Savannah: 23 lessons my mom taught me about raising a child

Well, Mother's Day is once again upon us. And in case we forgot, there are all those tear-jerking and vaguely emotionally manipulative greeting card ads to remind us!

(Also, have you been watching our series this week, “Mom’s the Word”? Some amazing moments already!)

This year the holiday has new resonance for me, as I embark upon motherhood myself for the first time. My older sister just became a mother for the first time a year ago. "One thing I realized in a whole new way," she told me, "is how much Mom did to take care of us." This is something you always know in your brain, she said, but to actually do the feeding, holding, burping, changing, bathing, comforting and constant caring for your own baby makes you appreciate exactly what it took for your own mom to get you to adulthood. 

Samantha Okazaki / Today
Savannah Guthrie gets a hug from her mom, Nancy Guthrie. The two spent a day together shopping for baby gifts and talking about motherhood.

Like my sister, I've also been thinking a lot about my childhood and our mom, Nancy. 

So I decided that this year, along with the customary flowers, I will send my mom something I know she doesn't have— a listicle!

What I Learned From My Mother (or...23 Things A Good Mom Should Do For Her Child)

1. Come up with a nickname that belongs just to you and her.

2. Write little love notes to her on a napkin to find in her lunch bag at school. She’ll remember it forever.

3. Make a point to mark special occasions: Have her wear a new outfit on the first day of school and take a picture in the same spot every year. Bonus points awarded if her sister has the same outfit in coordinating color. Dye Easter eggs. Create Christmas ornaments out of cookie dough and hang them year after year even as they crumble into hideousness. Insist on tinsel and Christmas music. Make a photo collage of her life and hang it on the wall; though it will mortify her in high school, she will secretly appreciate the effort. 

4. Encourage humility. Remind her to be as quick to consider her own fault in a situation as she is to find fault in others. 

Samantha Okazaki / Today
Savannah Guthrie interviewing her mom. Nancy Guthrie.

5. Say you love her all the time. But more importantly, show her, with your loyalty and the sacrifices you make for her. She notices. 

6. Be honorable. Support and admire and respect her father, and present a unified front. Never try to divide and conquer — that would just divide her heart.  

7. Be scrupulously fair and equal with all siblings. Never let any child feel favored or unfavored. 

8. Be stubborn and insistent when you must be. When she's little, make her do the things you know are good for her even though she makes a big fuss. This includes church. And brushing her teeth.

9. If she doesn't want to practice her piano, tell her she has the gift of music and pray with her on the piano bench to help her realize it.

10. Don't coddle. Expect her to be strong and self-sufficient. 

11. Give her chores and make her actually do them — even when she accuses you of giving birth just to have someone to help with the cleaning. 

12. Command respect but never be scary. 

Savannah and her sister on the first day of school in coordinating outfits.

13. Every once in a while, overcome your own need to stick to the schedule and surprise her by driving around looking for the end of the rainbow.   

14. Be invested in her but have your own life. Be your own person. That teaches her volumes.

15. Respond to the statement, "I'm bored,” with: "Then go play." 

16. Have a few go-to recipes and make them over and over... and over. You're a mom, not a chef.

17. Tell her, at a certain age, if she wants spending money, she should get a part-time job. 

18. Insist on your rules, like a curfew, but let them slide once in a while. She will be shocked and amazed. 

19. Discourage entitlement and encourage gratitude, even for the little things that might be taken for granted. For example, teach her to say, "Thanks, Mom and Dad," when out for a meal or after a vacation.  

20. Tell her she is pretty even during those years when she is definitely not — but always be far more interested in the beauty of her heart and her character.

21. When she is a young woman just out of school, tell her to go for her dreams. Tell her it is OK to leave home when it's time, even though your heart might be breaking to see her go. Tell her, when you know her attachment and loyalty to you might keep her close, “If you can't leave me, then I didn't do my job right."

22. As the years go on, go ahead and let her see your sentimental side. Let her see you enjoying the old home movies and photographs. Let her hear you say, "Look how cute my babies were!"

23. Never stop being her mom. Even when she is 42 and about to be a mom herself, she will need you more than ever. 

Happy Mother's Day, moms and future moms everywhere!

(Below, enjoy a few pictures from Savannah and Nancy's day of shopping for baby gifts.)

Samantha Okazaki / Today
Savannah and Nancy Guthrie browse a baby store in Soho, New York.
Samantha Okazaki / Today
While shopping, mom Nancy teases Savannah about the mystery of the gender of her child.
Samantha Okazaki / Today
This sweet pea stuffed animal was a winner.