by Angela Noel
October 6, 2016
“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”- Abraham Lincoln
Becoming a mother isn’t, in my opinion, a biological or a legal event. It’s a choice made with every action. Mothers build us, piece by piece. The tools they use differ. No two mothering methods are the same. Every mother would express what she wants for her children differently. But underlying all these differences remains a simple fact: Our mothers want the best for us.
Often our biggest fans and sometimes our worst critics, mothers tell us truth even when we don’t want to hear it. They are the masters of the teachable moment. For example, my mother warned me that riding a Big Wheel in my favorite dress wouldn’t turn out well. When I shredded it under my plastic tires, just as she’d predicted, she didn’t scold me. Instead, she talked to me about cause and effect, how our actions have consequences and why. Many other such moments populated my childhood. Here are four gifts my mother gave me:
1. She encouraged my curiosity. As a second grader, the same age my son is now, I put two Breyer horses, one black and one white out on the patio. I wanted to see if what they had said in school was true . . . does white absorb light and does black reflect it? Was the black horse warmer or cooler to the touch than the white one? When she asked me what I had been doing I told her it was an experiment. She smiled at me, asked me what I learned and encouraged me to keep going.
2. She supported my compassion. After much begging, we went to the local humane society to pick out our first dog. I had been entrusted with the job of picking the puppy out. But instead of a puppy, I fell in love with a recent arrival, an abused collie-mix. I couldn’t stand that she had been hurt and she looked so sad. “Are you sure?” my mother asked me. I said I was.
3. She reinforced my courage. While walking our dog in the park near our house, I saw a man in a ski mask running by me, his private parts shoved out of his blue rayon Dolphin shorts. My nine-year-old self ran home to tell my mother what I’d seen. She believed me, calling the police. I reported what I could remember. I’m sure she was scared, and I was too. I’m sure she wanted to keep me indoors forever after that, but she didn’t.
4. She nurtured my creativity. At age ten I wrote a poem about a boy who turned into a butterfly. My mother read it slowly, absorbing my words. She nodded her head, lips smiling, eyes shining. “Keep writing,” she said. “I love it.”
At times, like all children, I needed correction rather than praise. She employed the stink eye, for example, if I hurt my sister, and used the “I am not mad, just disappointed” speech occasionally.
Right before I graduated high school, when I knew everything about everything, we fought. For two weeks or more I refused to speak to her. But she still came to my graduation ceremony, still smiled for the camera. Of course she did, she’s my mom.
Each of these episodes and many more added depth to my character. My mother encouraged my curiosity, compassion, courage, and storytelling. She corrected my devious tendencies and my unwarranted over-confidence. She built the core of who I am with her actions and her words. She gave the best of herself to foster the best in me. She wants to give me the world, but doesn’t realize she already has.
Be awesome in real life.
What ways did your mother shape you? What do you try and do for your child?
I’d love to hear from you!