What Did Your Mother Help You Learn?

Mom with my newest niece.

I take for granted far too many of the circumstances that led to my current life. I try not to, but I do.

Today, on Mother’s Day, one in particular struck me.

I was chatting on the phone with my parents as I do every Sunday, and I asked about my precious niece and nephew. They’re 5 and 3, and they see my parents almost every day.

Dad mentioned that Mom is helping Anna to learn to read. He thought that seemed a bit early, but I’m pretty sure that’s also around the age that they taught me to read.

In that moment, as a 37-year-old on the phone with his parents, I realized how most of my life was made possible by parents who took an active role in my education. Not every kid has that–I was just lucky.

A quick story to illustrate this: At the start of fourth grade, I transferred to a “gifted and talented” program. Within the first few weeks, we had a geography test–one of those “memorize the names and locations of every country and city in a certain continent” tests.

Up until that point, school had been really easy for me. I wasn’t smarter than anyone else; like I mentioned, I just had a head start due to my parents. So I approached the test as I did anything else: I studied for a few minutes and then went back to reading The Phantom Tollbooth.

When the teacher handed out the test results, she didn’t give me my map. Instead, she called in my mother and revealed that I had failed the test. The teacher proposed that the gifted and talented program wasn’t a good fit.

Mom listened to her and asked if I could retake the test the next day, and we could evaluate the situation after that. The teacher agreed.

I remember distinctly that Mom wasn’t mad at me for lazily studying for the test. Nor did she pressure me like a “tiger mom.” Instead, she simply offered to help.

We spent a few hours that night studying for the test. The next day, I aced it. I didn’t receive worse than an A in any subject on my report cards for the next 6 years in that gifted program. Again, not due to any anger or pressure from my parents–in fact, I studied and worked independently 99% of the time.

But for that 1%, I knew that Mom would always there for me. And she was. (Dad too.)

What did your mother help you learn?