Ever since I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder just two weeks before my 58th birthday, I have looked back on my childhood from a completely different angle. A lot of things that used to be confusing about my past now make sense. I have gained a lot of perspective regarding the monumental effort my mother put into parenting me. I wish I could go back and thank her for all that she tried to do for a daughter who was so inexplicably resistant to social norms. I now realize that she did the best she could with the information that she had.
With Mother’s Day rolling back around this Sunday, I thought I would share a few pearls of wisdom from my mother that have benefited me throughout my life.
Pearl #1: If you make a mistake and you can fix it, then do so and don’t tell anyone. If you can’t fix it, then own up to your mistake and sincerely apologize.
I have had to use this advice quite a bit. There’s no sense in advertising that you’re constantly screwing up if things can be fixed. I’m sure the young autistic me struggled with this concept, because my tendency is to tell everybody everything all the time. But if people realized how often I made a mess of things, I’d be trusted even less than I already am. So it’s best to clean up the mess and keep my mouth shut.
But if there’s no fixing what you’ve done, it’s important to have the integrity to take ownership of your mistakes. While people may be irritated at first, they’ll appreciate your honesty in the long run.
Pearl #2: When you first get credit cards, get into the habit of only charging things that you’ll be able to pay off in full when the bill arrives.
My mother even had me put cash aside in an envelope to make sure I had it before I charged anything for the first year or so after college. That made the charges feel “real” to me. You might ask why I didn’t just pay for the item in cash if I had it. But your credit score is one of the primary ways you are judged in our capitalist society. So charge it, yes, but pay it off that month. I can count the number of times I haven’t immediately paid a credit card bill in full on one hand.
Because I got into that habit, I have had a credit score over 800 for my entire adult life. I’ve never had trouble making a major purchase, because I’ve proven that I’m trustworthy. My high score has translated into lower car insurance premiums, lower interest rates, higher credit limits, better mortgage terms, easier access to utility services, a lot of waived security deposits, and certain advantages when applying for jobs.
There is no downside to looking at your credit card as a convenient way to pay for something in full, rather than as a way to buy things you can’t really afford. And this habit also teaches you that delayed gratification comes with a lot of rewards.
Pearl #3: Libraries can take you anywhere in the universe!
My mother didn’t get to experience the internet age, but she was just as inquisitive as I am. She instilled in me a love of learning, and back then, the library was your primary resource for getting your questions answered. She gave me this sage advice when I was 4 years old and getting my very first library card. She made that card seem like the ticket to any destination I could possibly imagine. To this day, I still get butterflies in my stomach when I go to a library.
Even though I’m no longer as dependent on libraries as I once was, I think this pearl of wisdom had ripple effects. It taught me to think critically. It made me excited about the potential of life. It made me want to find out what other people thought. It gave me the confidence to understand that I could learn anything that I put my mind to. It’s probably why I now operate a little free library in front of my house. It also allowed me to hone my ability to communicate much more than I would have if I had been left to my own autistic devices.
Pearl #4: Even cheerleaders get pimples on their butts.
Okay, so this one isn’t exactly advice. It’s more of a pep talk. My mother knew on some level that I’d always feel different, and that I’d struggle to fit in.
This was her humorous way of telling me that everyone has flaws. Nobody’s perfect. And that even when people appear to be living perfect, unblemished lives, that doesn’t mean that they’re not struggling just as much as I am.
My childhood was a train wreck. But I’m finally realizing that given my brain chemistry, and given the era in which I was born, I really couldn’t have asked for a better mother. She fought for me as much as she could, and that got me a lot further in life than I would have otherwise.
And Happy Mother’s Day to all the phenomenal mothers out there. What you do matters. You have the power to be an unstoppable force for good. Embrace it.
And now here’s my own sage advice for all florists. You do yourself a great disservice by not delivering flowers on the Sunday of Mother’s Day. If only one florist in every town were to offer delivery on that actual day, they’d have EVERYONE’s business. I guarantee it. This has been a pet peeve of mine for decades.
An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5