Earlier this week, my baby brother turned fifteen. To most people, that would barely count as a milestone, but when there are ten years between the two of you, it seems like a much bigger deal (especially knowing that my baby sister is right behind him at thirteen).
I remember a few years ago, I was home from college for the summer, and my brother (then about ten) turned to me and said, “I’m probably going to be a young uncle.” I couldn’t help laughing since his statement was so out of the blue, and I wasn’t even dating anyone at the time, so I wasn’t sure where he thought these hypothetical nieces and nephews were going to come from.
Five years later, those nieces and nephews are still hypothetical. Occasionally, I see pictures of friends’ little ones on Facebook or Instagram and feel a bit behind (until I take a step back and realize that not having kids by age twenty-five is really pretty common). But the past few days I’ve been thinking about what a blessing it has been to watch my parents raise their “second set” of children and how much I’ve been able to learn before ever even having kids myself. In honor of Mother’s Day, here are the top seven mothering qualities I’ve come to appreciate from watching my mom raise my siblings.
#7: Our success is her priority.
Whether it’s a homework assignment for class, new piece of music for band, a project for art fair, or a new skill in sports, my mom always goes all out to help us succeed. With me, she often was able to help herself—reading over my English assignments or teaching me how to play difficult pieces of music on the flute and piano, her instruments of choice. When my siblings chose different instruments or went to new levels in competitive sports, she found another teacher or coach to help. From time to time, my siblings and I wanted less help and more independence, but over the years I’ve learned that her help always, always comes from a heart of love for us.
#6: She sets boundaries for our freedom.
Both of my parents did a great job of disciplining and setting boundaries for me and my siblings. When I was young and receiving consequences for my actions, I was generally mad and didn’t think about the benefits. But after watching the way my parents discipline my siblings, I’ve come to appreciate their approach. Neither of them are the type to yell—they’ll just set forth what will happen if we don’t obey and then follow through with the consequences. We were all pretty sheltered growing up, and though many in today’s world might criticize them for not exposing us to “the real world,” I fully appreciate the way they protected our minds and hearts.
#5: She records the moments.
To be quite frank, this propensity of my mom’s often annoyed my siblings and me when we were growing up. Every birthday, every recital, every vacation had to be documented with photos and home video. After working for a family history company, however, I’ve developed a new appreciation for those recorded memories. To be sure, there are several long hours of video that she took while waiting for me to roll over as a baby that I will probably never re-watch, but there are many precious memories that I’ll treasure too that would never have been recorded if not for her.
#4: She creates space for time together.
My mom is a very organized person, and she loves routines and schedules. So we had dinner together promptly at 6 p.m. pretty much every night when I was growing up. As we grew older, there were times when one or two of us would have to warm up leftovers later on in the evening, but more often than not, we ate as a family at least four nights a week. As an adult, I’ve come to realize how rare that is, and I love that my mom’s organization helped make that possible.
#3: Our interests become her interests.
My mom was always a reader, but I don’t think she was an editor until I became a writer. And though I don’t think she disliked baseball, she never watched it as avidly as she does now until my brothers became baseball players. At different times in her life, she has worn the hats of soccer mom, basketball mom, volleyball mom, baseball mom, art camp mom, band mom, and horse camp mom as occasion calls for it. By taking interest in what we were interested in, she showed her love and drew new connection points between us.
#2: She’s not afraid to admit she was wrong and ask forgiveness.
This is one of the things I’ve come to appreciate most about my mom. I still have several memories from my growing up years of my mom apologizing to me for getting frustrated about something or other, or for not responding the way she felt she should have. As a child, I remember feeling embarrassed and not knowing how to respond—how do you say you forgive Mom? Moms are supposed to have it all together, right? As an adult, though, I so appreciate the way she taught me and my siblings that it was okay to admit our faults and how to give and receive grace.
#1: She’s there.
This quality comes in first place, no doubt about it. No matter how many times we pushed her buttons or talked back, no matter how many lessons or games we needed transportation for, no matter how many times we forgot to say “I love you” back or how far away we moved, my mom has always been present. She’s there to quiz us before a big test, to cheer for us at a game, to video and take pictures at a concert, and to listen after a rough day. Those all seem like such little things, but in the end, it’s the little things that add up.
So, thanks, Mom, for all the lessons you’ve taught me, and all the lessons you’re still teaching me. Happy Mother’s Day—I love you!