8 Life Skills Mom Forgot to Teach Me

Photo: ThinkstockBy Amy Shearn

The Art of Beautiful Ws
Whenever I have to actually write something by hand, I feel obligated to make some self-deprecating aside about the results, which resemble hieroglyphics after many millennia of erosion. But our mothers, who grew up in pre-typing-everything times, really know how to write fancy cursive Fs and Gs and Ws, and as a result there is a bit of everyday elegance infused into even their shopping lists.

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Making Banana Bread Without a Recipe
You used to make fun of your mother for rescuing mushy, overripe bananas from a trash-can fate, but listen, guess where all that delicious banana bread came from? We know how to cook the holiday favorites we helped our mothers make, and probably a cultural biggest hit--hello, noodle kugel! But what about the everyday, unglamorous, using-the-leftovers standbys? We're all capable of transforming rotisserie-chicken guts into a delicious soup, but when do you get that special ability to do such a thing without consulting six recipes on the iPad as you go?

How to Do Bangs
When I went to junior high, there were two kinds of girls: the ones who knew how to do their bangs into the de rigueur sprayed-stiff rainbow-shape and the much less cool ones who didn't. I didn't.

Needlepointing a Hedgehog
Our mothers wanted to spare us the pre-feminist skillset--the needlepoint, the quilting, the sewing our own clothes. We were raised to study hard and go to college and manage our money, and those things are good, but also, think about how smart we look and how much cash we save when we hem our own pants. (Meanwhile, I have no idea how to make a needlepoint hedgehog, so I have to buy mine on Etsy.)

A Fearless Appetite for Foods from Far-Off Lands
You thought ketchup was spicy until you were 12. It's not your mom's fault you didn't try hummus until college.

Connecting Wirelessly
When my husband and I were planning our wedding, we were amazed to learn how many distant relatives and old friends our parents suddenly seemed to be in contact with. How were these blog-less people able to keep in touch with so many people, so intensely? There is something about writing a letter to just one person and no other imagined audience, something about taking the time to reach out to a single soul at a time, that requires a purity of attention most of us feel like we don't have time for in our multitasking lives. I am thinking of an old friend I miss and want to write to, and I should know how to do this--to ask her questions, to tell her my thoughts, to communicate in longhand--but really, would I even know where to start, without having to review my tweets?

How to Stand Up for Yourself
Growing up with siblings offers a wonderful opportunity to hone your conflict-management skills, kind of like a familial gladiator pit. Mothers have the unenviable job of monitoring these skirmishes to make sure no one actually kills anyone, so you can forgive your mom for ingraining in your head concepts like "I don't care who's right" and "Just let it go." Good advice when you can't even remember why you pinned your brother under the couch cushions in the first place. But in your grown-up life, sometimes you need to be able to argue effectively, and not freak out at the slightest conflict.

Picking the Perfect Eggshell Ecru
The entryway needs to be repainted, so you've been agonizing over what color to choose for weeks, poring over Pinterest, logging hours and hours reading design blogs. There must be an easier way. But only your mother knows for sure why she was able to unflinchingly faux-finish her stairwell and love it so entirely.

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