Happy Mother's Day, Ya'll!
Of course, I wish this to all women who foster their motherhood in some unique way. But I especially wish it today to my own mother. She has been my mom for 29 Mother's Days, so, in honor of her, here are 29 reasons she is the bomb.
Zuzu and I tell my mom a happy Mother's Day!
She shaved her head.
My mom shaved her head because she had always wanted to - at the age of 50. She had always wanted to try it...so she did. That's so gutsy.
My mom became a Catholic 4 years ago - well into adulthood, obviously! Prior to that, she endured a long wait to enter into the Church (2-3 years?) because of some annulment issues. She went to Mass, alone, for a long time - not knowing any of the responses or without any friends. Since I was Catholic too but lived several states away, I could not be there with her. When she felt the tug on her heart, she pursued it...by herself. I find that amazing.
Mom and I, circa 2009 when she came into the Church!
She knows how to be a mom!
My mother stayed at home with my brother and I even though it entailed great sacrifice. It wasn't easy to stay at home when my dad was starting his business, and mom went without most of the times so that my brother and I could have what we needed - or just what we wanted. She knew that love meant sacrifice and she embraced that. What an amazing example!
She went back to school.
My Mom wanted a college degree, but spent her early years having and raising babies. She always wanted to finish school, but when did she have time? or money? She felt called to teach more children, beyond her own brood, and wanted so much to do so. Well, in 2006, she graduated from the University of Central Florida with a BA in English Literature - one year before her youngest daughter graduated from college! She made that happen and is now an amazing 9th grade English teacher.
A lot of people wanna-be a lotta things, but they don't follow up. Achieving goals and dreams takes hard work more than luck or motivational posters, and hard work is hard to come by these days. Except for my mom. Once again, proving to herself she could do something, my mom has run two marathons over the age of 50 - including the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C.
My mom and my niece, Katie, after running the Reindeer Run
My mom has a great, no-holds-barred laugh. She laughs a lot. It's a real treat if you can make her do it.
I had an amazing childhood, and some of my best memories are from Christmastime. It always seemed like the air was full of magic - the house would be immaculately decorated, we'd have a huge tree, all the meals were special and delicious, served on elegant dishes. We even got to drink Martinelli's out of fancy glasses! She made my Christmas dresses and scrimped and saved so I could get just what I wanted - from Santa, of course. I'll never forget getting my American Girl dolls - which cost far too much, but she wanted me to have them. She made my doll a dress to match the Christmas dress she'd made me. I'm telling you - Christmas at my house was like NO OTHER.
Birth is natural.
I have two older sisters and was blessed to be there to welcome several nieces and nephews into the world. I loved that my mom welcomed each grandchild with joy and encouraged my sisters to believe in their ability to birth children. From the time I was quite young, my mom talked about birth in a no-nonsense way; it's something that women can do, she insisted, and have been doing for centuries. Her business-like confidence meant that I grew up believing that my body was built to have children, and birth them naturally and easily. Long before I was married, I knew a great deal about childbirth and had witnessed several. This was such a gift to me! I never had to experience the fear that many moms encounter when they have only seen Hollywood representations of birth - screaming and rude language. I always regarded birth as a natural and sacred event, worthy of respect.
Whoooeeee looking ROUGH - and Zuzu looking like an ALIEN! But here we are, 7.5 hours later, with a healthy baby (in a bathtub!)
Push Me/Pull Me
My mom has this in spades. When I was younger, I was perplexed that my mother would critique my friends or offer to help me with a teacher that was being hard on me. I (almost?) always refused these requests for help, but found it weird she was even offering.
Now I get it. After many years, several of the friends my mom was hard on revealed their true nature. And when I thought back over my childhood, I could see they were really just mean kids - and my mom knew that. She knew that. But she also knew she couldn't make my choices for me - there was this push me/pull me going on inside of her, wanting to protect me vs. wanting me to gain independence. It was hard to learn some lessons on my own, but it's made me a better judge of character in the long run. I'm much more cautious about who I consider a best friend; I can easily count them on one hand.
Marriage is Forever.
One thing that is evident to most people who meet my parents for the first time is that they are madly in love! Which is great - nothing makes a child feel secure like knowing their parents are in love.
But it wasn't always this way. My parents went through some very tough years when I was a young teenager, and those years persisted. They had to work through a lot of issues and they didn't get a lot of support; I think us kids were especially hard on mom, and urged her (frequently) to consider divorce.
I am so glad she didn't.
Their marriage today is so beautiful, such a testament to love and faithfulness! Fully united now since my dad became Catholic two years ago, they continue to model growth and renewal within the married vocation. That witness has made a great impact on me in my own vocation, so that even when my marriage is difficult, I remind myself that it is forever.
Mom and Dad - so cute!
Modesty is not only a religious thing.
We were not raised in a Christian home, but that didn't mean we were not imbued with a sense of the importance of some virtues, including modesty. Since my mom approached it from a secular mindset, I appreciated as I grew up that dressing modestly was not something we 'had' to do, but it was a classy choice, made with an eye towards respecting oneself. Clothes communicate to others how you should be treated and how you view yourself. As my mom drolly remarked once when I came downstairs in a risque outfit, "if you want to dress like a whore, don't be surprised when you're treated like one."
(thanks, Mom. I changed my outfit)
You can do it!
I know all moms believe in their kids, but man, my mom put her money where her mouth was. I don't think she thought her youngest would take her so seriously when she said, you can do anything, because...well, I did a lot. Every single idea in my head (I'm going to school out of state! to study history! now study abroad! creative writing! now grad school! theology! now law school!) my mom went along for the ride, counseling wisely but encouraging too. She and my dad always found ways to send me money to help fund my latest educational adventure...and I like to think it paid off.
Mom and Dad, dancing at my wedding!
Parents are not your friends.
If there's one thing my mom hates, it's the concept that parents are friends. My mom emphatically told me growing up, "I am not your friend. I am your mother." This was a liberating concept, because the relationship of a mother and daughter is far stronger than a friendship; it gives my mom and I the freedom to fight and disagree, to say the really hard things to one another. For, although you can stop being friends with someone, you can't just stop having a mom! It makes my relationship with my mom balanced; she is not there to make me feel good about myself - she is constantly guiding and mothering me. For that I am grateful.
She might say she's not my friend...but she is.
Messing with your hair too much usually makes you look stupid.
My mom did not let me cut or dye my hair until I left her house. Okay...slight exaggeration. I was allowed to cut my hair when I got a bit older, but she never approved. Actually, she still doesn't like it when I cut my hair...but anyway. She made a valiant stand against me looking like an idiot for much of my high school life, and let me embrace my natural hair color. I am very glad I didn't spend my early teens frying my hair into blonde submission, as I may have been wont to do.
My mom doesn't pull punches and she doesn't like small talk. She says what she means, and she is working on making her blunt manner a little less, ah, painful. Although sometimes hard to hear, I appreciate it now because it's rubbed off a lot. One of the most frequent compliments I get is that people like that I am a straight shooter; no bull, no frills. Ask an honest question get an honest answer. It's a quality that is harder and harder to find.
I wasn't allowed to use 'like' as a filler. I couldn't half-ass a book report. I wasn't allowed to read the Boxcar Kids any more when I was capable of reading Shakespeare. My mom had high standards for me - standards many parents might classify as 'too demanding' or 'over the top'. But she knew me. She knew I would get lazy academically, that I would let myself be less than I could be. And she wasn't going to let it happen on her watch!
My standards are so high, I could only have married Mr. O.
I was pretty naturally empathetic as a child, but I went to school with a lot of entitled, bratty, rich kids. My mom made sure I knew that she would not allow any child of hers to become rude and unkind. Kindness mattered to my mom; treating people with dignity and respect was an integral part of her personality. My mom always gives people the benefit of the doubt, and has a real Southern charm about her kindness to others. I love that about her.
Don't be a silly girl.
This, of course, did not apply to toddlers - but to me as I became a young woman. My mother abhors young women who act like idiots when they are clearly bright and capable. So she did NOT put up with any of this trait in me. If I got hysterical over a bug or put on airs, oh man, I felt the sting of my mother's condemnation! 'Stop that,' she'd snap at me 'you're acting ridiculous.' Does it sound harsh? It was. And I am so glad. I have an ability to control how I react to things, I am generally calm and in charge of my emotions. I like that.
Your body is nothing to be ashamed of.
My parents being hippies, they were a bit libertine about my sex education. But the greatest take-away from all this was that my body was good. My mom was not shocked by me walking around naked as a toddler...or a school-aged girl. There was no hurry to cover me up because oh my gosh, I was naked! She would tell me to put clothes on, but it was never in a tone that was disapproving - it was brusque and matter-of-fact, the perfect way to deal with children. In talking to me about sex, my mom was honest and forthright.
Loving my body - by playing rugby.
This is none of your business.
When I got older I realized that my mom's hair was not actually jet black and curly...shocker! She had been perming and dying it for years. I had no clue. When I asked her why she never mentioned that she got her hair done, she replied simply "it wasn't any of your business." At first I thought that was so rude - why wasn't it my business?? But now I look at it and see how great it was that my mom had boundaries. My mom did not feel the need to lay bare her entire life and justify it to me, her child. That was not part of being a mom to me. And now being a mom...I get that. There are parts of my life that just aren't any of my child's business!
The home is important.
I know that might sound like a 'duh', but it seems that for a lot of families today home is just a place to sleep. It's a stop-over between sports and parties and dance and school. Home is not a place that anyone wants to be. But it was for me as a child. My mom put so much work into our home, and it made such an impression on me. Our home was warm and cozy, filled with good books and nice little corners to read them in. We spent time there, together, as a family, doing family things - games, dinner, reading stories, talking. Our home was not just another place; it was THE place, the touchstone of our family. I loved our home, and so did most of my friends.
Grad school dinner table, filled with roommates and friends
Food is love.
I loved coming home from college because my mom would stock the house with everything she knew I loved. She would make the dinners she knew I enjoyed or take me out to eat. When it was my birthday, she'd make a big deal about me choosing the meal and getting all the things I liked. Food...food is such a wonderful way of caring for people. To feed them - such a Eucharistic way of love! Mom understood that deeply and her meals over the years have communicated her deep love for her family.
Don't get a dog if you can't care for the dog.
I know this sounds weird but I know a lot of people who get a pet, decide 'whoops! not for us!', and back to the pound the poor pet goes. That really ticks my mom off. When I was going to get Blackacre, she was really upset because she insisted that if I get a dog, that's it - that's a responsibility like a baby, she said (which I laughed about at the time, but I now I see she's totally right). She insisted that I treat animals fairly, and that's something I look for in people - the way they treat animals. It says something about a person, the way they treat a being smaller than they are, one who relies on them for all their needs.
Blackacre, who went as a rugby player for his first Halloween in my house
Education of children is the parent's responsibility.
Man were my parents dedicated to my education. DEDICATED. They sent us to private school even though they really couldn't afford it, then when they couldn't find a school good enough they founded one with other parents! Private, public, parochial, homeschool - my mom was not afraid to try anything to see what would be the best education for me. She took responsibility; my education was her priority. She didn't just put me in a school and hope it worked out, wait another year, see if the next teacher is better - she was very proactive and made changes if it appeared it wasn't working.
Obviously it worked. I love learning.
Dad, me, and Mom at my graduation from Marymount
Your choices determine who you are.
My mom emphasized to me over and over again that we are who we choose to be. That emphasis on free will and self-determination helped me to realize when I had made a mistake, that I could choose better next time. It's led to a self-improvement streak a mile wide, but one that I am very grateful for. I never have any doubt that even if I am not the woman I want to be, I can get there - one choice at a time.
Makeup is best subtle.
I don't remember my mom wearing make up, except for lipstick (always a shade of red/red-brown). But when she did, it looked so...natural. It was so very becoming, but never overdone. It gave me the courage to enjoy being 'made-up,' but to never feel naked without it. And now when I see young women - very young women! - walking around with makeup slathered on looking like clowns, I am so grateful that my mom limited my make up use as a girl...thereby protecting me from some truly embarrassing pictures later on.
My mom messes up a lot because she's really blunt and doesn't have a lot of diplomacy (sorry Mom; that's what you have Dad for). So she apologizes. This is a recent thing, I might add, but it's really beautiful to see. It's easy to be stubborn in relationships where we are older and more experienced, but my mom's example has taught me a lot about humility and being willing to own my mistakes.
Children are gifts.
My mom loves kids. Not unlike me, she seems to like children more than adults. She delights in every age and stage, although she claims her favorite is toddlerhood (who says that??). My mom is so good to affirm women who are having babies, especially my sisters and I, and to affirm that every child is a wonderful thing, even when the circumstances of their conception or birth were less than ideal.
You are a good mom.
I am lucky to have many positive people in my life, but my biggest cheerleader is my mom. And that really hit home when I became a mom, seven whole months ago! The one thing my mom told me was that I was a good mom, and I had to trust my instincts. She has reiterated that over and over again to me, every time I call for advice (which...is a lot). She'll give me advice and then add "but I'm not the expert on Zuzu - you are. You're her mom. Trust yourself." Her confidence and obvious pride in my mothering helps me to relax and mother however I feel like.
I could go on and on, but I'll stop here (reluctantly). My mom is the best mom (for me, as Amelia points out in her great post). God knew what he was doing when he sent me to her and I am so grateful to have her in my life still, to keep guiding and mothering me as I find my own way.
I love you, Mama. I always have and I always will.