Lessons on Love & Familia from Mi Mamá
I have many friends and family members who are mothers. There are times we all get together and I tend to stay a little quieter about giving advice or sharing too much of my experience. Sometimes I am over-critical of myself. I think it has to do with becoming a mother at a young age. Or maybe, it’s because just a little while ago I remember asking for advice or calling my mom to ask her for help, which usually reminds me of the privilege I’ve had in my support systems. I have been asked at times, “How do you do it? How do you go to school, work, blog, raise children and still find time to be involved in their lives?” Well, I usually just say I don’t know. I’m just blessed. But really, when I think about it, I was taught all my life that being a strong, caring mom is an essential part of my culture. It’s part of the fabric of who I am as a Latina. Knowing this, yet understanding that being a mom doesn’t mean giving up on the rest of my dreams, is a legacy that my mom has passed on to me.
Growing up, I had the most caring and loving parents. I know a lot of people I grew up with at church or in our Houston neighborhood remember them. They were always helping someone. My house always had a visitor because they could never turn anyone away. From them I learned life is what you make it.
The other day, I saw a picture of our old 3 bedroom home. It didn’t look as I remembered it. It was smaller, the grass was patchy and there was a bunch of old cars. I don’t remember any of that. What I remember most, is the swing on the oak tree in the front yard and the smell of Magnolia’s as the wind blew. I remember collecting bugs and little toads in the backyard. My mom would always make us go release them and told us we would get warts for touching them. I remember snuggling with my little sisters and occasionally fighting with my brothers. I remember so much laughter and happiness.
I tend to forget the hardships and as I write this, I feel my throat getting tight and my eyes welling up with tears. There were sad times, but the happiness of my childhood overwhelms those memories. I feel this immense love for my family, my friends and everyone I’ve come in contact with, because I was taught to love when I was a baby. I understand deep pain because I learned to deal with pain at a young age, but my mother always held my hand. When I had nightmares, all I had to do was fall asleep holding her hand and she would save me. I respect my elders because when I was learning to speak English, I was taught not to bring it to the table because my grandparents were there and it would be disrespectful. Sharing is embedded in my life because I don’t remember having too many possessions, my toys were my brothers’ and sisters’ too, my clothes were handed down and I never knew anything different.
As I am raising my children, I stop to think and feel sad about their reactions to certain things. I try to stop and remember if I ever acted that way or what I should do to help them. A lot of times I stop and call my mom. She reminds me that I am strong, she reminds me that I carry an incredible privilege. She reminds me of my wealth. I have a family, a family that has grown together, has suffered together and that is learning together. Nothing on this earth is worth more than that.
Recently mi mamá went back to get her Masters in Psychology. She graduated with her Bachelor of Arts a few years back. I remember seeing her receive her diploma that day and her radiant smile motivated me to keep going. To keep my eyes on the prize. This May, I walked that stage too, as my children sat and watched. I couldn’t keep the tears from rolling down my face and my legs shook as I waited for them to call my name. The only time I have ever felt that happy and anxious all at once, was the days my children were born.
Lately, I have seen my mom grow and feel happy. I have seen her make dreams real and it inspires me as I walk along her same path. We talk about her classes and her accomplishments. I can share my feelings and thoughts with her like never before. She has become my unconditional friend. The only person on this earth that truly knows my heart. Not just because it first beat within her womb, but more importantly, because she taught it to love, break and forgive.
I don’t tell my mom this enough, but my happiness, this drive to succeed and a gratefulness for life and all it gives, stems from her. She is our pillar, she is the common ground of love that brings our family together. We may all experience difficulties in life, none of us are perfect, but we, her children, are ropes of life intertwined that will never be pulled apart. We will never see ourselves as defeated, and that, I owe to this beautiful woman, mi mamá. The one I still call to ask for help and advice. The one who has earned the name Mother. I will never stop learning from her and time will never be enough to catch up to her. That is why when someone asks, “How do you do it?”, I can’t respond. I just shrug my shoulders and say “I haven’t figured it out.”
Flor Olivo is a mother of 3 children, all under 5, social activist and recent college grad. ;) Flor has plans to attend law school and own a business, but ultimately, her priority is her family and making time for fun with her little ones. You can find Flor writing about social justice, family life and cultura at FlorecitaGrowingUp.com and at MulticulturalFamilia.com, where she also contributes. Flor writes to uplift women and promote critical thinking, in both politics and family life. Find her on Twitter @Flawur or stop by her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/florecitagrowingup to follow her journey.