Vanessa's own mother, Helen, instilled her daughter with life lessons that she wants to pass down to her own daughters. "Love what you do, and love who you are. That was a big lesson that my mother always talked about—being independent and being who you are," she says. "Dare to be different. If you want to dress that way, dress that way. If you have a voice, stand up and speak it. Say what you want to say."
Although she and her mother have come to an understanding now, when she was growing up, Vanessa says she went through a long period of rebellion—from seventh grade until she got married! "I said, 'I don't care. I'm going to take the heat anyway, so I may as well do what I want to do.' And I would stay out or do things that I knew would cross the line," she says.
But every time Vanessa broke a rule, she says her parents enforced the punishments they gave her. "That's another great groundwork that my parents set up, that with an action, there's a consequence." Vanessa says she crossed the line so often that she was grounded throughout most of high school! "The most severe [punishment] was my door was taken off. They said, 'You do not deserve privacy,' and they took off my bedroom door," she says.
Vanessa says she finally ended her rebellion when, as an adult and a mom herself, she realized she needed her mother's guidance sometimes. "I think, as a mother of four, you certainly don't appreciate the mother you have until you have kids," she says.
Vanessa's mother, Helen, says one thing she wishes she'd been able to do when she was raising her children is to show her love for them more easily. "I came from a family that did not display a lot of affection, not demonstrative at all with showing love or how you feel," Helen says. "And I wish it had been. It was never comfortable for me to be able to do that, and to this very day, I really have to work at it."
"There are many nights where I remember saying to my dad, 'Does Mom love me?' or 'Why can't Mom show me love?'" Vanessa says. "He said, 'Well, Mom's childhood was tough,'" Vanessa says. "And knowing that, knowing the reason, I wasn't searching or looking or hungry for it, because I understood it."
While Helen had to enforce rules a lot during her daughter's rebellious years, she believes Vanessa always knew it was in her best interests. "I wanted to raise a daughter who could be the best at what she wanted to be. And maybe her best would not be as good as somebody else's best, but it was her best," Helen says. "Fortunately, her best has been very good."
Vanessa says her mother has very high standards for her, and sometimes compliments are hard to come by. But Helen says she doesn't try to be her daughter's friend—she tries to be honest. "I'm her mother. She has friends, and I'm friends with some of her peers," Helen says. "But first I'm a parent, and I hope that I'm also a friend. But that's not the most important thing to me. The most important thing to me is that I'm her mother."
After her interviews with Demi, Vanessa and Helen, Maria says she realizes the importance of showing that you love your children for themselves. "The one thing I learned over all of this is to show your children unconditional love. That's where they learn it, at home, and that they don't have to perform in order to get your love," she says. "That you love them for who they are and that it's not about how successful they've become."
From her own mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver
, Maria says she has learned many lifelong lessons. "I learned the power of faith, the importance of faith, the importance of family loyalty. My mother's taught me that, taught me to be strong, to be independent. She taught me how to get tackled on a football field," Maria says. "She also taught me how to be a mother and that mothering never ends."
As for Mother's Day, Maria suggests giving a personal gift to your mom. "I think write a letter to your mother, actually. Instead of letting the card say it, write what you actually feel to your mother," Maria says. "The letters my kids have written me are the most valuable possessions I own."
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