Happily, I am the mother of Grayson, Cooper, and Delaney. This is my first Mother’s Day blog, and I’ve debated about the subject matter. I love being a mother. And while being a parent never ends, certainly mothering 23, 21, and 17 year olds is very different than mothering 13, 11, and 7 year olds. Although parenting is fluid, core values rarely change. I’ve given some thought to the advice that Brad and I have stressed as parents (beyond a God-centered life and the sanctity of marriage). These are bits of advice that I hope my kids take into adulthood, but they are also values by which I would like to live my own life – beyond motherhood.
In no particular order:
Choose friends wisely. Life is far too short to spend even one second surrounded by poor friends. Find people who believe in you, support you, encourage you, value you. And in return, show them that same belief, support, encouragement and value. I have a group of ladies who I refer to as my prayer warriors. I’ve gathered these ladies throughout life. They don’t all know each other, but they share the bond of loving me and my family. When I need prayer and support, they are present – without question, without judgment. These are the people who are the first to call, text, or write. They have been known to jump on a plane at a moment’s notice. They provide the encouragement I need when I am struggling. They call me out when they know I’m over-reacting or heading towards a bad decision. They celebrate my successes. They are true friends in every sense of the word.
Ask for help. This is always a tough one for me. I’m better at it today than I was 15 years ago, mainly because I’ve been given plenty of chances to practice. In fact, I’m currently in a season of asking. Brad broke his hip almost two weeks ago. The accident happened in Tulsa. It was actually easy to ask for some help … like asking my brother to drive over to Tulsa with me so that he could get Brad’s car home or asking Ralph & Julie if I could stay at their house while Brad was in the hospital. Other things were not so easy … like accepting the offer made by Brad’s brother to have our lawn maintained or having Paul install grab bars so that Brad could shower safely. Ultimately, I know that it is a blessing for the people who are providing the help, and I shouldn’t thwart that blessing. I believe that people are good, and in general they want to help. So just ask.
Autograph everything you do with excellence. Don’t you just love when your kids throw your own quotes back at you? Delaney did that recently. I was having a tough time at work. The dilemma was causing me to be lackadaisical. In many aspects, I was just going through the motions. She reminded me that with everything I do, I should autograph it with excellence. In our family, that means everything: vacuuming the living room, taking out the trash, a school project, a work event.
Read 1 hour every day. This was a summer mandate when my kids were younger. After lunch, everyone had to read for one hour. Yes, it was a way for me to relax and have some peace and quiet – but that’s beside the point. It was a way to start developing a lifelong love of learning. We all know that reading opens so many doors, expands so many horizons. That never ends. Every so often, I have to remind myself that reading is a priority and I need to make time to do it.
Have tea parties … or steak dinners. I’m crazy about tea parties. To me, it’s a time to truly engage with the people sitting at my table. Whether it is at a restaurant or in a home, whether it is an afternoon chat or a special occasion, it is a time to slow down and savor the moment. For Brad, this involves a steak dinner, or perhaps a scotch on someone’s back porch. For years, he had steak dinners a couple of times each year with the two men he connected with most. For all intents and purposes, their dinners were similar to taking tea. There were various courses, with long pauses in between to talk, reminisce, solve the world’s problems.
Don’t let anyone steal your joy. I hate the pressure of living up to someone else’s expectations – on how I should dress, what car I should drive, how my house should be decorated, what skills I should possess. Trying to live up to those expectations had me pretty stressed in the early years of motherhood. I’m now much more comfortable in my own skin. And the relief I feel in my day-to-day life is immeasurable. Not everyone can relate to my love of gardening, and my desire for bees and chickens and solitude. I’m now okay with that, and I’m determined to enjoy my life no matter what others think.
JOMO. The joy of missing out. This goes hand in hand with not letting anyone steal your joy. Instead of spending my time doing what other people are doing, I want to spend time doing what I want to do. This means that I don’t need to attend every activity, and I certainly don’t need to attend the ones to which I am not even remotely connected. Staying home to enjoy the activities and people I love are far more important than being present just to be seen.
No regrets. Brad and I committed to this idea on our wedding day. I can’t remember if it was discussed before that day, but it was definitely discussed then. There are two aspects to this value: 1) Our decision was very clear: We were going to make the best decision we can, based on the information that we have at the time, and then move forward without looking back. We do not live our lives in the should-have, could-have, would-have. We can change course if we determine that a better option is available. We just don’t kick ourselves or wallow in a past decision. There’s no point in that. You can’t change the past. 2) Take action to ensure that you will not have regrets later. The easiest example is drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Some people believe that you can have an occasional glass of wine while you are pregnant. For me, if anything bad happened during my pregnancy – I didn’t want to second guess that it might have something to do with drinking wine. So I didn’t drink. A silly example is our recent Caribbean cruise. I was content to stay on the ship all day, every day. Knowing himself so well, Brad knew that he would regret not going ashore and spending the day on a beach. And so, he did just that. No regrets.
Make people feel special. For me, this started with a focus on birthdays. For Brad, I needed to do a little something even if we weren’t celebrating in a big way. For my kids, I needed to do something on their actual birthday – especially if the party was planned for a different day. It began with butcher paper covering the kitchen table. For the kids, I filled it with some kind of themed design. For Brad, the kids often helped. Eventually, the butcher paper became a poster that covered the entire doorway of the kid’s bedroom. When they wake on their birthday, they are greeted with a happy message – the sole purpose of which it to celebrate that child. It now continues with other things – many too personal to share here. The point remains: everyone goes through much of life feeling lost in the crowd. What can you do to make someone feel special – to feel noticed, appreciated, valued.
Build traditions – but be flexible. One of the biggest pieces of advice offered to young parents is to ‘build family traditions.’ Brad and I have certainly tried to do that. The ’24-hour’ rule for frogs and such. Sledding on New Year’s Eve. Friday night pizza. When we moved to Tucson, new traditions developed. Walking dogs on the golf course. Easter Brunch on the patio. No breakfast – no school. With our move to OKC, other traditions have immerged. Cornhole. Christmas socks. Easter in Dallas. Traditions are all about creating security in a crazy world. Traditions are about something to look forward to, no matter how small. I’ve seen the value of building traditions, and I’ve learned that I shouldn’t be afraid to evolve and adapt to create new ones.
Suck the most out of life. So many of the other pieces of advice support this one. If I am doing all of these other things – reading, engaging with friends, doing activities that I enjoy – I am probably sucking the most out of life. There are so many people around us who are simply going through the motions; living life but not enjoying it. Learn. Engage. Explore. Appreciate.
Finish strong. As the school year draws to an end, Delaney and Cooper are very familiar with this statement. They’ve worked hard all year/semester. Now is not the time to slack off, get distracted, or lose sight of the finish line. Sometimes I feel this way about parenthood. It’s a long road! I’m almost done. Grayson is adult-ing – and doing it so well! Cooper only has one more year of undergrad. Delaney only has one more year of high school – and she looks poised to have a fantastic college experience. I’m so close to having three independent children, and yet – I’m not done. I can’t slack off, get distracted, or lose sight of the finish line. Delaney still needs boundaries. Cooper still needs guidance as he navigates the road to adulthood. And Grayson still needs encouragement to live the life God truly has planned for him. I need to finish strong.
This Mother’s Day, I hope you (even you fathers) take a moment to think about the advice you give your children and consider taking it yourself. I hope you embrace your role as a mother (father) and love it as much as I do. I can’t imagine anything more rewarding. From my family to yours – Happy Mother’s Day.