If you had to choose one word to describe your mother, what would it be? How about one piece of advice she has given you that has always stuck with you or influenced you in some way?
These are the questions I recently posed to a large group of family and friends, in anticipation of writing a piece commemorating the Mother's Day holiday -- a day dedicated to honoring and respecting all mothers, celebrating motherhood and expressing gratitude and appreciation for all the things, both big and small, our mothers did, have done or continue to do for us throughout our life.
While the responses to these questions were, as you might expect, all unique -- some powerful and profound, others lighthearted and funny -- they reveal an underlying truth that can sometimes be obscured by the modern day plight of the family: namely, that mothers matter. That the role a mother plays in our lives is important. That what our mothers do and say, to us and to others, affects us -- influencing us and shaping us into the individuals we are today.
Given that we are easily influenced creatures by nature, this isn't necessarily surprising. Indeed, some of our first impressions of the world, beliefs in life and behaviors we adopt are no doubt a result of the "first" words, beliefs and behaviors we are able to consciously observe and mentally process -- many of which naturally come from our mother, the bearer of our life.
This is precisely why I believe the role of a mother is so important -- and is an undertaking that, as far as I can tell, requires an immense amount of responsibility, not to mention incredible (and merciless) patience, selflessness, effort, maturity and strength.
Tasked with caring for our every need as helpless infants, managing our temper tantrums as young children, navigating our emotions and raging hormones as teenagers and reassuring us in times of difficulty as we grow older, a mother is more than just a term or "name" that we use to identify the person who brought us into this world. It really is a job in and of itself.
Similar to a boss who exerts his efforts managing others, and is required to lead his employees by setting a positive, honorable example for them to follow, a mother very much "leads" her children (Make Way for Ducklings*, anyone?), imparting attitudes and beliefs that her children are likely to embrace, albeit passively, and setting an example for how they should behave in certain situations.
While some of us may come to question or challenge these notions as we grow older -- a healthy process in the formation of one's self -- it is difficult to dismiss the formidable impressions our mothers make on us in our early years, which serve as a foundation upon which we understand ourselves and others, and the role we play in the world around us.
As the daughter of a mother who has devoted her life to my two older brothers and me (a rather trying job!), I can confidently say that the impact she has had on me is truly immeasurable -- and that the example she has set throughout my life has played a far greater role in forming who I am today than nearly anything else.
If the responses I received to my two questions are any indication of the love, respect and admiration people have for their mothers, then clearly I'm not the only one who agrees how profoundly important they are in our lives.
In fact, there is little else I can say to convey just how much my mother has mattered and continues to matter than to recall the words written by the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, which seem to find their way into my mind each Mother's Day:
"All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."
And so, I return to my two questions: what one word would you use to describe your mother? And what is the best advice or words of wisdom she has given you?
My responses? One word: Selfless. And the piece of advice she has not only spoken, but consistently lived by in her very own life: "No matter what someone does, says, doesn't say or doesn't do, be the bigger person and always treat others the way you would hope to be treated."
Thank you, Mom, for being my guiding light, inspiration and source of comfort and strength.
Happy Mother's Day to all! To show all mothers just how important you are, see the words that sons and daughters have chosen to describe their mom and the advice they have recalled, in their very own words.
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