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9 Unforgettable Things My Mother Taught Me

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9 Unforgettable Things My Mother Taught Me

In this chaotic and somewhat unpredictable world, filled with the stress of daily living, every woman can face challenges every day. Like never before, women fulfill multiple roles; at home, in the workplace, and in their personal lives. I sometimes refer to the current society as the “age of the superwoman” because of the high expectations placed on women.

In honor of my mother, whose birthday would have been January 31st, I am writing about some of the basic things she taught me that continue to help me survive in the world.

My mother was Miriam Eleanor Bresnahan, born in 1920. She was first and foremost a homemaker. She raised a family of seven children and was married to my father, Leo, a railroader, for 63 years. She passed away in 2010. She was 90 years old.

    Miriam Eleanor Bresnahan

    My mom was the emotional center of our large family. Each of us told her any problems we were having, but we also shared all our joys with her. She was an amazing parent and a dear sweet wife. She lived her days unselfishly devoted to the needs and dreams of her children.

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    She raised all of us (one boy and six girls) to be independent, to think for ourselves, and to work hard. She was tough, but gentle, critical but understanding, disciplined, but free spirited. I remember coming home for college and being amazed how she embraced an ever changing world by appreciating modern music and even dancing to it.

    Miriam was born in 1920 and grew up dirt poor, but then her life was transformed when she fell in love. I watched her grow and change over the years, and have enthusiasm for every single thing her children were involved in. She was beautiful, artistic, loved decorating, collecting figurines, crafts and sewing, and most importantly, she was a wonderful cook.

    She had a magnetism that no one could resist. She was loving and was loved very deeply. She had a way of winning people over, and when someone came into her home, they automatically became, in that instant, part of the family. To say she was supportive is an understatement. She was completely devoted to her children and her husband all her life. She was amazing.

      Miriam and Leo Bresnahan on their wedding day.

      Here are 9 important things my mother taught me:

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      1. Always do your best, no matter what you do

      She always encouraged us to participate in activities at church and school. We were encouraged to try and to try hard at everything.

      2. Speak up – your opinion counts

      I guess in a large family it just becomes a way of life to speak up, otherwise you might not be heard at all. But, mom valued everything we had to say and made us feel like our opinions always mattered.

      3. If you start something, finish it

      Whatever we did, or tried to do, she made it very clear that we didn’t give up. We learned determination that guided us all to become achievers in school and in life.

      4. You have talent, so use it

      My mom delighted in finding out just what the talents of her children were. She encouraged us to do the things we were good at.

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      5. Love your neighbors and be good to others

      Growing up in a Catholic environment, it was easy to learn to love your neighbors and to be good to other people.

      6. Treat others how you want to be treated

      The golden rule was a way of life for all of us, and she made sure we understood that.

      7. Always be honest, no matter what happens

      This was a major lesson at home, which we carried out into the world. Honesty is always important.

      8. Life is too short for fighting; admit your mistakes

      If there was a conflict, we were always encouraged to be the first ones to admit we were sorry. We didn’t waste time fighting with each other.

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      9. Have faith in God and trust in His plan

      Having faith in God was something our lives were built upon. The importance of this faith is one thing I have found impossible to live without in my life. I will always trust that God has a plan for me, and this trust keeps my life in balance.

        Here I am with my mother, Miriam Elearnor Bresnahan, on her 90th Birthday.

        I honor my mother by remembering the things she taught me. I can only pray that I am as good a mother as she was. Hopefully this list will inspire other women, as well as men, to reflect upon the lessons they are teaching their children in today’s challenging and ever-changing world.

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        Karen Bresnahan

        Photographer/Writer/Artist

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        Last Updated on October 7, 2021

        Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

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        Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

        In today’s chaotic world, having family time isn’t always easy. It can get pretty hard to coordinate schedules, especially if the family is large. Life demands that we work, attend school, nurture friendships, hobbies, etc. All of those things are extremely time-consuming and important—but so is spending time with your family.

        Why is family time so important? Because we all need love and support, and a good, strong family can provide that regularly. For children, spending time with their family helps shape them into good, responsible adults, improve their mental health, and develop strong core values.

        There are many positive effects of spending time with your family. My family and I, for instance (and this includes grandchildren as well), meet every Tuesday night for dinner and games. My older son and I take turns cooking. This gives all of us a chance to try some new recipes. After dinner, we play games. And without fail, they inspire competitiveness and laughter. As family night has evolved, the grandkids have invited their friends over as well, creating the need for more chairs but also expanding our circle of fun.

        Aside from the obvious fun and games, there are other reasons why spending time with your family is paramount. In this article, I will provide you with multiple reasons why spending time with your family regularly is a win-win. And then, I will lay out some ways on how to do it.

        Let’s get started, shall we?

        Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important

        Here are six reasons why it’s important to spend time with your family.

        1. Provides the Opportunity to Bond

        When you spend time together as a family—talking about your day, your highs, your lows—it fosters communication. As parents, it gives you the chance to listen to your children, to hear them out, to learn about what’s going on in their world. It also provides you with the opportunity to use life situations as teaching moments.

        Before our Tuesday night dinner/game nights, my family used to see each other pretty regularly but not consistently, especially the grandkids. Our family night changed all that. Now, it’s guaranteed that the grandchildren, along with some of their friends, will be there. Not only do I get to find out what’s been happening in their lives, but they also get to know us better. It’s creating memories they can treasure forever, as well as modeling the Get-Together tradition for when they eventually have families of their own.

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        “Spending time partaking in everyday family leisure activities has been associated with greater emotional bonding within families.”[1]

        2. Teaches the Value of Family

        Taking the time to be with your family lets your children know they are valued—that spending time together is a priority. I know that in today’s world, both parents are busy as both usually working. What better way to let your children know they are loved than by carving out time each week to spend with them?

        According to Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D., “words like honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage are core to centuries of religious, philosophical, and family beliefs. Use them and others to express and reinforce your family values. Teach children the behaviors that flow from these principles. Use quotes to ignite meaningful dinner conversations and encourage kids to talk about these values.”[2]

        3. Enhances Mental Well-Being

        Spending that quality time together gives your children a safe platform in which to express themselves, ask questions about things that are bothering them, or talk about their day and things they’ve learned. I know that my 9-year old granddaughter can’t wait until it’s her turn to talk about her day. She usually goes on and on and has to be stopped to give everyone else a chance to talk about their goings-on.

        “Research shows the quality of family relationships is more important than their size or composition. Whoever the family is made up of, they can build strong, positive relationships that promote wellbeing and support children and young people’s mental health.”[3]

        For children, having the opportunity to seek advice from parents they trust—as well as being able to have a sounding board and help with problem-solving—is priceless. In addition, being able to voice their opinions and be heard—and to feel like what they have to say matters—is an esteem-builder. All of these can have a very impactful positive effect on their well-being.

        4. Helps the Child Feel Loved

        How do you think a child feels knowing their parents want to spend time with them—talking, sharing experiences, playing games, listening to them? It will make them feel as though they are important, and a child that feels important is happier and more apt to thrive. Setting aside chores or work to spend time with your children demonstrates that they’re essential—that they matter. What a gift to give your child!

        “If a child has your undivided attention, it signals that they are loved and important to you. This can be further nurtured by experiencing joyful activities together, as it demonstrates that you want to spend time with your children over and above all of the daily demands.”[4]

        5. Creates a Safe Environment

        If you regularly spend time with your children, you are also creating an atmosphere of trust. The more trust they have, the more likely they are to share with you what’s going on in their world. As they get older, you’re going to want to know. Negative influences can show up at any time, but if you’ve always been there for your child, they are more apt to come to you and ask for your advice.

        Spending time together generates familiarity and feelings of being supported. When a child feels safe and comfortable, they’re more likely to open up. This is one way to get to know your child and know what’s on their minds. Are they okay? Do they need your guidance? If so, how?

        6. Reduces Stress

        This is significant. We all suffer from stress at one point or another in our lives. Spending time with family helps alleviate that stress. It’s an opportunity to talk things out, get feedback, and maybe brainstorm for a solution to the problem that is causing the stress.

        According to Brandy Drzymkowski, “During the holidays, your closest five people probably shifts to family and friends. You may even get to see loved ones who live far away. Good news! This can actually help lower your stress levels. Studies show ‘face-to-face interaction…counteracts the body’s defensive ‘fight-or-flight’ response.’ In other words, quality time spent with loved ones is nature’s stress reliever.”[5]

        So, now that you know some of the benefits, what are some ideas for making family time happen?

        How to Make Family Time Happen

        Here are four things you can do to make family time happen and spend more time with them.

        1. Family Dinners

        This, as I said above, is a wonderful way to spend time together. While you’re having dinner, you have the chance to discuss things that are going on in your lives—the ups, the downs, and everywhere in between. It’s like having a buffer against life’s challenges.

        Aside from that, eating dinner together has many additional benefits. Studies have shown that for kids who eat regularly with their families, there is less risk of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression.[6]

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        “Our belief in the ‘magic’ of family dinners is grounded in research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals.” It further states, “We recommend combining food, fun and conversation at mealtimes because those three ingredients are the recipe for a warm, positive family dinner—the type of environment that makes these scientifically proven benefits possible.”[7]

        According to Parenting NI, “children and adolescents who spend more time with their parents are less likely to get involved in risky behavior. According to studies done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse via Arizona State University, teens who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.”[8]

        As you can see, there are multiple benefits to spending time with each other routinely. You can’t go wrong with this family activity.

        2.  Regular Movie Nights

        This is another fun event, although, from personal experience, I have to caution that choosing a movie that everyone wants to see is not easy. So, give yourselves plenty of time so you don’t spend two hours searching for a movie, and then end up watching no movie at all because the night is practically over. Try and choose a movie before the day, if possible.

        Afterward, open it up for discussion. Ask questions pertinent to the movie. What do you think of ABC? Should they have done that? Would you have done something differently? There are so many questions you can ask to spark a conversation and keep the night going.

        3. Game Night

        This is another occasion for great fun. If you have a competitive spirit, it makes it even more fun. There are numerous games out there—Balderdash, Pictionary, Apples to Apples, Charades, to name a few—that can create fun havoc. All I can say is, on game nights, don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s okay if you lose the game. The fun is in being together, laughing, debating, and having a good time.

        In addition, “Playing board games is great for children for many reasons besides the obvious; it’s fun to play games! Age appropriate games can help children to think strategically, solve problems creatively, work on pattern recognition and build simple math skills. They also help children develop social skills such as following rules, taking turns, and graceful winning or losing. Additionally, a family game night provides an opportunity for children to bond with siblings, parents and family members as well as peers. It can promote tradition building and establish a fun routine.”[9]

        So, go find your family a game and start having fun!

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        4. Sharing a Hobby

        If you and one of your kids like to do the same things, do it more often. For example, my oldest son and his teenage son go on long bike rides together on the weekends. Not only do they get to exercise, but they also get to talk and look at beautiful sceneries. They’ve also incorporated cooking into their routine. They plan the meal, shop, and prepare—activities that bring them closer together.

        Sharing a hobby is a great way to bring family members together. It bonds people in amazing ways. According to Alison Ratner Mayer, LICSW, “One of the easiest and most important ways to build a child’s self-esteem is to spend time with them doing something not only that they enjoy but something that you also enjoy. There is a special magic that happens between a parent and a child when they share a mutually beloved activity. It sends the message to the child that their parents are having fun, true, honest, real fun, with them.”[10]

        Final Thoughts

        Spending time with the family is an investment. It is an investment in the happiness, well-being, and security of that system. It can also serve as a way to break out of the daily rut and the constant worldly demands, while at the same time, building a strong family unit.

        Even though it isn’t always easy to find the time, finding the time is key to staying close and to providing and receiving love and support. There is no greater gift than the gift of time. That’s what we all seem to be missing nowadays. So, in giving that gift consistently, everyone feels loved and appreciated.

        The family that takes the time to interact regularly is typically happy. They know they are part of a tribe, and that’s essential in today’s chaotic world. To know that there are people whom you can count on—people who will have your back in times of need—is invaluable.

        Now, go and plan something plan with your family, if you haven’t already.

        Featured photo credit: Jimmy Dean via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Pittsburgh Parent: Spending Time Together—Benefits of Family Time
        [2] Roots of Action: Integrity: How Families Teach and Live Their Values
        [3] Beyond Blue: Healthy Families
        [4] Esperance Anglican Community School: The importance of family time
        [5] Brandy Drzymkowski: Spending Time With Loved Ones Reduces Stress
        [6] Harvard Graduate School of Education: Harvard EdCast: The Benefit of Family Mealtime
        [7] The Family Dinner Project: BENEFITS OF FAMILY DINNERS
        [8] Parenting NI: The Importance of Spending Time Together
        [9] WNY Children: Family Game Night- The Benefits of Game Play
        [10] Child Therapy Boston: The Benefits of Sharing a Hobby With Your Child

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