We learn from our parents, and my Mom - Jacqueline ("Jacquie") Jacques Anzelc - was my first and best teacher. I’ve attempted to boil the hundreds of lessons from my Mother down to a handful of gems -- about family, about responsibility, and about getting along with others. I am sharing a few of those gems here.
Family is a relative term
One of the biggest questions during the first few days after Mom’s passing was how many people to list as “Family”. Mom gave birth to nine very fortunate children. But over the years, with the support of my Dad, she took in several others whom were not blessed with a loving and supportive home.
I know of at least three teens who came to live with my parents for an extended period – no official fostering relationship, no check coming from the State – but these were kids who needed to escape a situation, or otherwise had nowhere to call home. Numerous others thought of Mom as a second mother, and still do today.
Mom passed on that loose definition of family to her kids. Even eight years later, at family gatherings sometimes my siblings, nieces, or nephews will bring others along who have no relationship to us, other than “friend”.
How this has evolved for me since Mom’s passing is in the sense of community in my soul family… I am grateful for soooo many new soul buddies in my life, year after year… people whom I genuinely care about, and who care about me! For me, this is a bonus, in addition to the blessing of my biological family. But please never underestimate the value of your caring for another, simply because you want to, or because it brings you joy. YOU have the power to make other people’s life better, and perhaps even save a life, through genuine caring.
Be responsible for yourself
When we were kids, on days when we’d say “Mom, I don’t want to go to school today”, she always gave us a choice. She’d say, “that’s ok, you can stay home, and I’ll teach you how to vacuum and dust and iron, and you can just be ‘Mommy’s little dummy’”. That was all the motivation we needed to hop out of bed, get dressed, and head down to breakfast! She wasn’t knocking her chosen vocation of homemaker. She was just making it clear that our options in life would be limited without an education, and without taking accountability for our own destinies.
When I tell friends that all the kids in my family completed college with at least a bachelor’s degree, they ask how our parents did it. The key was that the word “if” never came into play when discussing college with Mom or Dad – it was always “when you go to college”. There was never a question. They made us accountable from an early age. They encouraged us to save for college – I can’t remember ever NOT having my own savings account, and our regular trips to the bank to deposit a few cents from our allowance and see how much interest we had earned.
When you take accountably for yourself… for your life… your possibilities are limited only by your own dreams and desires!
Practice forgiveness and make fresh starts
This might surprise some of you who know me today, but as a teen I didn’t always behave. I recall one time… and I won’t get into the details here J … where I was caught doing something I was not proud of. Mom contemplated what to do with me. It would have been within her rights to “ground” me for a significant amount of time and take away a few other privileges.
But Mom knew that wouldn’t be the most effective way to deal with me given what knew enough about me and my nature. Instead, we had a long talk, and she suggested we “start over”. She chose to trust me to do the right thing going forward. I won’t say I became an angel at that point, but it was certainly a lesson well learned.
There are times when we all need to take a breath, step back, and say “let’s put this all behind us and start over”. Family and other relationships are too important to damage or throw away due to misbehaving or petty disagreements.
KNOWING the truth is enough
There is a lot of satisfaction in KNOWING in your mind and your heart what’s right and what’s true, even if others disagree. This isn’t something Mom ever said to me, but it’s how she often behaved. There were many times where I would just see a look on her face, or maybe quietly hear her say “uh ha”, put a little wry smile on her face, and then just move on.
What I’ve learned from Mom is that sometimes it’s not important to have others hear and understand what you have to say, as long as you understand yourself, and there are no great consequences.
I could go on, but I’ll stop here. What I’ve learned from Mom I apply daily in my life. My hope is that I’ve learned well.