feel as if most of my childhood was spent on the cool floor of whatever house we were living in, watching my mother take care of herself.

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I also watched her exercise — a lot.

She opened one of the first aerobic studios in Tucson, when my brother was seven months old. I spent a lot of time watching her lead her classes. With her super blonde hair and adorable figure, my mother was a tiny package with a lot of drive.

My dad worked for a huge corporation and made good money, so my mother had the option of staying home. She didn't want her nursing license to lapse, so she continued to work. My grandmother had grown up dirt poor and had instilled in my mother that she needed to have something to fall back on, just in case. My mom chose to wait tables part time when, one year, there was a nursing job shortage.

I’ve watched my bohemian, free-spirited mom put her foot in her mouth around more educated, sophisticated and well-spoken women. But I have also seen her beat me to the knowledge of what the newest tech trends are since her divorce last summer. I have seen her unable to throw bullshit around as well as others at cocktail parties, something I am better at.

I have learned that this is what you do to make yourself happy...I have learned so much just by looking up to her from the cool bathroom floor.

The “just in case” my grandmother had warned her about became a concern after her divorce from my father. Nearly 40 years after saying "I do" in Iowa to her high school sweetheart, my mom powered through divorce with a determination to take care of herself. She knew that something as distressing as divorce can take a physical and emotional toll on the body and vowed to keep herself healthy.

This photo is a lovely shot of my mom in her 20s.

I watched her continue to do her hair, put on her makeup and laugh about getting hit on by a man at the airport bar.

I don’t remember much of what my mom said as she was getting ready in the bathroom — partially because we aren’t the most emotionally connected family and struggle with putting our feelings into words. But I have watched her for 36 years. And that is something.

I don’t take much time in the bathroom, often throwing my hair up into a wet bun. I used to go out in my early 20s in flip-flops or tennis shoes and baggy old Levi’s that fell around my hips. I barely wore make-up.

“Women should have lines. I just love women with lines on their face. They look so cool,”

Yet, I always felt confident in how I looked.

My 2-year-old watches me now. She already prefers more bracelets than I do. Perhaps the attentiveness to beauty and accessories skips a generation.

My mom continues to take care of herself, and I have learned that this is what you do to make yourself happy. Even though I take care of myself differently, I have learned so much just by looking up to her from the cool bathroom floor.

I watch her now and see the lines that travel her face. For all her primping, she doesn’t want to do any surgical procedures. “Women should have lines. I just love women with lines on their face. They look so cool,” she’s told me multiple times.

So I watch those lines settle, deepen and spread as she takes off to exercise on her visits here. My kids watch her exercise. The majority of my youth was spent watching her exercise. Watching my kids watch her exercise just as I did makes me smile, realizing I did not imagine all that time watching her work out. It also brings me comfort knowing that, although I am raising my kids differently, my mom instilled in me some traits I am thankful for.

RELATED: What I Learned From My Working Mom

I just have to make sure I am doing them, so my daughter can peer up at me and see me taking care of myself the way I want her to do for herself one day.

Image via Lindsay Kavet

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