8 Life Lessons I Learned from My Mom

“That is the difference between good teachers and great teachers: good teachers make the best of a pupil’s means; great teachers foresee a pupil’s ends.” ~ Maria Callas

With Teacher Appreciation Week and Mother’s Day recently passing and my mom’s retirement day (from teaching) quickly approaching, I can’t help but reflect on how much she has impacted my life. It’s truly hard to put into words how much she means to me and the influence on my life and the person I have become. My mother is one of the most generous, caring, compassionate, accepting, loving people I ever met. I feel blessed to be her son.

So, with that, I’d like to share a small snippet of what I’ve taken from her over the years — some through direct teaching, but many from her living example. I’m sure many of her students throughout the last 38 years can attest to many of them as well. Here’s to you, Mom!

Be grateful. — Raised in an average blue collar household, with two older brothers, I rarely focused on we didn’t have. Yeah sure, we might’ve complained every once and a while about not having cable or satellite, or the latest gaming system, but not for very long. Mom (and dad) not only provided everything we needed, and even a decent amount of what we wanted, but they always reminded us to be thankful for what we do have. There’s always someone who has less or has a worse situation.

Work hard. — As I referenced in my “8 Life Changing Lessons I Learned in My 20s,” my mother always taught and demonstrated that there is no substitute for hard work. When it came to my schoolwork, sports or showing horses, she would never demand hard work and my best effort, but simply instilled in me a high expectation. There is nothing more motivating that someone who believes in you and expects the best from you. She did with everything.

Care about the quality of your work. — While many people know that there is a huge difference between getting the work done and getting the work done right, my mom lived it. Whether it was her classroom decorations, her crafts, her garden or her motherly responsibilities, she always went above and beyond. She takes pride in her work, because it’s not only a reflection on her, but she wants to provide the best “product” for those she is serving. It reminds me of lyrics from Miranda Lambert’s “Automatic” song:

Hey, whatever happened to waitin’ your turn
Doing it all by hand,
‘Cause when everything is handed to you
It’s only worth as much as the time put in

Stay humble. — As all three of us boys began to excel in school, sports and band as we grew up, my mother always reminded us about the line between confidence and cockiness or arrogance. While the first is necessary for success, the latter is not only a weak form of self-belief, it almost always rubs others the wrong way. Being humble doesn’t mean thinking less of yourself. Rather, it’s thinking of yourself less. The focus is outward and having a real interest in others and their contributions to the world.

Encourage others. — As mentioned with working hard, my mom was the epitome of believing in others. However, just as many great teachers, she didn’t just stop with the walls of her own house. She believed in the hundreds of kids that came through her classroom through the last 38 years. Maria Callas’ quote at the beginning of the post captures my mom’s life philosophy — see people where they can be, not where they are. However, don’t just stop there. Tell them where you see they can be.

Invest in others. — While anyone can be a teacher (not to downplay the profession), it’s the great ones who are remembered for years to come by their students. While there are many variables, I believe that it’s the teachers that genuinely believe in their students and work hard to help them progress to the next level. My mother did this for hundreds of students throughout the years. I remember so many times, late night phone calls chatting with parents. Or early mornings or late afternoons, spending extra time with students. And numerous late nights, taking the time to give honest and helpful feedback to students’ work. It shows by how many students still stay in touch with her and/or name her as their “favorite teacher.”

However, she doesn’t just stop with her kids and her students, I’ve seen her do this time and time again with colleagues and friends. She takes a lot of time to invest in her relationships and the people that mean a lot to her. From organizing birthday parties to writing and sending Christmas cards, she has shown me that good relationships take investment, but that it is so worth it.

Put others first. — I will never forget how much my mom has done and sacrificed for me throughout my life. From doing everything she could to provide for three boys, to sacrificing so much time and money to give me the best shot to chase my dream of playing collegiate and professional baseball. She could’ve easily shipped me off with other parents for many of my travel sports weekends, or simply said “no” when I asked to be on the team, and no one would’ve faulted her for that. However, she (and dad) sacrificed for the betterment of their kids. She did the same with sending me money and care packages throughout college. Sure, “that’s what parents are supposed to do.” But she not only did it, she did it with a smile and no thought on her own wants or desires. That’s special.

Love unconditionally. — I can’t help but get teary eyed when thinking of this last lesson. Thinking back to how many mistakes I made as a kid; the times I embarrassed the family; or the amount of verbal fights with my mom in my ignorant teen years. And through it all, she loved me. Even to this day, she doesn’t hold back from showing or voicing her love for her kids, family and friends. While I used to think it was “cheesy” as a kid, I love it now. Life’s too short for holding grudges, remembering past transgressions and not telling people you love them.

Mom, you truly are the best mom, teacher, friend and overall person. Thank you for everything you’ve given or taught me through my life. You deserve every bit of your retirement and I wish you many more years of happiness and health.

Love,
Ryan

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