It’s almost Mother’s Day, and my social media news feeds are blowing up with ads making me all sappy. Check out this one from P&G. (Warning: you will cry. So make sure no one else is around. I’m over here wiping my eyes while people walk by staring at me…) It reminds me of how much my mom has done for me.Mom_and_Grad

Neither of my parents went on to higher education, but they pushed all three of their children to pursue college. They wanted us to find careers we enjoyed and where we would work smarter, not harder. As I began to reflect on her influence on my life choices and experiences – especially in high school and college — I realized she gave me independent living skills and, surprisingly, how to “live a little.”

My mom especially supported me by encouraging me to:

Have New Experiences

My college offered a travel scholarship to every student, and I didn’t want to miss out. Many students would travel domestically – Texas Gulf, East Coast, West Coast – just because it was more affordable. But I wanted to go big. I wasn’t a world traveler (I had never been out of the country), and I wanted to take a risk.  A trip to India was just that opportunity.

My dad has lived in the same community his whole life, so imagine his reaction when I told him I wanted to travel to the other side of the world (it wasn’t as bad as my sister telling him she was spending a year in Spain, but close). I raised my dad’s blood pressure a few beats that day, but my mom was totally on board. She started shopping for luggage and a travel money belt. And I got ready for a trip of a lifetime – with camel rides in the desert, a run-in to a Bollywood music video set, and no other choice but Indian food (which I had to learn to like, and still do).

Learn How to Live on Your Own

I remember when my brother went to college. My mom knew the summer months were her last ditch effort to teach that boy how to cook, since his only talent was making mac & cheese from the blue box. She wanted all her children to be able to take care of themselves since she wouldn’t be close to take care of their every need.

My mom taught me how to cook, how to mend clothes, how to communicate kindly to others when they were, quite frankly, being a pain, and how to understand difficult forms. When I got my first job out of college, I remember getting the paperwork to sign up for health insurance and participate in a retirement plan. Cue a phone call to Mom. I interrupted her several times: “Wait. I don’t get that. Explain it again.” And I continued to call and ask questions for the next several years when it came to car insurance, doing my taxes, and other “adulting” necessities.

Have Fun

I remember going out with friends in high school. My dad would say, “Be home at 11 pm.” I’d reply, “But Dad, my curfew is midnight.” He’d respond, “Fine. Midnight.” And my mom would poke her head out of the kitchen waving with one finger at me as if to say, “You can stay out ‘til 1 am. Have fun.” It was our little secret. (So don’t tell my dad if you run into him.) My mom worked hard and had done so from a young age. She wanted her kids to be young as long as possible.

Be a Leader

My mom was the Girl Scout leader of two troops and always pushed us to step out of our comfort zone to take a lead in our community – whether that was talking to residents at a retirement community while we picked up their recycling, or leading games for younger girls at a scout event. Eventually, it meant guiding several of us toward earning the highest honor of Girl Scouting: the Gold Award. Several opportunities have opened up to me because of my experiences tackling scout-related projects, and people tend to look at you with more confidence when you share those experiences — simply because those experiences give you more confidence.

Moms are such an important part of our lives. I’m grateful to mine for the way she guided my trajectory throughout the pivotal high school and college years, and into the person I am today. To moms everywhere: “Thanks for believing in us, putting up with us, and straight up lovin’ us.” (And thanks for taking the words right outta my mouth, Kid President.)