Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Mother

I am 53 years old. I have lived for over half a century. When I say that out-loud, it’s kind of scary. I don’t feel that old. In fact, sometimes I feel very young. (Then I look in the mirror or notice the rolls around my middle and I remember.)

Anyway, as Mother’s Day approaches, I think about the fact that my mother is almost exactly 20 years older than I am. (Which means that she is almost 3/4 of a century old, but that’s not what this blog is about.) What this blog is about is that fact that she has always been just far enough ahead of me to lead the way and mark the trail before I get there.

I kind of think of her as my point man. My forward scout. My own personal trail-blazer. In reality, I know that’s not true. I know that she has led the way for my two brothers and two sisters. I know that she is still blazing a trail for her grandchildren. I also know that she quietly marks the path for others, some I know and many that I may never know about.

But, when it’s just me and my mom, I still feel like it’s all about me. That’s one of the things she’s the best at. My mom is really good at listening to you and making you feel like you are important. Like your feelings are important. Like your ideas are important. Like you’re smart and witty and fun to talk to.

She will listen to me whine about my problems and act like she enjoys listening. And, once I’m all talked out, she’s exceptionally good at gently teaching me what I need to know and making me think that I thought of it all by myself. I am the mother I am because of my mother. (and father, but it is Mother’s Day, so daddy’s blog will have to wait until June.)

A few things my mother taught me:

1. Fulfill your commitments. Once when I was a teenager, I didn’t do the dinner dishes when it was my turn. My parents were out for the night and instead of cleaning up, I goofed off and went to bed. When my parents got home, my mother came and woke me up. She was not angry, just firm. She reminded me that the dishes still needed doing. Then, she stayed up and sat in the kitchen and talked to me and laughed with me while I did them. She didn’t need to give me a lecture. I got the message.

2. Keep confidences. I came home from junior high one day and tried to repeat some gossip about one of my friends to my mother. As I started to speak, she said, "Is this something nice? Will telling me this help this person?" When I responded negatively, she informed me that she didn’t want to hear it if it wasn’t nice. I was extremely frustrated by that! However, it created an opportunity for her to teach me that gossip hurts not only the gossipee, but also the gossiper! One of the main things I remember learning from the conversation is, "If you have a friend who talks about other people when you are with her, then when she is with other people, she will be talking about you."

3. Treat everyone (including your children) with respect. My mother called me one day just as I was in the midst of a conflict with one of my young teenage sons. I felt that he was not treating me with the respect I deserved as his mother. Consequently, we were clashing frequently and it was impacting our relationship negatively. As I told my mother of my difficulties with this child, she said, "It takes two to fight, Michele." I explained again that I was not starting the conflict, I was just responding to his bad behavior. "Who is the adult here, Michele?" I again (heatedly) explained that I was his mother and he would treat me with the respect I deserved. "Do you treat him with respect?" I finally said goodbye and hung up the phone. I was disturbed by her questions. I knew I was in the right! But, as I humbled myself and really pondered her instructions, I knew she was right. I needed to respond to this son in love, not in anger. I needed to be more concerned about his feelings than my own. I needed to act like the adult in the situation, not the child. I changed my attitude and (not surprisingly) his also changed.

4. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Some of my earliest memories are of attending church and church activities with my parents. I remember kneeling at my bedside with my mom and dad as a small child and saying my prayers. I remember prayers with my family morning and night. I remember service projects at the church farm. I remember Family Home Evenings where I learned to bake my first treats and prepare my first lessons. I grew up knowing that God was real and that He loved me. I knew that because He loved me, I loved Him. And because I loved Him, He would help me to keep His commandments. My life (and the lives of my husband and children) are richly blessed because my mother (and father) taught me to trust the Lord.

There are many more things I learned from her, but you get the general idea. My mom continues to teach me as I watch her live her life twenty years ahead of me. Even now, she is not afraid to stretch and grow and learn and change. In the picture at the beginning of this blog, she and I are standing at Jeffries Bay in South Africa. She and my dad had just finished their mission to South Africa/Namibia.

As I watch my mother's life, I can see what to look forward to. I am able to pattern my life after hers and know what the results will be. In a way, she allows me to see my future. And, the future looks good!

Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy. I love you!