I was recently reading a post called “How not to be disappointed this Mothers’ Day.” In light of that post’s advice, I’d like to take a moment to celebrate my own mom, who is wonderful and amazing. Being a mom, I think, is both incredibly important and under-appreciated. Moms teach their children how to be themselves, and how to go out into the world. So what moms teach their kids is of utmost importance.
So here are three things that I am grateful that my mom taught me before I became a teenager and knew everything:
Beautiful things don’t last forever. My mom is the type of person who gets excited about sunsets, flowers, and pretty rocks. In fact, she currently has a growing collection of heart-shaped rocks, because she thinks they’re cool. I do too, actually. I remember lots of people thinking she was weird because of her odd fascination with things that they considered ordinary and boring. But for me, her persistence in loving these things taught me something important. It taught me to appreciate beautiful things while they’re here, because they won’t last forever. A sunset is gone as soon as the sun goes down, and you’ll never see that sunset ever again. A flower lasts maybe a couple of days and then dies. A rock could be spotted, and then lost again, forgotten. These things don’t last forever. And neither do the things in our lives that contain even more beauty than the most beautiful sunset: family and friends, watching your children grow up, laughing with people you care about, being someone’s shoulder to cry on, building relationships. Family members and friends, even if they remain in our lives for years and years, all have an expiration date. So do we. Every one of our lives will end in death, and we don’t know when that will be. You have unlimited opportunities for laughter and happiness with these people, but many people don’t take them while they’re here. You have only limited opportunities to be someone’s go-to friend when they’re hurting, but many people don’t want to deal with it. All that leads to is loneliness. That person will find someone else, but you will gradually lose the people who want to come to you if you never respond. Your kids are only small once. Then they’re in high school. Suddenly they’re graduating from college, getting married, and, whoa, you’re a grandparent. Or worse, they pass on too soon, and they never even got to college at all, maybe not even to high school. You can keep saying, “I’ll spend time with them later, right now I’m trying to [blank].” But ultimately, what they’ll remember is what you did with them, not necessarily all of the things you tried to do for them, things that were intangible or unseen. Things they didn’t understand, and maybe things they didn’t even care about (like how many cars you owned, or how expensive your house was). What they do understand is that you either are or are not there for them.
The world won’t end if you don’t do the dishes. My mom’s house was always notoriously messy. Many times, I was embarrassed to invite friends over because I was so worried about what they’d think of the house. But my mom always welcomed friends inside with a smile, simply saying, “The house is a mess, but come on in.” She was never too busy and the house was never too messy to keep open doors, and open arms. We constantly had neighborhood kids in and out the door, at least two on any given day, running from our house back to theirs and back again, all day on Saturday, and in the afternoons when school was out. This is probably partially because of the novelty of owning horses that all of the kids wanted to see and pet, but also because my mom didn’t turn them away. She gave them a safe place to come and play if they didn’t have one at home. She gave them food if their own parents didn’t have it or couldn’t provide it. And she did all of this knowing that it would only lead to more dishes, extra laundry, and more papers all over the tables. But those dishes were from meals spent laughing and talking together, being with people we loved. The laundry was from playing outside together, building friendships. And the papers were covered in drawings from kids all being creative together.
But sometimes the dishes aren’t the most important thing for you to do anyway. Even now, my mom loves people. She recently got her nursing degree, and takes care of people for a living. She takes care of people when they’re at their most vulnerable, and quite often, their worst when it comes to temperament and mood. But she does it anyway. And although some people dislike her happiness and her willingness to take extra time just to talk to a patient, she is also very loved by those she takes that extra time for. They appreciate it. They feel loved, and noticed, and cared for. My mom taught me compassion, and to care for people, even at their worst. And this often happens at the expense of doing your household cleaning, your chores, or whatever other grandiose plans you had for the day. But in the end, it’s people that matter, and not how many things you were able to check off of your “To Do” list. Who you impacted, and what kind of impression you left is going to be your legacy, and that’s important.
And that’s what my mom taught me.
Happy Mothers’ Day.