I had lunch with my mother recently. We laughed. We kvetched. We became teary-eyed over my recently-deceased father. We lamented over the world’s problems. I couldn’t help think what a great mother she’s been all my life. And that got me thinking. What makes a great mother? What are those special qualities? Is love enough? Or maybe it’s also these seven traits…
#1: She makes you feel safe. — Growing up I had a friend whose mother was an alcoholic. This woman’s emotional state was always unpredictable. Their house was chaotic. As a child, I couldn’t imagine what that felt like, never feeling safe in your home. As I grew older, I realized how important it is for a child to feel anchored and protected by their mother. Maybe that’s our first, most basic need.
#2: She makes you feel important. – At the beginning of the school year I see Moms in stores helping kids get ready for college. I see them picking out everything from notebooks to sheets and comforters. No doubt these same mothers stood on chilly soccer fields and sat through endless school assemblies. They wiped away tears. They sat by sick beds. They helped with homework. They stayed up late wrapping holiday gifts. How wonderful to make a child feel important. How can that not affect your life?
#3: She knows you. – I’ll never forget the time a group of us Moms were standing around with our kids after school. All seemed fine. Everyone looked happy. Then one of the mothers happened to gaze at her daughter. “What is it?” she asked with concern. The girl broke down in tears. Something had happened in school that upset her. To the rest of us, the girl had appeared okay. But that mother could read her daughter. She knew her in ways only a mother could. Her child’s distress was important. I thought how lucky for that little girl.
#4: She makes you feel accepted. – I know mothers whose children are gay. It would never occur to them to not be loving, kind and supportive. They accept their sons and daughters for who they are. They cheer them on. Coincidentally (or not), these mothers also accept themselves. They know who they are. They don’t care what the world or a neighbor thinks. They know in their heart what’s right. That self-acceptance affects their children. It gives them courage to live authentically.
#5: She discovers who you are. She doesn’t decide. – I overheard these words from one Mom to another when I was sitting on the bleachers at a little league game. As a young mother, those words resonated with me. I decided to let my kids lead me in their interests, not the other way around. Sure, I’d introduce them to things, but they could decide from there. This advice came in handy when neither of my boys liked sports. But they loved music. So that’s where we went. Music has enriched their lives. I never regretted that decision.
#6: She teaches strength.– My mother-in-law Joyce had two sons with disabilities. My husband Randy couldn’t walk through part of his childhood. But that didn’t stop Joyce from inspiring her sons to be their best. She encouraged them to make friends and have fun. She made sure there were always good snacks in the house to entice visitors. She took her boys and their buddies on outings. She provided music and games and laughter. She could’ve let her sons sit around feeling limited. Instead she encouraged them to do their best. She taught them to look beyond their challenges. She taught them to live the best, happiest lives they could.
#7: She’s there. — I mentor adolescent young women in a local group home. The sad part is that many of these girls do have mothers, but have been given over to the state for various reasons. It makes me wonder how different their lives might be if they had that essential maternal connection. I’m not judging these mothers. Many have lives and struggles I’ll never know. Many made the only decision they could. Still, it’s heart-breaking to see this world of children without that most vital element.
And maybe that’s the greatest gift a mother can give — being there. I’m grateful to my mother for being all these things. How about your’s?
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