As our kids were growing up I was often challenged with requests. Kids learn pretty early on that they can divide and concur. “Dad, can I have…?” “Dad, can I get…?” “Dad, will you…?” My standard response was, “What did your mother say?” I wasn’t going to get trapped in the, “But Dad said...” hoo-ha. That’s a zero-sum game.
Today I’ve been thinking about listening to my own mother. My sister and I were talking just the other day about all the Mom-isms. Things Mom said that we will never forget! And we hear it in her voice. The funny thing is we often say the same things Mom said (in exactly the same way). So, we were definitely listening to what our mother said.
This is just a sampling of the things Mom routinely said to us:
“If you look better; you’ll feel better!” – The idea here is that if you’re sick (or near death) just clean yourself up; dress up a little bit and everyone (yourself included) will ‘think’ you’re feeling just fine.
“Don’t worry about it; half the things you worry about won’t happen and other half won’t be as bad as you imagine!” – Unless of course it was happening to her.
“If it weren’t for me…” followed by any number of successes due to sacrifices she had made. Yes – this is now often my mantra, too!
“Put a little elbow grease into it.” – Which always meant try harder; work harder; get it done! Usually this was a direction not a suggestion.
“What must the neighbors think?” – In Mom’s generation propriety and appearance meant something. The house and yard were always kept up and she would never have gone shopping (even to the A&P) without dressing up a little bit. Maybe those folks at Walmart in their pajamas could take a page out of her playbook.
“If you think you have it so bad here maybe we should go visit Children’s Hospital!” – This was a sure-fire guilt trip to get us to stop our complaining. After all, we were convinced that those poor kids would have given anything to live in our lap of suburban luxury. I often wondered what the mothers of the kids at Children’s Hospital held over their heads.
“Boys are so much easier to raise than girls!” – My sister especially loved this one. He he!
“It hurts me more than it hurts you.” – This was an all-purpose remedy meant to show compassion. It could be used for physical or emotional pain but often as a child I received it with a certain amount of resentment. “Mom, I’m pretty sure my pain hurts me more than it hurts you.” Years later as a father and grandfather I know what she meant. I would gladly take on the pain to spare my child.
“Say a prayer to Saint Anthony” – Patron saint of lost articles. Somehow this dude could help us find something that we had misplaced. In her wisdom, invoking Saint Anthony was a way of sending the message – you lost it; you find it. Time to take responsibility for your carelessness. And it usually worked.
“I love you.” – Simple, sincere, timeless. “I love you too Mom!”
I still listen to my Mom even though it’s been two years since she’s been gone, I still hear her voice just as clearly as if she were sitting here with me.
To those of you who still have your mothers: take the time to listen – really listen. And to those of us who have lost our mothers: I imagine that you can still hear your Mom talking to you, too.
And to all you mothers out there: even when you think that your kids are not listening, they are – especially when you think that they’re not listening.
Our moms give us life and I suppose that they just need to make certain that we cherish and make the most of it. Mothers have this profound (albeit sometimes frightening) influence on their children. How we choose to channel “our inner mother” is entirely up to us. We can view it as brainwashing or mentoring or life-lessons. I take a certain amount of pride in knowing that Mom is still with me in my thoughts and actions.
My own kids listen to my wife and (I think for the most part) take her advice as well. Their relationship with her is one of mutual love and respect. They value her input and look forward to her involvement in their lives. But I’m certain that there must be times when they disregard what she has to say.
Still, I hear her voice in their determination to do the right thing and in the way they speak lovingly and thoughtfully to others, especially their own children. Because after all, “What did their Mother say?”
Happy Mother’s Day