12 Things My Mom Taught Me

As today is my mom’s 52nd birthday, I thought it would only be appropriate to write something for her. She has been my constant, and my best friend throughout my entire life. So I thought I’d share a couple things she’s taught me, even if she may not notice. It’s hard to put everything in writing because I feel like I could just write for days on end, but I’ve tried to squish a few of them into this ‘short’ post. I’d love to hear some lessons your mom taught you- leave them in the comments 😃

1. Never settle for anything less than good bedding and a cosy gown.

Your bed will always be the place you go for comfort. No matter what, make sure your bed is one of the cosiest places you can be. I learnt this life lesson when I first moved to Cape Town and had the blessing of having my mom with me to do my flat shopping. I’m a sucker for online shopping, you’ll get to know this about me! But not for bedding. Bedding is something you need to feel and see with your own eyes, because trust me online shopping can go horribly wrong sometimes. And you don’t want it to go wrong when you’ve been looking forward to fresh bedding for 3 weeks now! On this note- ALWAYS MAKE YOUR BED. If you make your bed first thing in the morning, you’ve already accomplished your first task of the day and your day can only be a good one ! One of my favourite feelings is coming home after a long day at varsity, having a nice warm bath and hopping into bedding that is fresh and not all crumpled up. It makes for a promising night’s sleep, I promise! On a winters night, you can’t go wrong with a warm bath, a fluffy gown and a cosy bed- fight me.

2. Travel Travel Travel!

If there’s one thing my mom absolutely craves, it’s travelling. She’s some sort of hodophile (n. “one who loves to travel”). We’ve had the opportunity to travel together all over the world. Often you’ll find us with the “better” half of our family (my step-dad, James, and my brother, Brett), but mostly you’ll find the two of us wondering the streets of Montmarte, or on the tea cups in Disneyland. Two of my most treasured travels with my mom was mid-2018 and mid-2019. In 2018- we had just spent a week in Greece for my mom’s 50th birthday with our nearest and dearest. We left them to travel to Barcelona, Spain. I think all we did was walk, eat, have cocktails, eat, walk, and sleep. Repeat. We visited La Sagrada Familia, walked the stairs in Park Guell, toured Camp Nou (the Barcelona FC Stadium), and we went to a traditional Spanish Flamenco show. What was so special about this show is that we went on the night of what would have been my grandpa’s 80th birthday. One of the main dancers was Esther Esteban (my grandma’s name was Hester, and my grandpa’s name was Esteban- and they were both Spanish performers)- now if that isn’t a sign from the universe, I don’t know what is! Mid-2019 we travelled to Paris and Disneyland to celebrate her birthday in the Happiest Place on Earth- and we sure had the happiest of times! I can’t tell you how many memories I have with my family in all different countries, and I am forever blessed and grateful that I get to travel!

London, 2020
Image may contain: 2 people, including Caitlin Sassen, people smiling
Park Guell, Barcelona, 2018
Spetses, Greece, 2018
Montmarte, Paris, 2019

3. Believe.

This one takes on many forms. Be it believing in myself, believing that there is good in the world or believing in signs from the universe. My mom always showed me that if you want something to happen, you need to believe that it will happen. She’s also taught me to believe in myself- and this one may have taken me longer than anticipated- but even when I didn’t believe in myself, she always did. A firm believer in the universe and especially messages from those we’ve lost. My mom taught me to believe that the grey feather on the kitchen floor is my grandpa popping in to say hi, Angels on the radio is my grandma singing along on my shoulder. That going to a Flamenco show on what would have been my grandpa’s 80th birthday and watching a Spanish dancer named Esteban is a sign. They’re always around and always watching over us, if you believe.

4. Be independent.

My mom once said that if you can comfortably have lunch in a restaurant by yourself, you don’t need anyone else. For the first couple of years it was me and my mom, solo mission looking after me. Even though we lived off of tinned spaghetti in tomato sauce, we survived. My mom owns a business, travels alone, and can eat alone. She’s always been an incredible example of how I can make it, even on my own. This took me a while to grasp because I always felt like I needed someone to hold me down and lift me up when I needed. But I’ve learnt that you can have that system to hold you down and support you, but when the time comes that the system needs to focus on others or themselves, I need a strong base to hold the fort down for myself. I like eating lunch alone (unless moms around- those lunches are the best too)!

5. Treat others how you would want to be treated.

I think I get my empathic quality from my mom. I’m always looking for the best in people, as she does. No matter how many times someone has hurt me, I’ll always give them another chance, as she does. I’m always trying to look for new ways to help others, as she does. And I am super grateful for this quality that she’s always instilled in me. I’ve also learnt that not everyone has this idea of ‘treating others as you’d want to be treated’. Although it’s been a hard thing for me to understand and accept, no matter how badly someone treats me, I’ll always return in kindness. Because that’s what my mom taught me- that if you want to be shown kindness, love and compassion, you need to give it too.

6. Not everyone is your friend.

This one really was one of the hardest lessons to learn. I want to link this lesson to number 5 because I think that it’s the reason why I learnt this lesson and also why it took me so long to realise the truth in this. I spent a lot of my years always believing in the good in people, especially the people I called my friends. Even if I had been so deeply hurt by the way my friends treated me, to my face and behind my back, I always stuck around because I looked past the bad stuff, and always searched for the good. Only recently I learnt that some people are only meant to be in your life for a season, or for a reason. And this is the reason why some people were put in my life. I may not talk to a lot of people who I used to call my friends, and I think that’s okay. My mom taught me that it’s okay to distance yourself for your own good.

7. You cannot receive if your hand is closed.

This is one of my favourite sayings from my mom. I resonate with this, as I’m sure most of you will know. I believe in karma, especially good karma. I believe that all the good you do in the world, has its way of being returned to you. My mom brought me up to acknowledge that I am so fortunate, and have the means to help those who aren’t as fortunate as I am. My mom is fortunate enough to have so much and I think she actually gets a kick out of giving it others. There’s a Facebook page called The Fairy Godmother, where children who struggle with things like academic finances, groceries, accommodation etc. ask for help and Fairy Godmother puts them in touch with donors. I think my mom is trying to become a resident donor on this Facebook Page because she just loves it. I am so grateful that I got this trait from my mom, because only if my hand is open by giving, will I be able to receive. I started a birthday fundraiser a couple weeks ago, and although I’m not physically receiving anything, the amount of love and support that has been shown just warms my heart, and that was the best birthday gift I could have asked for!

8. Spoil yourself with good food and wine.

As I got older I think my mom and I connected even more (if that’s possible) through our mutual love of food and wine (sometimes gin). One thing I’ll always treasure is when my mom and I spent the weekend on the Franschhoek Wine Tram. Showee we had a lot of fun. We drank, we laughed, we ate (incredible food), we drank some more, we sat under trees and did headstands at Leopard’s Leap, drank some more, ordered takeaways (pizza and mershed perderder), and slept. This was honestly one of my favourite outings with my mom because we got to taste wine from 9am at 9 different wine farms. We ate the most incredible food at Le Lude and Moreson! We drank the best wine at Haute Cabriere, Le Lude, Eikehof and Paserene! Other than Franschhoek, we both love trying new restaurants and exotic foods wherever we can find them!

9. Always wear nice undies!

Even if you’re going to the Engen to get a choccy milk at 10pm. You never know what may happen- hope for the best but prepare for the worst kind of mentality. You never know if you may get into an accident and some EMT may have to cut your clothes off. This is also another thing that you can’t settle on. Always buy undies that look good, but make sure they’re super comfortable. There’s nothing worse than having a lecture presentation in front of 57 people and having to pull out a wedgie that’s in your throat.

10. Know which battles are worth fighting.

I speak to my mom everyday. If I haven’t spoken to her during the day, you’ll find me phoning her at 8pm just to say hi and talk just because. So there’s no surprise that I phone her when something ticks me off. My mom will often let me vent for about 35 minutes before telling me that it’s not worth the fight. It’s draining to fight- I’m not a fan. So when I feel heated or agitated, I’ll phone my mom because I know she’ll know what to say and have advice on whether it’s valid to stand my ground or just walk away. It’s not worth arguing that the sky is in fact blue if someone said it was purple.

11. Don’t take things so personally.

Life is short. Don’t take things at face value. It’s not always a direct attack on you. I used to be someone who when somebody looked at my jeans, I would automatically assume they were judging me. As I grew up, I learned that maybe they looked at my jeans because they have the same jeans, or they were just a nice colour. Or maybe I spilled this mornings egg yolk on my leg-oops. But who cares, I’ll clean the egg later. My mom always has this ability to rationalise situations that I’ve blown up in my head and make me see that it may not have been about me.

12. Celebrate everything- no matter how small!

And for the ultimate lesson- celebrate! Celebrate your distinction. Celebrate your first day at work. Celebrate graduation. Celebrate you 23rd and your 52nd birthday. Celebrate getting a new dog. Celebrate a new house. No matter how big or small- celebrate. My mom’s taught me to appreciate everything I have and to celebrate everything I achieve. I think it pushes me harder because I always know that, in some way, every milestone will be celebrated.

So to my mom, on her 52nd birthday- HAPPY BIRTHDAY! We are celebrating YOU today, for all that you are, and all that you are yet to be. Thank you for always being my constant, my rock and someone I can always confide in. You’ve made me a better person and I’m forever grateful that I got you as my mom! It’s hard to put it all into words, but I wouldn’t trade you for the world! Love you, always ❤️


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