Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mama always said...

As I attempt to raise two boys and a girl to become decent human beings, I often think of my mom, who raised two boys and me to become decent (some would say exceptional) human beings.

My mom woke us up and fed us a healthy breakfast, drove us to school, scouts, sports practice, and every other extracurricular activity we could come up with. She came along on field trips, attended our games and baked cookies for class parties, back when you were allowed to bring food that wasn't shrink-wrapped.

As a side note, to this day she still makes the most amazing cookies, from chocolate chip to her remarkably thin cutout cookies, for which the secret ingredient is patience. (This is why I just let her make them and never bother trying to do it myself.)

Mom was there, day in and day out, which is probably why so many of my memories of her are general impressions, rather than the vivid memories you have of those out-of-the-ordinary events like vacations. Sometimes we'd go to the park on weekends to play baseball with my dad. Back then I wondered why Mom never came along. Now I get it. Moms need a break. I'm glad I learned that it is all right to take one now and then.

After I graduated from high school, my Mom and I started a tradition of taking summer trips to non-tourist destinations. We visited northern Texas, southern Kansas, and hit all the major cities in Nebraska. It was all about getting away, seeing someplace new, being together and discovering the unique features that can be found anywhere...for instance, the world's largest hand-dug well in Greensburg, Kansas.

Here are just a few things I picked up over the years from Mom, which I now am carrying over--or trying to, anyway--into my own life as a parent:

Read books. Read lots of books. When you go to the library, fill your arms with all the books you can carry. If you don't have time to read them, you can always write down the titles and tell yourself you will check them out again soon.

Don't point guns at people. Not even toy guns. Water guns are the exception. But hey! Not in the house!

When the kids want to play with guns anyway, get creative. One of my favorite memories is the time my mom invented the "happy gun," fashioned out of a paper towel roll. You could aim it at people to try to make them smile.

Drink tea. Enjoy the tea. Savor the ritual of it.

When playing with kids, let them take the lead, then join in. Or if everyone is content, maybe just pour yourself a cup of tea and keep an eye on them.

A parent's job is to gradually prepare children to function as independent adults.

Of course, that is easier said than done.

Sometimes you have to be practical. Other times you need to do something a little wacky.

Get to know your neighbors.

When you have a good friend, keep in touch over any distance.

Appreciate and respect nature.

Variety is the spice of life, and the small things matter. More than anything, my mom has given me an appreciation and enthusiasm for the little things. When I get excited about finding a nickel, notice a bird in the tree outside my window, or stop to admire a sunset, I know it is a direct result of my mother's influence.

Send cards for every occasion, and sometimes for no reason at all.

Okay, so I totally stink at sending cards. That's right, Mom, your Mother's Day card is going to be late, as usual. Why on earth didn't I pick up that habit from you? Oh, well, the others are probably more important anyway.

A very happy Mother's Day to my Mom, and to every Mom!

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does." -William James


Susan said...

Ruth, I'm so happy to have found you through the other Ruth's blog! I love your writing style (kinda reminds me of me)! I will definitely be back when I have more time to read past posts!

Happy Mother's Day!

Susan said...

BTW, I loved this post!

Ruth said...

I especially like the advice to let kids take the lead in play.

I wasn't well equipped as a young mom, wish I'd known then what I know now. That's why women my age want grandkids, I guess.

Thanks so much for stopping by synch-ro-ni-zing. Nice to meet you, Ruth!