This past Mother’s Day was my first without my mother in my life. I think I’ve been pretty healthy in mourning my mother, but Mother’s Day was more wrenching than I expected. I felt a bit lonely and lost.
When I’m feeling down, it frequently helps to focus my attention outwards. Rather than spending the day grieving the loss of the best mom in the world, I decided to celebrate some of my friends who are mothers. I decided to consider what attributes have made them successful growers of great human beings.
I want to tell you about my three friends- Sunny, River, and Star. These are not their real names, but they are definitely real mothers and I definitely really admire them.
Sunny is still on the front lines of mothering. She is our church rector’s wife. This means that she not only has to cope with the normal challenges of parenthood, but she also has the added pressure of doing her mothering in a pretty public way. She is the mother of five boys and one little girl. She also serves as a stand-in mother for her teenage niece who lives with her brood. Her oldest son is 20. Her little girl, our parish’s princess, is 3. I don’t know Sunny well, but I have been observing her with her children on a regular basis for a couple of years now. It may be presumptuous of me to comment on her mothering skills, but I am so impressed that I just can’t help myself. Luke 6:44 says, “For every tree is known by his own fruit.” Presuming that is the case, I know that Sunny is a first-class grower of grown-ups.
Sunny’s eldest son started his own business while still in school. In addition to growing the business, he writes a blog and is graduating early with his degree. He is also planning to marry in the next few weeks. While most people would think that 20 is very young to get married, this young man seems to be doing everything right to put himself and his bride-to-be in the best place possible to succeed as life partners. The other children are also very accomplished. Two play musical instruments beautifully. Two others sing in the children’s choir. They look after each other, keeping a special close eye on their little sister who is a tornado of energy and potential. They are all respectful, well-behaved, and helpful to others. The thing that really strikes me, though, is that they are not just “good kids.” They seem poised and relaxed and confident. They are secure in the knowledge that they are loved… by God and by their parents. Sunny exudes that love. She is warm and cuddly and wise in dealing with her children. She is bemused but delighted by the notion that she may well become a grandmother while still raising a preschooler. It couldn’t happen to a more qualified woman.
My friend River has two daughters. River is the most free-spirited and independent of my friends. She is strong, creative, ambitious, and charismatic. She has excellent vision and perspective. Life is her personal adventure. River’s younger daughter is sixteen and has big dreams. This child knows what she wants. It never occurs to her to think that anything is beyond her reach. River’s older daughter struck out confidently away from her parents’ home when she went to college. That daughter recently completed her Master’s degree in Accounting. She now lives half a world away from her mother. Still, River remains connected to her child by an infinite kite string that soars as high as her daughter flies. River cultivates strength and independence in her children by offering a form of support that is an encouragement and not a crutch. Her girls know there is a safety net beneath them to catch them if they fall, but they are confident enough to believe they will never need it.
Recently, I had the pleasure of spending a weekend with River and her older daughter. River’s daughter drove four hours each way to come spend the weekend with her mother and me. “Spending the weekend” entailed driving us all over central Texas like honored diplomats. Not only is this young woman strong and smart, she is generous with her time and ability. Another thing I noticed about her is that she understands that what you do is sometimes much bigger than what you do. For instance, she works full time in the accounting field, but is branching out to coach cheerleading on the side. She loves cheerleading and enjoys being connected to the sport. Her excitement about this new endeavor exploded out of her when she told us about her plans. As she talked, I realized that the joy was about more than just the sport. River’s daughter knows that she is doing more than just coaching cheerleading. She is using her creativity to infuse children with a passion for teamwork, fitness, leadership, and positivity.
I’ve been watching my friend Star mother her two children for over 35 years, since her oldest child was a year old. Star is kind, smart, and beautiful. She lives her life with complete integrity. She is unfailingly true to her core values and to the enormous amount of love she holds in her heart for the people who are close to her. In fact, I often call Star the perfect person. I have seen her tired and overwhelmed and low on patience, but I have never seen her without love.
Star’s children are successful and positive. They are optimistic about life and excited about what they can make of their futures. They understand that life is not always happy and they can weather disappointments because they believe that good things await. They believe this because they learned from their mother that, no matter what mistakes or misfortunes they tripped over, their mother would understand. She wouldn’t necessarily approve and she would try to teach them how to make better choices in the future, but she would always love them.
Star’s children are polite, personable, and insightful. They have good judgment and good hearts. They have a curiosity and care for other people that goes beyond just good manners. Star’s oldest child has two small children of her own now. Star delights in her grandmotherhood, recrafting her nurturing skills to support her daughter’s own wonderful way of being a great grower of grown-ups.
My friends Sunny, River, and Star are very different. They live in different states. They do not know each other. I am sure they each make different parenting choices. Yet, they are all great mothers. I think it may be precisely because they are different that they have been so successful as mothers. Each one of these women has brought the best of who she is to the life’s work of growing grown-ups. They have instinctively recognized the uniquely beautiful qualities God gave them and sowed the seeds of those qualities in the children they raise. They trusted that vigilance, hard work, and a super-abundance of love, with God’s help, could nurture and germinate those seeds into high quality human beings. Because they “play to their strengths” in being the kind of mothers they were meant to be, they are able to be the best mothers they can be. They produce the very best harvest imaginable.
Thank you Sunny, River, Star, and all you other uniquely wonderful moms. You do us all a service by cultivating wonderful people.
What qualities do you think it takes to be a great mother? Please
share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a nurturing day!
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