There was a poster that hung in my kindergarten classroom that announced that everything we needed to know, we would learn in kindergarten. I learned to skip, tie my shoes, and count colorful bears, but I learned far more outside of the classroom. The most important principles that I needed in life, I learned from my mom.
Here are three of the zillions of things I learned from her.
Relationships are more important than anything else. I am the seventh of 10 children, and all of us claim to be our mother’s favorite. She somehow managed to show up at every cross country meet, soccer match, trivia competition, science fair, art show, scouting project, and theater performance throughout our childhood. When I had my first child, a 34-weeker, she got on the first flight to be with me and take care of all the things I had procrastinated. She assembled the crib and sewed curtains for the nursery. When my second came early, she got on the first flight and cared for my first while I ran back and forth from the NICU. When I had my third at 32 weeks, she was on the first flight again. When we visited my parents, one of my kids broke a nice new lamp that she had just purchased to match her living room. I scolded my kids, but she said, “It’s just stuff” and swept the glass away so we could keep playing. My mom knows that nurturing relationships is far more important than “stuff.”
Treat everyone with respect and dignity. My mom volunteered at a homeless shelter for many years. She would make and serve meals, but she also came to know many of the patrons and genuinely care about them. When one man’s Walkman broke, she got a new one for him. When an elderly neighbor faced homelessness and tax problems, my mom helped her navigate the red tape and paperwork to sort it out. She never viewed this as a great service; it is just part of who she is.
Be generous with your heart. When I was home for the holidays, my mom opened a Christmas card from someone I didn’t know. I asked who it was and she told me, “She was almost your sister.” She went on to tell me that she nearly adopted this girl, who was three years old at the time. The girl stayed with my parents for a few months while they continued the adoption process, only to have the previous guardians change their mind and take her back. 40 years later, this little girl remembers those few months in my parents’ home and still sends holiday cards. My mom has 10 children of her own, but there are many more that call her “Mother.”
Happy Mothers Day to my mom, to all the nurturing women in my life, and to all of you! May you continue to learn and teach as mothers.