Readers share lessons from their mothers

Sunday, May 11, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:45 p.m. CDT, Friday, May 30, 2014

In honor of Mother's Day, we asked readers: What has your mother passed on to you?

The responses we received demonstrate that moms are some of our greatest teachers. Read on to learn from these readers' moms.

Lesson: Be genuinely interested in people

If you find yourself beside Claire Stiepleman on a plane, an NYC bus, or the Long Island Rail Road, she will find out who you are, where you're from, what you do, where you went to school, what your dreams are (and even your greatest regrets!), how many children you have/want, and whether you're attached or unattached (and what you're looking for!). My mother has taught me to be genuinely interested in people. They all have a story to tell and a lesson to teach.

— Peter Stiepleman, Columbia Public Schools incoming superintendent

Lesson: Strive to be the best you can be in whatever you choose to do

My mother, Grainer Chacko, from a very young age taught me to strive to be the best I could be in whatever I chose to pursue through her journey in life. Seeing her come from a financially struggling family with a dad as a full-time pastor — being the best in her region academically, going to college with almost no money in India and ending up in the USA as a successful nurse inspires me beyond reasoning. She is the rock of my family and the voice in my ear that whispers not only knowledge but loving criticisms to keep me in check. Shouts out to my mother! <3

— Daniel Chacko

Lesson: Nurture and care for others

When I got married I had four boys, and one of my children is autistic. He’s 34 years old. Back when he was diagnosed in 1980, nobody knew about autism like they do now. My mom helped me out so much with him and with all my children, but especially with Chris, who has autism. She was always there for me. She gave me breaks to let me do whatever I needed to do, and she still does. Her health is very poor right now, but it kind of came twofold. My son helps me take care of her.

My mom taught us how to nurture and care for those you love, especially when they need you the most. That’s what I continue to do with my mom, and my son has learned that, too. I love my mom so much.

—Nancy Atkinson

Lesson: Keep your home clean and in order

When I was a child living in an old farm house in Kansas over 80 years ago, my mother, Margaret Grace Nemnich, taught me it was very important to keep our home clean and in order. The rules that had been planted in my brain I never questioned. My mother died at 47 with cancer, but her guidelines have stayed with me for 83 years and married for 65.

To this very day I can not stand clutter! A clean, orderly home is peaceful for me. Our oldest daughter has these same traits. My sister in Kansas and her oldest daughter have these traits. However, marrying at 18, I soon learned my husband came from a cluttered home on their Kansas farm. We moved to Columbia in the early '80s. So here is how we reach "sort of an acceptance" — the garage and his pickup are brimming full of "stuff." His bedroom is more tolerable. So Virgo the Perfectionist and Taurus the Bull have had their moments!

— Delores Hemphill

Lesson: Love endlessly and care no matter what

My mother, Tami Reynolds, has always put priority on loving her children, regardless of how many times we've made her blood boil, ruined something important, or disappointed with our decisions.

I remember when I was 16, I decided I wanted to be with my long-distance boyfriend in Minnesota. Through a number of lies, misdirections, and more, I made my way to Minnesota without my mother knowing. When she discovered where I was, it was her wedding anniversary and she was heartbroken. Upon my return home, she never held it over my head that I had ruined her anniversary. She never told me I was a bad person. She simply explained to me that she understood my heart because she, too, had been there before.

She went on to explain that she was grounding me indefinitely and taking everything from my room, not because she desired to punish me for my actions, but because she didn't want me to screw up my life. She put so much emphasis on doing the right thing and being successful. Her desire to love and care for me, no matter what, has helped me to become who I am and hope to be.

— Andrea Waner

Lesson: Have a passion for music

What I got from my mom, Oline Guyton, was my passion for music and for music of all kinds. She had a very broad love for different types of music. Mom loved classical music and spirituals most. She also really appreciated true talent, excellence in performance and doing everything with class. She taught me by example that music and the musician are an important and necessary part of any service or program.

I search for the good in all kinds of music. I tried to pass that along to my sons. Even when they were teenagers, I noticed that they picked good quality music of whatever type they were listening to. I also work to pass the appreciation of quality music (no matter what kind it is) to my students in music class and to my piano students, thanks to Mom.

— Celestine Hayes

Lesson: Listen to yourself and others 

My mother, Eileen Sydow, has taught me many important lessons throughout my life. Still to this day she gives me sound advice. One of the many lessons my mother has taught me is to listen — listen to yourself and to others. Through her faith and her actions, my mother has shown me that family and devotion is what is most important in life. Finally, my mother always said to never go to bed angry, and after 51 years of marriage, my parents are still counting their years together.

Because of her sound advice and by leading through example, my mother has been the strong foundation f0r the person I am and the person I continue to strive to become.

— Laura Nauser, City of Columbia Ward 5 council member

Lesson: Stand up for yourself

My mother, Patricia Anderson, taught me to stand up for myself, be independent and to finish college. Even though my mother chose not to finish college, it was ingrained in my sister and me, from the time we could crawl, to go to school and obtain a degree. My mother always instilled in us girls the importance of having our own voice, being self confident and going for our goals.

During my freshman year in high school, I experienced some verbal bullying from "friends" who I had been friends with throughout middle school and junior high. During this time, Student Council Officer Elections were going on, and I ran for treasurer for my sophomore year. I was determined to win given everything that was going on in my life at that time.

But the initial count showed that I had lost. When I found out who counted the ballots (some of the same girls who bullied me), I asked very confidently for a recount (after the results had been announced). My request was granted, and after eight people recounted independently, each recount had me winning by more than 250 votes. I attended a high school of 2,000 students.

When I asked for the recount, I remember calling my mother to tell her what was going on, and to this day, I remember her saying "good for you, I am so proud of you."

My mother was always there for me during my life, and in particular, she was there during all the difficult times. Even if I didn't share information or my emotions with her, my home and family always provided a safe and soft place for me to land.

— Christine King, president of the Columbia Board of Education

Lesson: A love for music

I was born to the soundtrack of Henry VIII. I like to think I came into the world with a bang ;). But really — my mom, Carrie Munsell, is a vocalist and has a Bachelor of Music in vocal education from Southeast Missouri State and was my choir director for my entire junior high and high school career.

When it came down to deciding what I should major in, it was easy. I have the same passion for music as my mom has. Not only this, but I know my mom has passed her love of music to each and every student she has ever had. She thinks of those students as her "kids" as well.

She is the best mom out there, and the music she creates with everyone leaves a lasting impression. Thank you, Mom, for helping me uncover my passion early on in life and helping so many other students figure their passions out as well.

— Maddy Munsell

Lesson: Always enjoy life

I once was a young girl who would cringe in embarrassment when Mom would hum along to music in stores, laugh loudly, or enjoy life while out in public. She would often say to me: “Everyone is too concerned about themselves to notice anyone else, even if you do something embarrassing! Enjoy life!” And because of her friendship, inexhaustible grace, and contagious laugh I learned to “enjoy life.” I love you, and thank you, Mom!

— Ashley Nelson

Lesson: Do the right thing 

My mom is the most selfless, giving person I've ever known. She gives and gives and gives without ever wanting anything in return. The main thing she has passed on to me is to do the right thing simply because it's the right thing, and not because you are looking for something in return.

— Caleb Rowden, state representative

Lesson: Think fast and develop fine-tuned reflexes

If there were ever cherry tomatoes to be thrown into a salad, sticks of butter to be warmed for cookies, or tennis balls sitting around the house, my mother, Mary Swinney, would pick them up, shout out a quick, "Think fast!" and toss them my way. Because of her diligence, I can always catch car keys, pens, coins, and whatever else life throws my way. She's the best.

— Rachel Swinney

Lesson: How a gentleman walks

During a childhood walk downtown with my mom, I spent the first few blocks at her side with me closest to the curb. But after crossing Seventh Street near the Daniel Boone Hotel, I maintained my position to her left. Now mom was closest to the street. As we walked past the Daniel Boone Hotel, she announced matter-of-factly, “A gentleman walks on the outside with a lady.”

Duly noted, I cut in front of her to get to the curb. But she reached down with her left arm and gently swung me back to her side. “The gentlemen walks behind the lady,” she said. So I scrambled to my new position and we continued toward Broadway. It’s one of my most memorable memories of our frequent walks.

To this day, that walk-behind move still gives pause to a few women. Please don’t be alarmed, ladies. I’m just honoring my mom.

— Nate Brown

Lesson: Always show kindness and respect

My mom, Barbara Mungovan Koch, is a selfless, loving, intelligent, devout and caring linguist. She's been both a source of wisdom and a best friend throughout my whole life. A lot my growth as a person is because she was constantly there for me. She didn't have very many rules, but the rules that were there were things that I've incorporated into myself as character traits. She taught me kindness and respect. She taught me that every single person on Earth deserves those things.

Although I may not listen to her about everything, she tends to be right about most things. I know that since she's cared so much to instill these values, along with the importance of faith, family, and friends, there's nothing more important than kindness and respect.

— Drew Koch, Missourian staff member

Lesson: Be brave always

My mother, Ana Beatriz Herrera Tamayo, and I have gone through a lot of turmoil in our relationship, but I am unconditionally in awe of her and the trait of courage she's gifted me. Before I was born, and when my older sister was 2 or 3 years old, my mom had a visa interview to be able to move to the United States. The plan was to reunite with my father who moved for better work opportunities. At the end of the interview process, she was told her and my sister had been denied visas. But my mom, being a loud Colombian activist, fought with the administrator and convinced him to issue them visas anyways.

That year they moved to New Jersey. About five years later, I was born in Florida. Although I'm now in Missouri and my sister lives in the UK, my mom's courage is what allowed our family to thrive and stay connected.

— Josey Herrera, Missourian staff member

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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