The pastor raised his hands, ending his sugary-sweet portrayal of Mom with the grand statement "Moms are the earthly angels of God." Most adults wiped their eyes, sniffed, and patted nearby children on the head. Like everyone else, I felt the tug of pleasant memories and was grateful for a sacrificial mom. Every mom wants to belong to the "mom was the best" club. We all hope the truth surrounding daily chaos won't destroy sweet memories of home.
Sugar-infused Mother's Days are fine, but I think it's also good to look at the reality of motherhood. Giving birth is simple compared to being a respected mom with children held in high regard. It will take God-given intelligence, discipline, and chaos-driven determination for Mom to reach her goals. In his comedy routine about families, Bill Cosby talked about his five children and the mother who cared for them: "No one can take the kind of abuse our kids dish out without being a little nuts."
A mom with long-range goals is not concerned about lavishing gifts and good times on her family. Instead she is preoccupied with providing a foundation that will support her children as they grow into remarkable adults. Love becomes something she does, not something she says. Several children corralled by one overworked mom can turn sugary sweet into "You better get your act together, missy." Instead of being a calorie-laden desert, she has the ability to become a hearty stew that not only satisfies our hunger and comforts our feelings, but prepares us for a better life as well.
Perhaps your mom uses a combination of the following six ingredients to make her stew.
The Tough Instructor
In the daily rush of responsibilities, mom turns into a tough instructor who won't allow her children to use "I can't" as an excuse. "Don't tell me you can't get better grades. If you can read a comic book, you can read Shakespeare." Like a lion protecting her cubs, she won't accept anything but the best from her children. A tough mom will keep the standards high and expect her children to reach for the stars. It's best that observers stay out of the way of a determined mom.
Sam Levenson was an author and humorist from 1956-75. Everything but Money was an account of how his immigrant mother turned his childhood in East Harlem, New York into something wonderful. In spite of the poverty he wrote, "I never felt depressed or deprived. My environment was miserable but I was not. I was a most fortunate child. Ours was a home rich enough in family harmony and love to immunize eight kids against the potential toxic effects of the environment beyond the door."
The Moral Compass
When an advertising agency wants to move a product quickly, they often use the tested slogan "Like Mama Used to Make." They couple their slogan with a picture of a short, plump, gray-haired grandma and hope our subconscious will suggest that this is the hot soup we long for or maybe this product will bring us the peace of mama's values.
In reality mothers is usually the source of frustration and the author of a barrage of reminders. We may dislike her constant nagging, but when someone voices an opinion that she would not agree with, we hear her voice in our heads. We see her hand on her hip and we feel the determination in the air. Mom's beliefs are imprinted on the hearts of her children and not even the precision of a surgeon's scalpel can remove her influence from their lives.
In order for mom to create responsible, moral, intelligent, hard-working, and generous adults, she must address selfishness, boredom, laziness, and outside influences. Couple this huge task with a brew of squirming, noisy children and you have the perfect atmosphere for craziness. Love entangles around opposite personalities, misunderstandings, great teaching, and daily mishaps. It's not until you become an adult that you realize the situations that made you wonder if Mom really loved you are the same ones you cherish with laughter. We all have felt like the eight-year-old who screamed, "You can't be my mother because if I was really your child you wouldn't be this mean!"
While some mothers may be guilty of abuse, other mothers use their talents to put the fear of God into their children. When I arrived at a principal's office, my son had been crying. I asked if someone frightened him. The principal shook his head. "No ma'am. I didn't say anything. He didn't get this way until I told him I was going to call you. When I asked why he was so upset, he said, "My mom is gonna kill me!"
The Creative Sergeant
Sam Levenson confessed that his mother hated dirt. Anytime a child entered their house, there were two reasons he/she was hit in the face with a wet rag. One was to clean and the other to identify. She was known to scrub a child's face clean and then point toward the door, "You … I don't know. Out!" On Saturdays his mom would throw a mess of kids into a large bathtub. The drain stopper was missing. Rather than buy a new one, his overweight brother proudly sat over the drain.
A mother who believed anything could be patched passed a pair of jeans to the youngest child. When he bent over, he looked like a stained-glass window. Maybe your mom was the kind who offered two choices for meals—take it or leave it.
When a kindergarten teacher asked her class what their parents did for a living, my son wanted to show off. He proudly announced, "I think my mom was a sergeant for the marines. Instead of yelling at big guys, now she tells us what to do."
Moms are required to be soft while teaching life principles. My son told his Sunday school teacher that I was like God. I could kiss a boo-boo and make him feel guilty all at the same time. I overheard Amie discussing family rules with her best friend. "We have the toughest mom of all. She allows us to do stuff like stay up late, but we get a lecture if we're stupid. It's hard to be smart all the time, but if we don't use our brains, mom might have a stroke."
The Prepared Leader
Children need training. With rapidly changing development stages, mom's job is often more challenging than a space shuttle liftoff. Ron worked every other Sunday, and it was a major task to get three small children out the door. I remember one Sunday I dressed three-year-old Kenny first. After cleaning jelly off Amie's new dress, repairing the hole in Jamie's new pants because he didn't think plastic school scissors could cut material, and finding Kenny's new shoes hidden on the window sill behind the curtain, I called for Kenny to meet me at the door. I walked past the bathroom and saw him standing in the toilet. "What are you doing?"
He gave me the dreaded "I don't know."
"Yes, you do. Look at your new clothes. Now we have to change your socks, pants, and everything."
He pouted and looked up at me. "Jamie said the drain would lead to the beach."
Moms Love Their Unpredictable Jobs
Despite all the chaos, rules, picnics, spilled milk, endless work, and unappreciated days with nothing left to do but cry it out—most moms still love their jobs. Handmade cards and wilted daisies held by hot little hands can send a flood of tears to our eyes. Muddy arms folded around our necks and a sweet "You're the best mom" is a great paycheck. I've done my share of crying over handmade macaroni frames, hot pink lipstick that glows in the dark, and handmade clay serving dishes with uneven sides designed to spill food on my new white tablecloth.
As you contemplate mother's day and how to thank your mom for dealing with all the "stuff" your family creates, I have just one tip.
Even criminals get time off for good behavior. Maybe mom should get a day off as well. If you decide to give her time to be alone, provide money that doesn't have to be accounted for and give her permission to spend it on something foolish.
If your mom is a rich stew rather than a sugary desert, be as creative as she is. No one can out-give a mom, and isn't it great we don't have to try? Even when tough times won't allow for anything more than a Twinkie, two candles, and a buffet of kisses, mom will still wrap us in her arms and warm our lives with her love.
Debbie Jansen is The Mommy Detective and can be found at TheMommyDetective.com.