As the eldest child in my family, I was officially the trial-and-error child. I was first to see my parents get it right and get it wrong. I’m leaving home in July to spend two years at school in Australia, and Mom cries already just making pancakes (are all you moms that weird?). She says she’s running out of time. But moms never run out of time. Sons always need their moms, even if it’s not for making pancakes.
She asked me to write to you and share what I think all sons need from their moms and gave me permission to tell you all the ways she blew it if I wanted to, but I’d have to devote a whole new blog for all those juicy details. Kidding Mom! Mom certainly wasn’t a perfect mother and still isn’t, but she was a real mom who tried to consistently live out the lessons she hoped to pass on to me. She chose not only to raise me but to invest in me on purpose, and she did it every day.
I don’t know what every son needs, but I know what my mom gave me that were most influential in shaping who I am and the choices I make.
A foundation– In our home the foundation was God, and on that we built our family and everything else. This not only taught me who I was but gave me purpose and something solid to build on. It taught me that when everything else falls apart, I still have those two things–God and family.
Love of others–We were never allowed much selfishness at home and we were reminded often that it wasn’t about us. We were taught that life isn’t about all you can grab from it, but about all you can give in it.
Love of learning-We homeschooled, and Mom was tough. She never seemed to answer any of our questions but told us where to find the answer. She didn’t just teach us what we needed to know for a test; she taught us to want more. She insisted there was always more to learn about everything and ways to get better at what we do. Excellence was always the standard so we would become adults who make an impact in whatever we do.
Discipline–Now, you know no child is ever going to think moms get this one right, and I’m no different. Any oldest child knows they are the guinea pig. Mom was harder on me than any of the girls behind. She would say it’s because I needed it most, and I would say she’s lightened up. I think we’re both right. While Mom was trying to figure out what worked, and it didn’t always seem fair, she always disciplined because she loved me and wanted to protect me, and I knew that. Through it, Mom taught me to discipline myself and to know there are consequences for all my behavior, good and bad.
Respect–Mom taught us that everyone should be respected, even those who don’t deserve it, whether they are authority or peers. This taught me how to relate to people of different ages, backgrounds, and positions and that difficult people often aren’t so difficult when respect is given.
Forgiveness–In our house, we say I’m sorry. A lot. Mom taught us to not only ask for forgiveness often, but to give it whenever someone else needs it. It just makes life simpler and sleeping easier.
Responsibility–Mom made us WORK, and I was certain at the time she broke child labor laws. She always said she “refused to raise a teenager” but instead expected and required us to behave like young adults, responsible for our space, our money, and our relationships. It taught us that we are not entitled and that the world is not at our service.
How to treat women—Girls talk about how guys are always jerks. The truth is we guys just don’t instinctively know how to treat women. As a guy with three sisters and a mother in the same house, I’m still learning this. Manny in Ice Age 3 says, “Guys don’t talk! They just punch each other on the shoulder. It’s like therapy for a month.” It’s true. But Mom has tried (and still is trying) to teach me to be a gentleman with simple things like opening doors and giving up my seat, speaking softly, and being the protector. She’s still trying to teach me how to be gentle with girls by being gentle with my sisters, but I still think it’s okay to shoot them with rubber bands or almost anything else. I am the big brother, after all.
Love-Last, but most important, is love. As boys, we don’t like mushiness. Most of us don’t want cute little heart cutouts from our moms in our lunch boxes or to go into the bathroom to find “I love you” written on the mirror in lipstick (yeah, Mom really did that!). That’s girl stuff. But we still need love. When I came in crying because I jumped out of a tree and hurt my leg, I didn’t need to hear that I shouldn’t have jumped out of the tree–that’s why I did it! I just wanted Mom to fix it. That’s love. It’s knowing to hold us when we’re little and hug us when we’re bigger. Love is balancing all the things I mentioned previously and love trumps everything.
I don’t pretend to know anything about mothering because I don’t. I just know what I’ve seen in my mom. Granted, she could’ve used some of her own advice at times, but she did a pretty good job. I’m down to therapy only once a month now. Kidding! So moms, you won’t get it right all the time, either. Just say you’re sorry and keep trying. When you totally blow it and don’t know what else to do, pray. Mom prayed a lot, and I knew it and it helped. God can make up for a whole lot of mess-ups if we give them to Him.
When our whole world is coming down around us, we sons need to know we still have Mom. Be someone we can trust and rely on no matter what. Believe in us and look beyond the obnoxious boy we might be at times and see the man we’re becoming. Our future is shaped by how you shape us now. Choose to be more than what the world says a mother is. Be a mom. We need that from you.