Contributing Writer: Leslie Foster at Pondering of an Ohio Farm Girl
Today would have been my mom’s 61st birthday. Though she’s in heaven, so many of the lessons she taught me remain part of who I am. Recently I was thinking of one really important lesson that I learned from my mom:
You are capable.
This concept of capability wasn’t directed specifically at me, because of any special skills that I had. And I’m pretty sure Mom never just came out and said, “Leslie, you can do stuff.” But she said it with her actions all the time, to me and to my brother and sister.
Mom told me I was capable when I was too little to be helpful and therefore very anxious to “help” her. She didn’t tell me I was too little, or that I didn’t do it right, or that it was important that the job got done right. She let me help. Now Mom probably did some “adjusting” when I was done, but I don’t remember that. I remember feeling proud of myself for helping. I remember the satisfaction of being a part of our family garden. I remember Dad breaking off a stick- just the right length to help my 4-year-old hands measure the space I should leave between the seeds. I remember the teaching: dig a little hole; drop in 3 seeds; fill in the hole and pat it down. Pour on a can of water. Measure out the next hole. I remember feeling proud that my parents left me to My Job while they worked in another part of the garden. I remember the rapt attention of watching those brown rows expectantly for days. And I especially remember the magic of the morning when tiny, delicate green shoots began poking their heads out of the soil.
Later in the season, and for many seasons after that, I remember harvesting, cleaning, canning, and freezing those vegetables. I was young, but I still understood that I was helping make the food that I would need through the winter. Knowing that I was an important part of my family. Mom and Dad, Brittony and Josh would be eating those vegetables, too. In hindsight, I think the lesson of capability was one of the more important that my parents gave me.
But things my parents already knew how to do weren’t the whole story. My whole childhood is full of memories of my parents learning new skills themselves.
I remember my dad check books out of the library to teach himself how to fix things. I watched my mom put herself under the tutelage of others to learn how to lay ceramic tile. And watching these things taught me another lesson: it’s not important that you know how to do everything. It’s important that you know how to learn. The season of learning is never over. If anything, I grew up thinking that the learning grown-ups got to do seemed more fun that the classroom brand I was stuck with! I’m so thankful that I had parents who modeled these values for me.
The third part of being capable was modeled for me, too. Learning to ask for help.
There are going to be things you can’t do alone. Maybe you’re not skilled enough (yet). Maybe you’re not strong enough. Or maybe you just don’t have enough hands. Knowing when to ask for help is as important as trusting in your ability to do something or knowing how to learn. When I’m faced with a new task- moving to a new place; starting a new job; fixing my closet light; volunteering somewhere- I’m reminded of these lessons: I can do stuff. I can learn stuff. I can and should ask for help when I need it. What a great legacy.
What life lessons have you learned from your mom?
image via flickr- Leonard John Matthews