What Did Your Mother Say?

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?”

Peace,

Denis

Happy Mother’s Day

Mary Said Yes

Author Joelle Chase writes, “Mary is an archetype of the feminine in all of us—man or woman—sometimes hidden or subverted, but always present and available, inviting us to embrace what appears small, unimportant, embarrassing, weak. She knew her strength, the miracle of her body that would knit Life out of God’s seed.” 

That’s a powerful statement and it runs counter to the image of a helpless, hapless, teenage Mary who is poor, afraid, pregnant, unwed and uncertain. Mary said yes. Not because the angel told her that she should, but because she knew her own strength, her potential and her power.

mother and childMothers are powerful! Ask any woman who has cared for a sick child; wept for the loss of life; fought for her child’s acceptance; guarded her offspring without flinching; celebrated joy and comforted heartache; loved unconditionally. All while saying “yes”.

Ask any man who loves a woman and he will tell you that mothers are powerful. When men can’t – women do. When fathers fail and flail; mothers take charge. No one loves like a mother; fights like a mother for what is right; dreams beyond her own capabilities like a mother. All while saying “yes”.

God could have come to earth on cloud or from a lighting bolt. Jesus could have appeared “poof” out of nowhere. But instead he was born to a woman as an infant. God chose to be loved by a mother. Jesus shared in the joy of being truly human; of being cradled in a mother’s arms; to know her strength and her tenderness.

We can all learn from Mary’s “yes”. Women and men alike. Yes to truth. Yes to courage. Yes to strength. Yes to gentleness. Yes to peace. Yes to love. Yes to life. Yes to God.

Peace,

Denis

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

When you hear somebody say somebody hits like a girl
How does that hit you?
Is that such a bad thing?
When you hear a song that they play saying you run the world
Do you believe it?
Will you live to see it?

Sister, shoulder
Daughter, lover
Healer, broken halo
Mother nature
Fire, suit of armor
Soul survivor, Holy Water
Secret keeper, fortune teller
Virgin Mary, scarlet letter
Technicolor river wild
Baby girl, women shine
Female

When somebody laughs and implies that she asked for it
Just ’cause she was wearing a skirt
Oh is that how it works?
When somebody talks about how it was Adam first
Does that make you second best?
Or did He save the best for last?

Refrain

She’s the heart of life
She’s the dreamer’s dream
She’s the hands of time
She’s the queen of kings

Refrain

Mom

Mom, I love you. And Mother’s Day seems like a good day to thank you for all that you’ve done for me.

I'm sure I was listening then...

Mom & me – circa 1955

Thank you for giving me life.

Thank you for teaching me about God and how to pray. Your example of faith lives on in your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Thank you for loving Dad (and by the way, he adores you, too). I also appreciate that I inherited your energy and sense of humor – even though Dad thinks he’s the funny one (and we all know he’s not the fast one).

Thanks for throwing or kicking a ball, running bases and always joining in whatever game was being played in the backyard.

Thanks for being a good cook and for always having a dessert with every meal. Also for never making me clean my plate as a kid – your mantra “just take one more bite” saved me from some otherwise torturous mealtimes.

Thank you for always keeping a clean house and having clean kids (even though we often resisted your nearly constant need to wipe our messy hands and faces).

Thank you for being a ‘force to be reckoned with’. At 85 years young you can still work circles around the rest of us.

Thanks for laughing so hard at times that you cry. And for crying when you are sad, hurt, or heartbroken (and for allowing us to cry with you).

Thank you for teaching me how to do addition in my head – no one can do it as fast as you!

Thanks for teaching me how to drive a car, too and for never losing your patience with me while I was struggling to learn.

Mom & me

Mom & me – circa 2014

Thanks for staying beautiful and up-to-date in your appearance and attitude. I’ve always been so proud to be seen with you Mom.

Thank you for loving Debbie as much as your own daughter. And for always saying that you couldn’t have picked a better daughter-in-law yourself.

Thanks for loving our children and always making time at Gram’s house special for them. Two words: blueberry muffins!

Thank you for always keeping a toy box in your sewing room. And for letting the grandkids and great grandkids sometimes take a toy home.

Thank you for being you. And for surrounding our family with your love.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Peace,

Denis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parenthood

The trend today is to ALWAYS make our children happy (at all times; at any expense). Recently I encountered a young family at Chik-fil-A® (I don’t agree with their politics but they serve a great chicken sandwich and my grandkids love the place!) who were cajoling Junior into eating his nuggets with the promise of ice cream and the indoor playground – so far so good. But when Junior was presented with the ‘free book’ that came with his meal, he threw it at the beleaguered mother and screamed, “I don’t like this one!” The frazzled father promptly promised to stop on the way home and buy him a different book after he had his ice cream and play time. I then promptly gave my grandson a ‘don’t even think about look’ while he was taking all of this in.

Now I’m compelled to share my wisdom as a service to all young parents out there (even though my own children would likely tell you that all their scars are emotional). So here in no particular order are my Rules for Parenting :

  1. Stop trying to be the perfect parent; they only exist in your mother’s imagination.
  2. It’s easier to negotiate with a terrorist than a two-year old.
  3. Don’t try to be your child’s friend (be a parent; it’s more rewarding in the long run).
  4. When doling out punishment, don’t flinch; once they see your weakness they won’t let up (give up, shut up) until you cave in.
  5. When they’re old enough to walk, they’re old enough to pick up their toys.
  6. Stop buying them so much stuff; love is free and it’s worth so much more.
  7. Be silly sometimes; be serious when you must.
  8. Pray (even if you’re just praying for sanity).
  9. Pick your battles; no child ever died because he didn’t clean his plate or take a proper nap.
  10. Reasoning with a preschooler can be like trying to nail JELLO® to a tree; it’s okay to just say NO (and mean it).
  11. Close your door; give yourself a TIME OUT when things reach the boiling point.
  12. Remember who the adult is and behave like one.
  13. It’s okay to be angry; kids can sometimes really piss you off. (But use your inside voice when you’re angry).
  14. Go outside; get some exercise and breathe some fresh air (and take the kids with you).
  15. You don’t ALWAYS have to have all the answers; it’s alright to say, “because I said so; that’s why!”
  16. When in doubt trust your instincts; my parents did and look how well I turned out.

Peace,

Denis

Baby, Oh Baby!

Our daughter Bess is due next weekend. Seems like we’ve waited a long time for Baby Number Two – and now all of sudden it’s time! I don’t why I have to be ready but I feel like I do.  And how exactly am I supposed to ready myself?  Third grandchild.  Second child of my daughter and son-in-law.  We’ve been down this road before.  We’re experienced.  And yet this morning I was praying for Bess and Baby and I remembered how excited we were when our third child was born. 

Bess is ready!

I’ll never forget the nurse in the hospital that thought Blake was our first child because we were so happy.  And how much her surprise at finding out he was our third disturbed me.  Oh sure, there’s some stuff we thought we knew but we didn’t know him and we hadn’t ever had three children  before.  And maybe it was just a little bit scary but it was wonderful!  How could we not be excited?

Bess is ready.  Travis is ready.  The nursery is ready.  Anna is as ready as a two year old can be (her going to Nana & Pawpaw’s suitcase is packed).  All necessary preparations have been made.  We’re all prepared.  But babies have a funny way of changing the rules.  They come when they’re ready.  They sometimes come with a roar.   They sometimes come with a whimper.  But Baby will come and be loved and our lives will be filled with more joy.

I’m out of town right now and I feel a little anxious about Baby arriving while I’m gone.  As if she or he needs me to be there.  I guess it’s selfish but I want to be there and see that face and meet that little person that will change our lives and win our hearts – yes it’s been done before but not like this and not with this little individual.  God continues to bless us.  I just want to be there to give thanks.

Here’s my prayer:

All loving God,

Hear my prayer for my daughter Bess who awaits the birth of her child.  She has cooperated with you in giving life.  Assist her as she prepares to give birth to her baby.  May she be filled with your peace and blessing so that she may bring her child into this world safely and in good health.

Amen

My prayer is also that all babies could be loved as much as I know this one will be.

Peace,

Denis

Momma’s Boy

My son Tyson is a ‘Momma’s Boy’.  I don’t say that with any disrespect or condescension.  I just mean he is unabashedly a man who loves his mother.  And he ALWAYS has.  He has never been afraid to openly show affection toward her.  His concern and love is at once both honorable and heartbreakingly beautiful.  I’ve heard it said that “the greatest gift a father can give his children – is to love their mother”.  I wonder if anyone has ever considered that “the greatest gift a son can give his father – is to love his wife”?  Ty loves his Mom and of course she loves him, too.  But I get to live with the comfort of knowing that should anything ever happen to me – Tyson would be there for Deb.  That’s what a ‘Momma’s Boy’ does: he loves his Momma!

When Ty was a little guy he needed his Mom like all little boys do:  He needed to be nursed; he needed dry diapers; he needed to be comforted in times of sickness.  As he grew older his needs changed but they still involved Mom: help with homework, lunch for school, clean uniforms, car-pooling to and from sports, scouts, etc.  And as he got even older:  wise counsel, a shoulder to lean on, endless moral support, and undying love.  All provided by good ol’ Mom. 

Once when Tyson was in grade school he came to me to upset because he cried too easily.  He always seemed to wear his heart on his sleeve.  Of course this made him a target for other kids at school.  I explained to him that he was like Mom – people that have really big hearts will get them bruised more easily.  I told him it’s the price that you pay for being tender-hearted; that when you have a greater capacity to love, you also have a greater chance of being hurt.  At the young age of 7 or 8, he seemed to understand this.  He decided then that his ability to “love like Mom” was worth the risk of an occasional broken heart. 

Tyson never shied away from hugging or kissing his Mom is public.  I still remember ‘Parents’ Night’ each year for the wrestling squad at Homestead High School.  The team would be presented and then the parents would be called forward.  Each wrestler had a bouquet of flowers for their mom.  Tyson always hugged and kissed Deb while presenting her bouquet – most of his teammates sort of sheepishly handed the flowers to their mothers.  I still feel tremendous pride for those evenings.  What a beautiful way to honor his mother.  And he didn’t flinch when ‘the guys’ would snicker or smirk – he was too proud of her to allow their immaturity to ruin his moment.

Momma and her boy

Tyson is a smart guy – smart enough to know that Mom is the rock of our family.  She’s the one that will sit up all night to listen to your heartache.  She’s the one that can provide emergency medical care in a pinch.  She’s the one that will put on a meal, make up a bed, throw out the welcome mat or get on a plane if you NEED her.  And it’s not always necessary to ask – Mom knows!  She’s got that ability (call it woman’s intuition or something supernatural) that makes her able to sense stuff that mere mortals can’t see or hear.  She’s like an oracle.  I swear she anticipates calls for help from her children and she’s always ready to spring into action.

When I say Ty is a ‘Momma’s Boy’ I don’t mean he’s a wuss or a cry-baby.  I mean that he’s a man who loves his mother.  I know that he understands what an amazing woman with which God has blessed him. And I know that he will be forever grateful for the man that she has helped him become.

Peace,

Denis

Petite Chérie

My friend (and work associate) is having a baby!  Her baby is due in January – new year; new baby.  Sherry will make a wonderful mother and she’s been waiting a long time for this opportunity.  I won’t tell you her exact age; let’s just say she’s in her 40’s.  Many women would be apprehensive about starting motherhood after 40 but Sherry seems to be embracing it with all her heart and soul – mostly soul.  Her husband has four grown daughters but this is Sherry’s first child and it will be a girl, too.  She just had the ultrasound last week to confirm that she is indeed carrying ‘Petite Chérie’.  This is not going to actually be the baby’s name but it is the name that I’ve given her – Little Dear One.  What could be more fitting?  Sherry is LOVED by everyone in our office and it stands to reason that her baby girl will be loved by us all as well.  She will be our ‘Petite Chérie’. 

I love babies!  What a ingenious way for God to start people.  Yet proof again of God’s supreme plan for Creation.  If we were born as our adult selves no one be nearly as excited about it.  Congratulations – here’s your middle-aged, balding, more than-slightly overweight son.  Or here’s your pre-menopausal, daughter with ‘crows feet’ and a bad dye-job!  No thanks! 

But babies come to us pure and unspoiled.  They have ‘sweet baby smell’ and make gurgling sounds and they are completely helpless AND completely adorable.  I know why Sherry wants a baby – because babies are God’s reminder that the world deserves another chance.  ‘Petite Chérie’ will change our world (or at the very least, Sherry and Rodney’s) one heart at a time.  She will be loved and she will love and serve God and mankind.  She will be a joy to all around her because of the tremendous example she has in her parents. 

‘Petite Chérie’ means Little Dear One and that is what she will be!  I hope that I will get to see her grow up; but not too fast.  I want to relish her first steps and her first words even if it will be vicariously through Mama Sherry.  I pray that in the future she will know how much she was wanted and how patiently her mother waited for her.

I also pray that she has the same patience with her parents when someday she wants to hurry things along a bit too fast.  Be still Dear Little One your time is at hand!  You’ve been waited for so long; please let us “baby you” for awhile.

Peace,

Denis