I know that my Mother’s Day tribute is two days too late for Mother’s Day. But one of the things I’ve learned from my mom is that it’s never too late to do something special for someone. Sending birthday and Christmas presents late is practically a tradition on my mom’s side of the family and has become a running family joke, a “genetic anomaly” that we all laugh about when the Christmas card shows up in April and you can’t remember whether the birthday gift you just received is late for last year’s birthday or early for the next one. As long as it’s from the heart, the timing won’t matter to Mom.
My mom is an amazing woman. I hear her voice in my head and feel the gentle guidance of her hundreds of motherly proverbs nudging me along, influencing how I mother my own kids. Even though she can still drive me crazy in that way only mothers and daughters know, I am thankful daily for the blessing she is and the gifts she has given me.
Though I could probably make a list ten pages long of things my mom has said, I want to share here some of the lessons I’ve learned just by watching the way she lives, because I’ve come to understand that those are the most precious legacy of all.
My mother has taught me that:
Housework can wait. I don’t remember, growing up, if our house was always clean. I never put on white gloves and checked for dust, or inventoried the linen closet to make sure everything was neatly put away and accounted for. What I do remember is making cookies in the kitchen with Mom, flour on the floor, eggs accidentally cracked before they reached the bowl, doughy fingerprints on every surface. I remember her reading aloud to us (long after we could read for ourselves) while I leaned against her, closed my eyes, and let the words paint pictures in my head. My Side of the Mountain was one of my favorites, and gave birth to a fantasy I held on to long afterwards, of getting away into the wild world and “living off the land” like Henry David Thoreau. I remember her teaching us the multiplication tables with homemade flash cards, harnessing the power of competition to spur us on as we strove to win the last Popsicle in math fact speed rounds. I don’t remember if the house was spotless, but I do remember knowing that I was important to my mother. I hope my children will always know how important they are to me.
The best gift you can give is yourself. My mom has worked hard all her life. It was her goal to be a stay-at-home mom when we were growing up, and she and my dad toiled to make that a reality. From selling handmade crafts at craft shows to driving a paper route to running a home day care, my mom did everything possible to make sure she was there for us in those early years. Later, when we were older and stretched finances dictated her entry into the work force, she still labored to stay present and tuned in. She always knew what was going on in our lives, and made the extra effort to stay connected to us, to know our thoughts and our feelings about things. I still remember mom waiting up for me when I went out on dates—not just to make sure I got home okay (although that was part of it), but to spend time talking with me during the only quiet part of the day. We shared deep conversations and unraveled many of the universe’s mysteries at one o’clock in the morning. Her efforts to truly stay in touch have made a world of difference, not only in my development, but in the home I’m trying to create for my children, too. I hope that whether I’m working or not, I will always do what it takes to be there for my family.
It’s never too late to accomplish your dreams. My parents were married while still in college, and, like many young women, my mom threw herself into marriage and family life and didn’t complete her degree. After raising a family and spending years in management positions for the food service industry, she made a leap of faith. With my father’s wonderful support and three children cheering her on, she went back to school and earned first her B.A. in psychology and then a Master’s degree in counseling. I was in college myself when she enrolled in classes, and seeing her make sacrifices and embrace challenges to reach out for her goals had a profound impact on me. I hope that I will never be afraid to make changes and step out of my comfort zone to realize the purposes that God puts in front of me.
The only way past pain is through it. Like most families, mine has endured its share of rocky shoals and stormy seas. Long before I was married, I watched my parents pilot their ship through both calm waters and mountainous waves that threatened to capsize everything. Through it all, their commitment to stay the course never wavered, and I rested in that certainty. I’ve seen my mom face down the pain in her life. Many people run from pain, sweep it under the rug, or try to drown it in some other distraction, but I watched her feel it, accept it, work through it, and move beyond it. Now, through her counseling practice, God is even using her pain to help others. No one gets through life unscathed, and her example was a profound one for me when my own ship threatened to capsize. I hope I will never fear what the future brings, but trust that God will give me the strength to face whatever comes.
These are just a few of the many things I’ve learned, and am learning, by watching my mom. There’s so much more I could say, so many more lessons she is teaching me—about the struggle of letting go, the freedom of taking one day at a time, the power of forgiveness, and the joy of serving others. Even though we live thousands of miles apart, she still has her finger on the pulse of my life, and I know that she keeps me in constant thought and prayer. There is a warmth in knowing that, a sweetness that never really leaves you, wherever you go.
My mother is a complex and ever-changing woman. I know that I’ll be sitting at her feet and learning from her for the rest of my life.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!