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Monday, November 21, 2011

Who Cares?: Where My Mom Went Oh So Right

"Someone has wisely stated that hate is not the opposite of love. Apathy is. We will not have time for apathy in life’s journey if we speak and think positively"  (Marvin J. Ashton).

I've really wondered all these years just what made my mom successful as a mother.  To me, she was the quintessential example of what motherhood should be.

A number of years ago, after making one of our trips to the cemetery to leave flowers on her grave, I realized that many of my mom's grandchildren would never know her.  That was one of the saddest things about letting her go back in March of 1999.  After returning from the cemetery that Memorial Day, I decided to set up a private Facebook page so my family members who knew her could jot down their memories of her.  As my siblings, older nieces and nephews and I leave memories, all of the family members can go there and look at each others' memories of the wonderful things she did.

I want to share one that I wrote yesterday:

"Once, in high school, I asked a kid to drive me home; I don't think school had even started for the day. When I walked in the house, Mom wasn't anywhere to be seen.

"She came in later and was surprised to find me sitting on the bed in her room watching T.V. She asked what I was doing at home, and I told her the details that had brought me there. She said, 'Great, you can go to work with me.'

"She was heading all the way down to Salem that day.

"We stopped at Shari's for lunch. On our way out of the parking lot, the rear of Mom's car was sticking out a bit. An older lady, who was about to turn in, shot Mom a dirty look. I reached behind Mom's headrest and flipped the lady the bird. The next thing Mom saw was the woman's expression change to one of shock.

"Mom turned to me and said, 'You did something. What did you do?'

"'I flipped her off,' I responded rather sheepishly knowing how disappointed she'd be in me. 

"Her response absolutely shocked me. 'Good for you!'"

That was my mom.   Anyone who knew her would say she was one of the most gentile, soft-spoken, sweet women they'd ever met.  She was.  I take after my dad.

As I got to thinking about her after writing that and through a few experiences I've been having lately, I'm beginning to realize now what makes her amazing in my memory.  She cared.  No...she cared passionately...about her kids.

In the situation above, she knew there was nothing she could do about what had been done.  I was a good kid.  This was an isolated incident.  She could have sat and lectured me, but what would that have done to our relationship.  Would that have built me up?  Would that have made her my ally?  

Let me tell you, though, after that experience, we laughed for the rest of the day.  We were equals and friends.

She didn't Love and Logic us.  Not at all.  Do I wish she had?  Yes, I wish I 'd been taught to take responsibility for my choices.  I think I wouldn't have had so much catching up to do as an adult.  However, I think there's an aspect of my mom that needs to be tempered with the logic portion of Love and Logic.  My mom knew how to love like no one I've ever met.

Mom didn't sweat the small stuff.  She cheered for us.  She let us know where she stood--not with lecturing but just out of who she was and how she lived.  We all knew, and none of us wanted to let her down.  As far as I know, we all still strive for that--to make our mom proud.

Yesterday, I had an experience that has brought me to this conclusion about my mom.  In giving my children choices, there are times when they fail.  There are times when life is heavy.  Although I've given them the right to choose their own path, once they've set out in that direction (whatever direction that may be), my job is to show them undying love.

I have a child who is suffering right now because of some choices that (s)he made.  I'm finding that I also have a choice here at this point.  I can sit back and apathetically say, "Ah well.  (S)he made his/her bed, and now he/she gets to lie in it," or I can stop what I'm doing and take the time for that child to coach him/her get back on the best possible path.  My job is not to force that kid.  I have the opportunity to solidify, in that child's mind, my love for him/her.

Yesterday at church, this child approached me and said he/she was going to walk home.  I recognized this as a cry for help.  So, what do you do?  Do you say, "Hey, go ahead.  I'll talk to you later," or do you leave the responsibility you have--I am Primary president in my ward--throw everything on someone else's shoulders and answer the cry?

This, I recognized, was a ninety and nine situation.  I had no choice.  It was time to walk in my mother's shoes for a few minutes.  I went with the child and we talked and cried together until there was some amount of resolution and a plan to get onto a better path.

So, this morning, my mind goes to apathy.  I have a another situation in my life in which I've been invited to do something.  As I've shared some honest misgivings about this thing, there has been a bit of apathy in return.  I can't tell if I'm just being asked to do this because the other person feels obligated to invite me--out of duty--or if it really is important but this person wants to give me my agency.  I guess in a situation like this my mom would've said, "I'd really like you to do this," and I would've jumped as high or higher than she expected.  I knew it meant a lot to her.  I wish, in this case, I knew.  It would be so much easier to do the right thing.

I'm learning that my kids need to know how I feel about things.  Giving them choices doesn't mean that I give them a choice and then sit back apathetically when they choose what I didn't want them to.  If this is a big decision, it's giving them a choice, sharing the possible outcomes (Jim Fay would probably disagree with this), and letting them choose what they want the outcome to be.  Help them look to the end result.  Then, once they've made their choice (even if it's not the one I would have chosen for them), love them through it.

I'm so grateful for a wonderful, sweet mother who continues to teach me even after she's gone.  This is where she went so right.  Five out of six kids served missions.  All married in the temple.  All still going strong.  All because our mom cared.


Tonya said...

So sweet, Julie.

I think your kids will remember you as that kind of Mom, too.

I admire you.

Colleen said...

Beautiful,I should be so wise.

meganconser said...

Beautiful post Julie. Your mom was somthing else. Which is why you are too. Love you.

Alyson said...

Lovely post. I assume that last picture is her holding you? Amazing how much your babies look like you :)

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