My Mom married her high school sweetheart, got pregnant at 19 years old and had me when she was just 20 years old. She was divorced by 21 years old. She remarried when I was 4 years old. When I was five years old, my Mom and Stepdad had a baby boy, Michael. Michael died of SIDS three months later.
My mother didn’t go to college. She raised me instead. She gave up her twenties to raise me. She gave up any dreams she had as a kid to raise me. Like many mothers, she sacrificed everything for me. I didn’t understand or appreciate that more than when I had my first child at 32 years old.
I didn’t see my biological father much growing up. It was a complex situation that I didn’t understand at the time, and probably still don’t. Often my grandfather would cry with me about my feelings. He was the first man in my life that cried with me.
I was selfishly angry and depressed about my own life growing up. I reasoned that my biological father didn’t love us more than he loved himself, so I blamed him for leaving us. I felt like a loser growing up. I was an only child, from a broken home, and all of my cousins weren’t. I was too young to understand the complexities of life.
I didn’t always strive to make my Mom proud. That was especially true when I was a teenager.
Though I didn’t know it at the time, I grew up poor. Most of our town was poor. I come from a blue collar town on the Jersey Shore. I thought of us as middle class, but we were poor. My Stepdad was a union carpenter, and there were stints that he was out of work for months at a time, but he always managed to keep a roof over our heads, food on table, and a ton of presents under the tree at Christmas.
They say money doesn’t matter, but there were many times I would see my parents complain or argue about money. When you don’t have money, it matters. It causes stress.
I happened to go to the same high school as Al Leiter. When I was a kid, he would come to my elementary school to sign autographs . I remember thinking how proud his Mom must have been of him.
When I was in high school, I excelled at football. I thought if I tried hard enough, maybe I could go to the NFL someday and become a professional athlete like Al Leiter. I went on to play college football, and I worked relentlessly hard at trying accomplish that goal. That didn’t happen. But I truly believed it could. I wanted to make my Mom proud.
My Mom taught me how to overcome adversity. She taught me to never quit. She taught me that life isn’t always fair. She taught me love, compassion, and sacrifice.
I’m sure all Moms teach their kids these things, but my Mom’s different. She’s my Mom.
I recently read an article in the NY Times, titled “What Drives Success?”. They examined research of thousands of successful people and found correlations between success and personality characteristics such as a superiority complex, impulse control and deep sense of inferiority.
There’s no doubt in my mind that I have all of three of these characteristics, and its because of the way my Mom raised me.
I developed a superiority complex because my Mom always reinforced confidence that I could be great. She taught me to face adversity head on, and to never quit.
What’s interesting is that I also developed a deep sense of inferiority from the way my Mom raised me. It seems the goal of most parents should be to shelter their kids from developing a deep sense of inferiority. But because I grew up poor, in a broken home, experienced a lot of stress and depression as a child, I developed a deep sense of inferiority. I am thankful of that too because without it, I would be a complete ego maniac. It helps balance and ground me.
Finally, the last thing the researchers say successful people have is a impulse control. My parents didn’t have impulse control though. They got married young. They had kids young. They didn’t go to college. They were poor and in debt. They were the antithesis of impulse control. So how did they teach me impulse control?
Well, not surprisingly, for a long time, I also didn’t have any impulse control. However, they did send me to college. In college, I began to reflect on my life quite a bit. I realized I needed more impulse control. That’s when I began to develop my impulse control. That’s when I began investing in my future. That’s when I began to sacrifice my short term pleasures for my long term benefits.
That’s when I realized my parents didn’t have impulse control, and that if I wanted succeed, I needed to develop it. I needed to be raised exactly the way I was or I wouldn’t have been able to succeed the way I have.
Today, I strive to make my Mom proud. Let me be very clear though, I didn’t always do that, but that’s been my goal since my early twenties.
I want my Mom to embrace my success as her own. Because my success is her success. She raised me with love, compassion, and sacrifice.
Recently one of my parents very close friends died of cancer. Just after he died, a week later another very close friend was diagnosed with cancer.
Life is short. I wrote this post to articulate my thoughts so my Mom can see how I felt about her. I love you Mom. You make me proud.
I now have two kids of my own and I hope that I do a better job as a parent than I did as a kid. Unfortunately for my kids, my goal is to shelter them from developing a deep sense of inferiority. According to the recent research, that means they’ll likely not become very successful. Or will they?