I See You, Mama, and I Know It’s Hard

I See You Mama

I wanted to write something flowery for Mother’s Day.  I wanted to honor my grandmothers, who were strong, morally upright women, or my kind, resilient aunts, or my mother, who has been a relentless cheerleader throughout my life.  I tried to do it.  I stared at the page, typed, deleted, typed, deleted, while time ticked away.  But the words would not get in line.  When I tried to write about the glory of motherhood, my quiet thoughts were drowned by a louder refrain:  Life is so stinking hard sometimes.

It’s weird, I know, but I typically write with only a vague sense of where I am going.  I don’t check the map and I don’t chase the words.  Ideas approach, and some are shy and scuffle away, and some unpack and make themselves comfortable.  Then words push and shove their way to the front and, if I’m gentle, they allow me to sculpt them like clay.

So far, they haven’t failed me.

So maybe this is what I’m supposed to write this Mother’s Day.  Maybe I’m supposed to say to you that life is hard sometimes.  Like really, REALLY hard sometimes.  Maybe I’m supposed to say to you that Mother’s Day is nice, but it is not enough.  Maybe I’m supposed to acknowledge that you may be cherishing a new grandchild this Mother’s Day or you might be grieving the loss of your own mother this year or you may be celebrating joyously with all of your children in a few days or you may be spending Sunday on your knees, praying that your child will be walking a better path by the time the next Mother’s Day rolls around.  Maybe I’m supposed to say that I see you, that I hear you, that I know that motherhood is fun and rewarding but also the greatest challenge of your life.

Maybe I’m supposed to tell you that when the waves are crashing against your family and they are so high and you are so afraid, I know that YOU are the one who battens down the hatches and selflessly fights so hard to keep that ship afloat.

That’s what you do, Moms.  I know it.  I SEE you.

Not just on Mother’s Day.  On every day.

When you feel like you could vomit every minute of the day and your insides are being karate chopped by tiny knees and elbows, you are the one who drags herself to work so that your coworkers aren’t inconvenienced and the family has insurance.

When you smell like baby puke and your shirt is wet because you forgot to grab a nursing pad and you wonder if you will ever feel like your cute self again, you are the one who sacrifices yet another shower because the baby won’t stop crying.

When you feel like a completely inadequate parent and wonder if your child will not go to college because you are swaddling him wrong, you are the one who reads another book or attends another parenting class or calls on your mom squad for help, even though you are probably doing just fine.

When your toddler throws up all over everything in the middle of the night, you are the one who is gagging while washing the sheets at 3 a.m. and scrubbing the carpet when you would rather just sell the house tomorrow instead.

When your preschooler is throwing the mother of all fits in the checkout line and you have $200 of groceries piled high in the cart, you are the one who refuses to buy the Milky Way despite the glares of  customers who have forgotten that preschoolers are  little monsters with cute faces.

When a person your kids love drives you within a minute of insanity, you are the one who remains calm and composed so that those important relationships can flourish.

When you are so worried about paying the bills that you feel physically sick, you are the one who makes sure that your children feel safe and secure and unaware of the gravity of your concerns.

When you are so tired that you can barely stand but your child has an important project that everyone forgot, you are the one who runs to the store to buy the glitter glue for the finishing touch.

When it is cold and wet and you want to curl up with a book by the fire, you are the one who slogs through the mud to sit in the pouring rain to cheer for your kid who’s playing soccer.

When you feel broken and empty and unable to give one more thing, you are the one who digs deep to find an internal spring of love and kindness and compassion.

When you are sure that your head will explode at the thump of one more bottle flipping onto the ground, you are the one who redirects your kid’s attention to his equally annoying spinners.

When you are overwhelmed with guilt because your kids have exceeded the pediatrician’s recommendations for screen time almost every day of their entire lives AND they don’t eat enough vegetables, you are the one who packs everyone up for a healthy picnic and a hike at the park instead of going to your book club.

When it’s clear that your child just isn’t cut out for the band or the basketball team or the drama club, you are the one who cheers just a little too loudly and gives her a standing ovation from the crowd.

When your heart is pained because your child has been treated unfairly, you are the one who grits your teeth and calmly advises him even though you would possibly derive more satisfaction from punching someone in the face.

When you are emotionally exhausted from constantly fighting for your child’s unique needs to be met, you are the one who refuses to settle and takes more time off work to meet with his teachers about the accommodations outlined in his IEP.

When your child’s skin is so hot and she is so sick and she breathes those germs right into your face, you are the one who pulls her in closer knowing that you will be taking some sick time in just a few days.

When your child’s teacher calls to tell you that she cheated on a test, you are the one who says, “Thank you for telling me” when your internal mama bear wants to scream, “I know you are wrong because my child would never . . .”

When your child or another loved one is in the hospital and you really aren’t sure if everything will be okay, you are the one who holds your kids tightly and tells them that you will get through this together.

When your faith hits a rough patch and you question who God really is, you are the one who loads everyone in the car to go to church and models a commitment to spiritual growth even through adversity.

When you know the family vacation is more work than fun for you, you are the one who makes all of the reservations and packs all of the snacks and stuffs all of the suitcases and then handles the complaints because you bought the wrong colored Gatorade and you didn’t grab the right bottle of hair gel.

When your teenager’s attitude toward you is hurtful and disrespectful, you are the one who suppresses your tears and takes the phone and the car keys, knowing this will make the next week like hell for you.

When your daughter cries and questions her decision when you leave her at college, you are the one who hugs her and reassures her she is doing the right thing and then sobs for five hours on the drive home.

When your child disappoints you by doing something you never ever thought he would do, you are the one who sits down with the principal or pays for the rehab or visits the jail cell and offers that son or daughter the purest and most sincere love and grace.

When you are hurting deeply because your child rarely calls or visits, you are the one who waits with a broken heart but with arms that are always wide open.

When you cry because you miss the innocence and dependence of your kids, you are the one who remembers that your job was never to maintain little children at all but was always to raise strong men and women who would leave you.

Yes, motherhood is an amazing journey of incredible highs, but it is also a journey that is peppered with the most gut-wrenching of lows.  The emotions are extraordinarily sharp on both ends.  We idealize motherhood and spend a lot of energy projecting the bright spots in our journey to others, so it is easy for really good moms to feel alone and insecure when times are tough.  But the truth is that you are probably your most impressive when you FEEL like you are at your worst.  Because those are the times when your ability to handle motherhood was really put to the test.  And you didn’t quit.  You may not have showered.  You may not have fed your kids vegetables.  You may not have said exactly the right words.  But you did not give up.

If you are a mom, I hope that you are honored this Mother’s Day.  I hope that someone buys you some flowers, and I hope your kids write a nice note in a pretty pink card.  I hope that you celebrate the special women in your life, and I hope that you are reminded to congratulate your fellow moms every single time you see their kids accomplishing goals, sharing their talents, or, most importantly, just being good people.

But if you really want to honor special women this Mother’s Day, look for the mom who is tired.  Look for the mom whose son or daughter is struggling.  Look for the mom who is nursing a sick child or the mom who is grieving a loss or the new mom who is just now adjusting to this mysterious new identity of mother.  Look for the mom who has to fight every single day for the rights of her kid.

SEE HER.

Thank her.

Love her.

Remind her that she is doing the most selfless and important work in the world.

Then jump on her ship with a bucket, and help her keep that thing afloat.

 

Finding Elizabeth

The Elizabeth that I knew lived in a nursing home.  She was elderly and frail.  I don’t remember seeing her stand or even sit up.  I remember her as a tiny, fragile lump beneath the covers.  Her lips were dry, and her words were mumbled, and she was hard for me to understand.

I remember that it smelled in that place.  It smelled like everything awful, and it smelled like the chemicals that tried to wash the awful away. I was five-years-old.  What I remember most is that I did not like to go there.

We went there because my mother loved Elizabeth.  She said that something tragic had happened to Elizabeth once.  She said the people closest to Elizabeth claimed that she had never been the same after that.  My mother had fond memories of her.  She knew Elizabeth.  She knew her heart.  But for me, at five-years-old, the two of us had nothing in common.  Elizabeth, to me, was lost.

Until I found her in a box of old letters.

Letters

In 1944, Elizabeth was living in Ohio with her husband, raising two children and devoting her time to her home and family, like most women of her generation.  Her eldest daughter had already married and moved a few hours away.  Elizabeth was probably still adjusting to this change, one of her chicks leaving the nest.  But Betty was safe.  She was happy.  She was protected and she was loved.  Elizabeth missed Betty, but she knew that Betty was okay.

Her eldest son, Charles Jr., however, was another story.  The distance between Elizabeth and her son did not escape her.  She could never, not even for one moment, take his safety for granted.  Every joy was tempered by her worry that Charles might be cold or hungry, depressed or homesick, or, worse yet, injured or imprisoned.

Charles had enlisted to serve in the United States military.  Somewhere far away, on the other side of the globe even, he was fighting in World War II.  Her heart was so proud of his selfless courage, but it was equally crushed by the weight of her fears for the safety of her son.

Portrait Closeup

Elizabeth listened to radio broadcasts and read newspaper articles about the developments during the war, but what was happening on the frontlines still seemed distant.  News was not instant, and the images were static.  Life at home continued, as normally as possible.  She had teenagers to care for, Lewis and Maxine, and her daily routines helped to keep her occupied.

And she had letters.

Charles wrote regularly, and Elizabeth wrote to him often, as well, sending packages to remind him how much he was missed.  He enjoyed her gifts, like the peanuts she sent that he shared with his friends and fellow soldiers.  Occasionally, he asked her to send specific things that he needed, and she always obliged.  He shared funny stories, like the time that a deer sneaked into the barracks and ate all of the snacks, and he told her about the Abbott and Costello movie that they had watched for entertainment.  His letters were upbeat and positive.  War didn’t sound so scary at all.

Letters from Charles never mentioned danger.  They never described exactly what he was assigned to do or even where he was.  He mentioned that he censored his letters so that they would be approved to leave the base, leaving Elizabeth to wonder what he was omitting.  He often looked forward to the day he would come home, and he always signed off with the same encouraging closing: “Thumbs up!”

As the oldest boy in the family, Charles was full of advice, especially for his younger brother, Lewis.  Even from across the globe, he advised Lewis about girlfriends and class schedules.  He told Lewis to keep his options open with the ladies, even though Charles himself was clearly sweet on one young lady, Doris, whose name was mentioned frequently in his letters.  He asked Lewis to send him pictures so that he could stay connected to what was happening at home.  He told Lewis what classes he should take in high school and was clearly disgusted, even in the midst of war, when his little brother did not take his advice.

Charles was thoughtful, as well, remembering his mother on important dates throughout the year.  He must have known how much she worried about him.  His Mother’s Day message in 1944, so simple and plain, was the most beautiful Mother’s Day gift that Elizabeth could have received while he was gone.  Her tears, as clear as glass, left no stains on the precious letters from her son overseas, letters that she opened oh-so-carefully.

Mother's Day

Elizabeth must have read her Mother’s Day note a thousand times before safely tucking it away in the box where she kept all of Charles’ letters.  Gently touching that paper, running her fingers across his ink on the page, was the closest that she could come to embracing her son.  To the world, these men in uniform were so strong and so brave.  But to her, Charles was so very young, hardly a man himself, really.  Just a few years before, he had still needed her advice, her reassuring touch, her loving care.  She had gently washed and bandaged his skinned knees not all that long ago.  Yet now he and so many young men like him had been entrusted to save the world.

Charles Closeup

Days and months passed, and Charles remained at war.  Elizabeth was comforted by his letters, but sometimes there were long spans between them, and this made her nervous.  If she waited long enough, another letter always came.  It would include an apology for the long delay, explaining that he had been quite busy with his responsibilities, although exactly what his duties were was a bit of a mystery.  Each letter provided some  solace, but Elizabeth knew that by the time she received it, time had already passed, and the reassurance of his safety was actually old news.  As soon as one note was received, she eagerly awaited the next.

In the meantime, Elizabeth loyally supported her son from afar.  She hung a  banner in the family’s front window for everyone to see and took Maxine’s picture in front of it.

Flag  Flag in Window

And she clung to a poem (author unknown) that criticized the discontent of those who weren’t directly in the line of fire.  How dare someone complain about rationing when her son’s life was on the line?

Poem

In January 1945, Elizabeth received a letter with a little more information than usual.  Charles’ letters had been few and far between for a while now, but in this one he shared, “We are now allowed to say that we are someplace in the Philippine Islands.”  What a relief it was to know where her son was actually located!  She could point to it on a map.  She could imagine the climate and the scenery where he was.  “I have picked up a few more souvenirs,” he said, although he explained that he wouldn’t be able to send them for a while.  Someday, she thought, they would look at those souvenirs together, and he would tell her interesting stories about the culture and the merchants there and how much he had paid for the beautifully crafted and exotic gifts.

In Phillipines

As always, Charles had asked for more letters.  Over the previous months, their letters, flying back and forth across the sky and over the ocean, had created an invisible web that kept them connected, mother and son.  Even when there was nothing to write about, Elizabeth kept writing.  She would write and write and write, about nothing and about everything, until she could finally see Charles face to face once more.

And there, in the bottom of the box, I found them.  The two letters, stamped March 19, 1945 and April 16, 1945.

In the first envelope, Elizabeth had neatly tucked a letter full of updates for her son.  The news from home was nothing out of the ordinary.  Lewis has a cold.  Maxine recently visited Betty.  The snow has melted, and Doris performed well in the show last night.

But the war still loomed like a dark cloud over the small town in Ohio.  Charles, of course, was abroad.  There was concern that John could be drafted after being reclassified to 1A.  And Chet, another local boy, was being held captive in an enemy prison camp.  “Thumbs up” was now “Keep praying.”

Return to Sender Close

And then there was a second letter from Elizabeth, a letter mailed in March of 1945.  Elizabeth wrote about the recent flooding in the area and how the mail had been delayed.  There wasn’t much to share, really.  The news at home was mostly uneventful.   The letter was a bit mundane.

But then, the ending.  A simple statement that was dripping with emotion.

“Have not heard from you for 5 weeks . . . Write.  Love, Mother.”

And their standard closing, “Thumbs up.”

Five Weeks

And something in my stomach turned, and my throat tightened at the thought of Elizabeth’s anguish, her desperate wait for a response.  The sadness rushing to my eyes threatened to interrupt the story when I realized that here, in this box full of letters from Charles, I was holding two letters from Elizabeth.  Two love letters from a mother to her son.  Two letters that she had mailed to the Philippines.

Two letters that should not be in this box of mail that she had received.

Two letters that confirmed that what she had always feared had come true.

The Elizabeth that I knew lived in a nursing home.  She was elderly and frail.  I don’t remember seeing her stand or even sit up.  I remember her as a tiny, fragile lump beneath the covers.  Her lips were dry, and her words were mumbled, and she was hard for me to understand.

My mother said that something tragic had happened to Elizabeth once.  She said the people closest to Elizabeth claimed that she had never been the same again.  But my mother loved Elizabeth; she had fond memories of her grandmother.  For me, at five-years-old, my great-grandmother and I had nothing in common.  Elizabeth, to me, was lost.

Until I met Elizabeth, a young mother of sons, just like me, a mother who loved courageously and prayed steadfastly and hoped fiercely for the well being of her greatest treasures, her children.

Until I found her in a box of old letters.

We often associate love stories with courtship and romance, but maybe, just maybe, there is no greater love story than the love between a mother and her son.

 

 

“I Love Our Hugs” and Other Lessons From the Experts

IMG_2284

There are lots of “experts” out there sharing advice about quality parenting, but the opinions that REALLY matter come from our own sons and daughters.  After sifting through over 400 statements that your kids shared about their moms this week, I am thrilled to report that THE REAL EXPERTS SAY THAT YOU ARE DOING AN EXCELLENT JOB! If there is room in their budgets to give you a raise, you just might get one this year. . . but you will probably have to increase their allowances first.

I know that you will enjoy reading about how our sons and daughters (ages 3 to 46) perceive their mothers differently as they mature from preschoolers to adults.  Some responses will make you laugh, and some will touch your heart.  Their answers speak for themselves, but a few trends deserve mention.  First, it seems that we moms expend a lot of breath saying, “I love you.” AND THIS MATTERS. Trust me.  Our kids mentioned it over and over and over again.  If you ever worried about saying it too much or if you thought about dialing it back as your kids get older, DON’T.  Second, no matter how busy life gets, always reserve some time to snuggle.  You might be surprised how often this was mentioned – and by sons AND daughters – and by “kids” of ALL ages.  Third, our sons and daughters treasure ANY TIME when they are getting our undivided attention.  It doesn’t even matter what we are doing with them.  How do I know?  Because that’s what THEY said.

Finally, Trenton, age 11, reminded me that sometimes aunts and grandmas play a significant role in a kid’s life, too.  His aunt and grandma laugh at his jokes, take him places, and care for him, and they deserve a Mother’s Day salute, too!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, EVERYONE!  ENJOY!

 

  1. If my mom becomes famous, it will be for…

Volunteering so much (Brooke, age 15)
Sewing (Katelyn, age 6)
Baking the most delicious homemade pies (Calandra, age 36)
Her minivan driving skills (Kate, age 14)
Her haircutting abilities (Will, age 9)
How much she likes her kids (Ivy, age 5)
Being a movie star (Declan, age 4)
Her awesome cooking (Maggie, age 7)
Helping people (Amelia, age 9)
MURDER. Just kidding. My mom will probably be famous for writing a bestseller. (Dominic, age 19)
Being a teacher (Samuel, age 4)
Our family’s farmer’s market (Ezra, age 26)
Inventing something useless but cool (Joel, age 13)
Singing (Connor and Evan, age 10)
Running (Marin, age 3)
Typing fast (Coen, age 9)
Writing a book (Gavin, age 11)
Being the world’s greatest mom (Jared, age 11)
Watching 100 kids at a time (Hannah, age 8)
Being nice (Ethan, age 6)

  1. One thing that makes my mom different from other moms is…

She takes me frog catching (Mark, age 11)
She likes tools, all kinds of tools (Keara, age 10)
She is always in my business (Brooke, age 15)
Her horrible dance moves (Brody, age 8)
She wears slippers during the day (Kate, age 5)
Her hair. Because she has blond hair. And she has some white. (Aislinn, age 5)
Her unending generosity and hospitality. Everyone who comes into her house is at home. (Calandra, age 36)
Whenever I’m down, my mom always notices even when I try to hide it, and she always cares enough to make me feel better. (Patrick, age 16)
She’s more introverted than most moms, but I love that about her (Kate, age 14)
She doesn’t care what others think about her (Caralyn, age 12)
Her face is different (Ivy, age 5)
She is the nicest person and sweet and pretty and I love her (Rachel, age 11)
She keeps things real – no sugar coating the truth! (Chloe, age 23)
She lets me be spoiled (Gabe, age 9)
She makes her own medicines with essential oils (Amelia, age 9)
She’s been through a whole lot, so she is really a wealth of practical experience in so many ways (Dominic, age 19)
She drives really fast (Leah, age 4)
She takes time to listen to me (Kyle, age 9)
She is caring to every child (Hannah, 8)
She’s way cooler (Jamison, age 11)

  1. My mom always says…

“I love you” (Mark, age 11, and many, MANY others!)
“Get out of the shower!” (Luke, age 14)
“Don’t push me! I have two more kinds of crazy and I am not afraid to use them!” (Keara, age 10)
“Never say never.” (Carson, age 9)
“No.” (Katelyn, age 6 and Aislinn, age 5)
“Call me when you get there.” (Patrick, age 16)
“Be yourself.” (Caralyn, age 12)
“Be nice!!!” (Grant, age 3)
“Only you, Rachel! Ha, ha!” (Rachel, age 11)
“Time to clean up.” (Declan, age 4)
“Go wash your hands” (Leah, age 4)
“Hurry up! You are going to be late!” (Ezra, age 26)
“Because I said so.” (Joel, age 13)
“Attitude is everything!” (Evan, age 10)
“Change the channel!” (Connor, age 10)
“Gavin, you’re grounded!” (Gavin, age 11)
“Be quiet!” (Noah, age 12)
“Don’t talk back.” (Jared, age 11)
“I’m so proud of you.” (Jamison, age 11)
“You can do it.” (Caleb, age 8)

 4. One thing my mom doesn’t like is…

When a song she likes is overplayed on the radio (Luke, age 14)
Anyone that is mean to kids, animals, or old people (Keara, age 10)
When I complain (Carson, age 9)
Pickles (Brody, age 8)
The puppy pooping in the house! (Kate, age 5)
Camping. Because she doesn’t like outdoors. (Aislinn, age 5)
Debt (Calandra, age 36)
Dishonesty (Patrick, age 16)
Drama (Caralyn, age 12)
Kids screaming (Ivy, age 5)
People that chew with their mouths open (Maggie, age 7)
Minecraft (Bo, age 9)
When I pick my nose (Micah, age 7)
When I spill my coffee all over her carpet (Dominic, age 19)
When people watch bad movies (Kyle, age 9)
People who have no compassion (Mary Ann, age 38)
Not listening (Abigail, age 10)
Lazy people (Ezra, age 26)
Tomatoes (Evan, age 10)
Messy floors (Ryne, age 7)
Scary things (Coen, age 9)
Snakes (Hannah, age 8)
People giving up (Caleb, age 8)

  1. My mom laughs when…

I say something funny (Mark, age 11)
I toot (Katelyn, age 6)
The grand- or great grandkids do something funny (Barb, age 46)
She is with her friends (Kate, age 5)
When she’s using her crazy imagination (Gabe, age 9)
When my sister dances (Bo, age 9)
When we tell her a joke (Lainey, age 5)
Silly stuff happens (Samuel, age 4)
We make funny faces (Kyle, age 9)
I’m funny (Marin, age 3)
I say something in a weird voice (Jared, age 11)
She is laughing at her own jokes (Jamison, age 11)

6. I want my mom to teach me to…

Excel at life (Luke, age 14)
Do a flip (Mark, age 11)
Be strong and brave (Keara, age 10)
Have faith, forgive, and be content (Brooke, age 15)
Multiply (Brody, age 8)
Sew (Katelyn, age 6)
She’s already taught me so much – to love, to work hard, to make memories (Calandra, age 36)
To cook. My mom needs to teach me to cook. Badly. (Kate, age 14)
Spell words correctly (Ivy, age 5)
Be a good wife and mother and have patience (Chloe, age 23)
Hang up my clothes (Declan, age 4)
Braid hair (Lainey, age 5)
Fly an airplane (Micah, age 7)
Whistle (Leah, age 4)
Keep plants alive (Mary Ann, age 38)
Drive (Joel, age 13)
Go running (Marin, age 3)
Make fettucine (Gavin, age 11)
Make pancakes (Noah, age 12)
Be successful in the real world (Jamison, age 11)
Ride a bike (Ethan, age 6)

 7. My favorite thing to do with my mom is…

Snuggle (Kate, age 5, and many others of ALL ages!)
Go out to eat (Teagan, age 7; This was also a very popular answer!)
Walk the dog and talk (Luke, age 14)
Go frog catching (Mark, age 11)
Plant flowers and build fairy gardens (Keara, age 10)
Go to the park (Katelyn, age 6)
Hang out (Barb, age 46)
Talk about big stuff, little stuff, any stuff. It’s good to just hear her voice (Calandra, age 36)
Everything. It doesn’t matter what it is. (Kate, age 14)
Play board games (Gabe, age 9)
Play volleyball together (Maggie, age 7)
Go to the mall (Lainey, age 5)
Kiss and hug (Samuel, age 4)
Go to Zoombezi Bay in the summer (Kyle, age 9)
Chat over a cup of hot tea (Mary Ann, age 38)
Dance (Abigail, age 10)
Throw the Frisbee (Connor, age 10)
Make crafts and build Legos (Ryne, age 7)
Play with Playdoh (Marin, age 3)
Take a bike ride (Coen, age 9)
Go to the beach (Gavin, age 11)
Go camping (Noah, age 12)
Spend the day with just the two of us (Jared, age 11)
Read (Caleb, age 8)
Play hide and seek (Ethan, age 6)

  1. I know my mom loves me because…

She always tells me (Brody, age 8, and SO MANY others!)
She likes to snuggle with me (Carson, age 9)
I hear it in her voice and see it in her eyes, especially when we have to leave (Barb, age 46)
She hugs me (Aislinn, age 5)
She says she loves me before I go to bed or leave the house, and before games (Patrick, age 16)
We tell each other that every time we leave (Caralyn, age 12)
She feeds me (Will, age 9)
I was born in her belly (Ivy, age 5)
She kisses my dimples on my hands (Grant, age 3)
She goes to the doctor with me even though I’m an adult (Chloe, age 23)
She lets us live in the house instead of outside (Bo, age 9)
She spends time with me (Kyle, age 9)
I love her (Evan, age 10)
She falls asleep with me (Coen, age 9)
She does everything she can to make me happy (Jared, age 11)
She always takes care of me (Hannah, age 8)

  1. One way that I am proud to be like my mom is…

All babies love me (Brooke, age 15)
We are both nice (Kate, age 5)
I am smart like her (Will, age 9)
I am a Christian, and I love my family and put them first just like her (Chloe, age 23)
I like to make new friends like her (Declan, age 4)
I have her imagination (Gabe, age 9)
We both have a good memory (Bo, age 9)
I like the color purple (Micah, age 7)
I’m good at staying in control and I’m very responsible (Dominic, age 19)
We are happy (Leah, age 4)
We both like vegetables (Kyle, age 9)
We both look for the good in people (Mary Ann, age 38)
She is a hard worker in all aspects of life (Ezra, age 26)
I am good looking and modest! Ha,ha! (Joel, age 13)
I can sing very well (Evan, age 10)
I have glasses (Connor, age 10)
We both like to be outside (Gavin, age 11)
I laugh like her (Noah, age 12)
I have her freckles and dark hair (Jared, age 11)
We love each other (Ethan, age 6)

  1. Something I want my mom to know is…

That I love her so much (Lainey, age 5, and LOTS of other sons and daughters!)
That I really like sports (Carson, age 9)
That I am a good friend at school (Will, age 9)
That she is the BEST (Rachel, age 11)
That she was and is a great mother, even if she didn’t always feel that way (Chloe, age 23)
Sometimes there are five hot dogs in the pan and one goes “smush” (Declan, age 4)
How to play Minecraft (Bo, age 9)
How to fly an airplane (Micah, age 7)
That I’m so glad I am just like her (Dominic, age 19)
That she makes good choices (Abigail, age 10)
How happy I am to be living closer to her now (Ezra, age 26)
That I love everything she does (Evan, age 10)
That I love our hugs (Connor, age 10)
That I appreciate everything she does (Hannah, age 8)
That’s she’s beautiful (Jamison, age 11)
That she’s cool no matter what (Caleb, age 8)
That I love her the mostest in our world! (Ryne, age 7)

A SPECIAL THANKS TO ALL OF THE EXPERTS WHO CONTRIBUTED TO THIS POST!

To My Dear Sweet Mother

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To My Dear Sweet Mother:

Years ago, on a fresh spring day now tucked into the dusty attic of my memory, I debated about the perfect gift to buy for you. Would you like flowers? Dinner? Jewelry? It needed to be just right, of course, because the best gifts are meaningful ones, and it was Mother’s Day, after all, and so, in desperation, I asked you, “Mom, what gift would you enjoy the most?”

You said, without hesitation, “Just write me a letter.”

And I, well, I didn’t do it.

I thought about it, Mom, I really did. But I was busy, very busy. Busy with things that were so important that I don’t even remember them now.

I’m sure I bought you SOMETHING that Mother’s Day, something that I carefully selected just for you, something very special. Something that was so special that I don’t even remember it now. I am sure that you graciously accepted it, just as you doted on the lopsided clay pots that I shaped for you with little hands when I was a child. As I recall, every gift I ever gave you was the best gift you had ever received.

I told myself that my neglect of your request was no big deal because it was just a letter, anyway, and it was probably a trick because “I-don’t-need-anything-please-don’t-spend-money-on-your-dad-and-me” and you never mentioned it again, so why keep worrying about it? But I should have written it because I knew you wanted it, because you asked me to, so here it is, so many years late.

It strikes me that a letter written then would have been quite different, Mom, because then there was so much about your life that I didn’t know. I didn’t know the emotion of embracing a new baby, a precious, tiny likeness of yourself, and understanding that your priorities will never EVER be the same. I didn’t know the intense, undefiled joy of motherhood, or the constant worry, the nagging fears, the poignant hope. I didn’t know the weight of the responsibility that smacked you in the face the instant I arrived, screaming, seeking your comfort already, selfishly, before you even had a chance to catch your breath.

But now I know.

Now I know the emotional journey that I, as your daughter, subjected you to, and I stand in awe of your resilience. I am sorry, and I am inspired, and I am forever grateful for the excellent mentor you have been. You taught me how to be a wife, a friend, a sister, and a mother, more lessons than one letter will allow. But there is one lesson that I appreciate the most, one lesson that informs my parenting every day, one lesson that you never spoke but that I learned by watching you, oh-so-closely, for oh-so-many years: You teach your children the most when you don’t realize you are teaching them at all.

When you struggled with guilt and doubt but sacrificed the rewards of a career anyway to raise your son and daughter, you taught me to prioritize our family and our faith.

When you read me the same books over and over and over again and volunteered at school and befriended my teachers, you taught me the immeasurable value of my education.

When you were diligently calculating as groceries filled the cart, when you refused to buy strawberries in January or Cookie Crisp, well, EVER, you taught me to make wise choices and to live within my means.

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When you embraced change as my baby face thinned and my vocabulary grew, you taught me to write new chapters in the book of life, to adapt despite the sense of loss.

When you helped me scrub (and scrub and scrub) my first car, the one that we actually bought at the junkyard, you taught me to take pride in what I have, no matter how it compares.

When you were the “meanest mom” and expected me to help around the house and work part-time and maintain high grades, you taught me to be industrious.

When you were exhausted but would not rest because the family needed clean underwear and there was soccer practice at five, you taught me to persevere and to embrace that this, too, shall pass.

When you baked bread for the neighbor even though your plate was already too full, you taught me to serve, to make time, to find a need and fill it.

When you fluffed my pillows and told me to follow my dreams on my first day at college, knowing that you would secretly sob all the way home, you taught me to be brave.

When I grew up and asked for your advice, and, with great restraint, you encouraged me to make my own decisions, you taught me to trust myself.

Sometimes, as I glance in the mirror, Mom, I catch a glimpse of you. Yes, I resemble you, but that’s not what I see. It’s your heart I see reflected, your values, your traditions. It’s all the things I learned from you when you didn’t know that I was watching.

Someday, when my boys are older and ask what I would like to have for Mother’s Day, I will say, “Just write me a letter.” It’s a great idea, but not original. It’s just another thing my mother taught me when she didn’t realize she was teaching anything at all.

With love,

Your Daughter

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