Yesterday was a really nice day. I slept in and actually stayed in bed late because our ward council meetings were canceled that – that was nice. I chatted with my Mom early so the day didn't get away from me before I got a chance to visit…that was nice. I got breakfast in bed from Megan – I almost never get to do that, so that was nice. We had three very nice talks about mothers and motherhood by two young dads (a baby for one and a toddler with another on the way for the other) and one young married guy, no kids. They spoke with great enthusiasm about their children, wives and mothers. Their heartfelt thoughts were sweet and welcome for any mom to hear.
Hans shared a poem that I thought was appropriate and his delivery was as fun, and thought provoking, as was the sentiment…his mother would be proud! Very nice!
The Lanyard – Billy Collins
The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.
Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.
All of the talks made me think about the role of a mother. There is my own mom, with a wealth of experience, someone whose joy and heartache I will never fully understand because my experiences are very different from hers. She tells me that I am a far better mother than she, but she is way too hard on herself, for any of my successes as a mother are based on her teaching me about unconditional love.
I don't think that as moms we should ever stray from being humble and teachable, even when we've been a mother for a really long time…once that is part of our resume, the title never changes…just the job description. There is always room to learn. To young moms and dads, the late night feedings, changing diapers and being able to sooth tears and fears are the challenges ahead. But sooner than they think, those little ones will get big, and their needs will change, as will their challenges.
I have heard it said so many times, "Its all in the parenting"…that is far too simple a statement. Children come to this world with their own personalities. Some are naturally obedient – others seem to learn everything the hard way. When they are little, we not only tell them not to play in the street but we watch them constantly to make sure they don't forget. But as they grow, we can only do so much before we have to recognize their free agency to choose - part of that is knowing that they won't always choose wisely. It's no different when they get older and leave home, or get too big for us to try and impose our will in their decision making process. We can advise, when asked, but there comes a point when they don't want to learn from OUR life experience and they have to learn for themselves. The key is for them to know that we love them unconditionally and that our heart desires for them to be happy, and that we will always love them and be there for them, even if we can't kiss it better or scare the monsters away.
So to my Mom, I love you and by the way…you were right! About everything! I don't remember you being impatient with me or that we lived on a tight budget. I remember always having sufficient for my needs, no, more than enough. I do have regrets. I am sorry that I didn't help you more, that I didn't figure out how to make your burdens lighter. I'm sorry that I ever caused you to worry about me, or if I was rude or thoughtless with your feelings. I now know how hard it must have been to try and take care of three children for so long by yourself, even though I haven't had to experience that myself, I can only imagine. But I also want you to know that I learned to love good literature and art because of you, that I love opera because you explained the stories to me and we listened to it together. Most important were all the gospel discussions we had, the time spent learning about important things and keeping an eternal perspective.
So, as another Mother's Day has come and gone, with all my heart I want my children to know that I love them. That through all the joys and sorrows we have experienced, I am grateful to be their mom and thankful to share this journey with them. I know that there will be more sorrow…it is inevitable, but through it there will be a greater capacity for happiness along the way…and a happy family we will be because we love each other! I really do love being a Mom! It is a nice thing to be!