Growing up, my mom and I didn't have a close relationship. Whenever I asked her for advice about relationships, her response was always, "You're too young for a boyfriend. Focus on school." Of course, I went behind her back and talked to the boys at school anyway. I was curious, but I always had the voice of my mother reminding me to have respect for myself.
As an adult, I've grown to understand my mom. The woman that I thought was too strict was actually protecting me. When I was 18, I broke up with my boyfriend after discovering he was cheating on me. I came home to my parents and cried on the couch, telling them what happened. A few weeks later, I made amends with my boyfriend and took him back. My mom demanded to talk to him first. He sat at the kitchen table. My mom, arms folded, looked at him boldly in the eyes and said, "If you want to be with my daughter, treat her right."
This happened time and time again over the course of our five year relationship. At one point, my mom cried to me pleading, "I just want you to be happy." It hurt me to see her pain for me, but I didn't listen. Still, my mom would come swooping in to remind him of what he had. Eventually, I left him.
When my mom found out that he was coming by the house and texting me after our break-up, she took it upon herself to send him a lengthy message. She told him that I deserved more and that it was in his best interest to stop contacting me. He said my mom didn't understand what we had. She understood.
At 24, I dig deep for the lessons my mom taught me as a child about love. I ignored them once and was left with my heart cracked open. As I grow older, I seek to make up for the pain I brought to myself and to my mother. One day, I will be loved in a way that will make her proud.
For now, here are 5 lessons my mom taught me about love.
1) Never leave the house in your pajamas
I rarely see my mom wearing pajamas. I don't even think she owns sweatpants. One thing about my mom is that you will never see her have an off day no matter what. She always taught my sister and I to present ourselves to the world in the way that we want to be treated. We weren't allowed to show cleavage or wear short shorts. While this may be controversial to some feminists, the lesson my mom taught us was that being sexy didn't come from showing skin. Sexy was a state of mind. My mom could stop a room with a turtleneck. Whatever she was willing to show off had to be earned and was exclusive to her husband.
2) Family comes first
Being in my relationship, I always chose my boyfriend over my family. While being with him, I would get texts from my mom reminding me not to be so desperate for his time. I didn't listen. Slowly, I lost relationships with friends and eventually strained communication with my brother and sister. After leaving him, I had to rebuild those bonds.
The lesson my mom taught me was that sometimes we have to sacrifice for our family. Family comes first, even if that means that you have to give up personal time to show them you love them. Now I realize, no man is worth losing those relationships over. Most importantly, a good relationship with my family should be at the top of my list for the one.
3) Love is a strong emotion you have to be prepared for
I remember being in middle school and sitting my mom down to ask her if I could have a boyfriend. Her response was always a quick, "No!" followed by, "Love is a strong emotion. You have plenty of time to have a boyfriend. Focus on school." I didn't understand what she meant by that until I entered a relationship and allowed myself to fall for a guy that I shouldn't have. Falling in love is beautiful. Falling in love before having a strong foundation of self can be toxic. Also, falling in love with a person that only has good looks and cute one-liners can be toxic. Once I fell in love I had a better understanding of the word crazy. The love I had overtook me and transformed me into something I didn't recognize.
The lesson was, prepare yourself to be in love. Spend time figuring yourself out and understanding what you want out of life. Then, you'll be in a better position to find someone that aligns with who you are, rather then stretching yourself to be something you're not for love.
4) You deserve more
My mom taught me to never settle. Often, my mom would find me crying in my bedroom. She would yell, "What's wrong?" until I finally told her. Each time, she would say, "No one should make you cry like this. You deserve more." She was right. No one should bring out the worst in you. A good partner should make you smile. Of course, relationships will make you cry here and there, but a love should never disrespect you to the point of mental breakdowns and tears that make your head hurt.
5) Unconditional Love
The biggest lessons I've learned from my mom is unconditional love. Looking back, I respect that my mom always gave me space to figure it out. I can't imagine what I put my parents through during the time I was suffering through my relationships. However, I am so grateful to have had them to fall into when I need a safety net. I was hard headed and foolish, but she was always there to pick me back up.
Also, (bonus lesson) I learned was that my mom is a real life gangster. She will go in on anyone, no matter who they are or what they look like to protect her children. I pray that one day I will find someone that can be as gangster for me as my momma.
I love you, mom.