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?”



Happy Mother’s Day

Acting Like Her Mother (but it’s not really an act)

How many times have you heard someone say, “She acts just like her mother.” or “He behaves just like his father.”? Usually it’s intended as a compliment or a recognition of some admirable trait. Sometimes during marital discord it could seem like an accusation, “You need to stop acting like your father!” The accused might then respond, “Oh really?” “Why don’t you stop acting like your mother!” But that’s another blog post…

bess annaToday I’m writing about how much some kids act like their parents. This “acting-like” behavior is not just genetic imprinting. I believe it’s a learned behavior. I’ve seen it in adoptive families. We all model the behavior we learn as children. Our parents (good or bad) are our first teachers. As adults most of us have experienced the sensation of opening our mouths only to have our mother’s or father’s words come out. It’s almost as if we lose momentary control and someone else takes over – if not our thoughts, definitely our words. Sometimes with regret but always with a sense of astonishment, we hear the words once spoken to us as children and now we are actually saying the same things and WE CANNOT STOP IT.

Fortunately for most of us this is a pleasant experience. Our daughter has a daughter who is her “spitting image”. Not only do they look alike but at times their behavior is startlingly similar. Anna acts so much like her Mommy that my wife and I often chuckle to ourselves. Our daughter Bess is not always amused, but I know that it is a good thing. Bess should be grateful after all, if Anna is half as good a daughter as she is, her life will be blessed. Bess and Anna don’t just look and act alike. They laugh the same way and at the same things. They share some of the same fears. They react to surprises both good and bad identically. These two have a spiritual and emotional connection that allows them to sense one another’s feelings. As the saying goes, “When one cries, the other can taste salt”. What a gift to one another.

Of course, I suppose it is a little disarming to “see yourself” so clearly in your own child, particularly those parts that you least appreciate. But it is a double blessing for me to see my beautiful daughter wrapped up inside my beautiful granddaughter.

God has given us a glimpse of immortality with all this ‘carrying-on’ as our parents before us. I just hope that the next time I “act like my Dad” I remember to thank God for that gift, too.



P.S. Here’s a song that all mothers can sing to their daughters ~



Family Matters

Recently while waiting for a flight, I saw my cousin at the airport. She was headed to Texas to visit her sister; I was on my way to New York on business. We hugged and kissed and exchanged the usual pleasantries and then we both went our separate ways. But I was changed a little by that brief encounter. As I boarded my plane I recalled fond memories of our childhood and our shared experiences and I realized once again that family matters. I thanked God then and there.

FamilyLivingPictureWe’re all born into families. Many of us marry into families. Others of us are adopted by families. Some families are small. Some are large. And it’s all relative (pun intended).

Our need of family intrigues me. We need to belong. We need to be part of a group of individuals that share a common bond; common link; a common ancestor. This need to band together is primordial. We gather as one. One people. One tribe. One purpose.

I’m certain that there are people who like to live alone. Hermits perhaps or cloistered nuns. But most of want to live with others; to share our lives with others. We need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. And families seem the perfect way to do that. The shared experiences. The shared traditions. The shared memories. The shared joys and sorrows. That’s what makes us family. That and our love for one another. In our caring for and being cared for by family we see God’s love in action.

Families are not just biological creations. Some families are individuals not joined by birth or marriage but joined by love or common cause. We become family by giving of ourselves to one another. We become sisters and brothers through our need for one another. We lift each other up; we carry one another’s burdens; we celebrate one another’s victories; we laugh together; we cry together; we pray together.

Recently I experienced the amazing love of family when my mother-in-law passed away. My wife and her brothers came together to support my father-in-law and to carry one another through the most painful of times. Their tenderness for one another and their love needed no words; no grand gestures. It was just pure and simple and profoundly beautiful. I have never been prouder of them or prouder to be a part of them.

Of course there will likely be many sad days ahead. Grief slips in and attacks us when we least expect it – a song, a photo, a favorite food, or some long-forgotten memory can trigger an emotional overload. Our loss can be truly disabling. But we trudge along and we cherish our memories and get busy with caing for one another. And we adjust. And we adapt. But we NEVER forget.

And this is why family matters.




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.



Mother, Wife, Daughter

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. And I’ve been thinking about what it means to a be a mother and wife and daughter ~ But more importantly what it means to be all three. Of course all women/girls are daughters; they’re born and they have mothers. And many women become wives and I suppose even more become mothers (who really needs a husband?).

I’m blessed to have all three in my life; my mother, my wife and my daughter. And each of them is in fact a mother, a wife and a daughter. They share much in common; these three women. The common thread is their love for our family.


I love that you taught me how to pray and have faith in God.

Deb & Mom

I love that you love Dad (and he still adores you, too).

I love that all of us inherited your sense of humor (even though Dad thinks he’s the funny one).

I love that you always look pretty; I have always been so proud to be seen with you.

I love that you love Deb as much as your own daughter.

I love the example that you set for each of us to follow.


I love that you are most giving, loving person that I have ever met.

I love that you are the most natural mother in the world ~ you knew instantly what Tyson needed when he was first placed in your arms ~ and you still do. Ditto for Bess and Blake.

I love that you have made whevever we’ve ‘hung our hat’ a home and filled it with your love.

I love that you’ve made me laugh everyday of our lives together (even though I’m the funny one).

I love that you are like a lioness when it comes to protecting your children and grandchildren.

I love that your beauty on the outside is ‘trumped’ by your beauty within.

I can’t imagine my life without you.


I love that you are the best parts of your Mom and me (mostly your Mom).

Deb & Bess

I love that you married exactly the right guy for you (and for us!)
I love watching you “mother” Anna and Noah; you’ve got that natural thing that Mom’s got and the simple beauty of it breaks my heart (in a good way). 
I love that you love God and have instilled faith in Anna at such an early age.
I love that you’ve inherited Gram’s sense of humor (even though Travis thinks he’s the funny one!).
I love that you have always been the best daughter in the world (I’ve always felt sorry for all those other dads). And now you’re the best Mommy, too (ask Anna & Noah).

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mothers out there. Remember none of us would be here without you!