Every year of motherhood is a fresh opportunity to thank my own mom and reflect on the Mother's Day momily. Growing up, in church we had the homily; at home it's what I call the "momily" -- the inspirational and instructive mom-isms that every family has.
In addition to the pigtails she braided, uniforms she pressed, meals she prepared and carpools she drove, my mother Nancy Pelosi's momilies were memorable and still echo through the years from my childhood to my motherhood.
On playing nice: "Keep the friendship in your voice."
On homework: "Proper preparation prevents poor performance."
On criticism of others: "Worry about your own self. Don't be a 'Miss/Mr. Make-Matters-Worse.'"
On tears: "You play rough, you get hurt."
On motivation: "You can do it -- it's just a decision."
On what she wanted for Mother's Day (and her birthday, and Christmas...and ...): "Good behavior."
I think every mother's momily includes "good behavior" -- for our large, spirited family it was a must. My parents had five children in six years and one week, meaning that my mom was pregnant for most of the '60s and driving carpools for most of the '70s. When we were young, she dressed us alike so she could pick us out in crowds: identical skirts for the four girls with the color-coordinated pants for my brother. I'm sure it was all those matching outfits -- plus years of Catholic school uniforms -- that led us to develop distinctly individual styles as soon as we were able to dress independently.
My earliest memories of my mom were of her multi-tasking -- preparing dinner while checking on homework and housework; clearing the dinner plates while setting out bowls for breakfast; making sure we ate our breakfast while lining up bread, lunch meats, apples, and snacks assembly-line style so we could make our lunches. To this day, we rarely finish eating one meal without planning the next.
Of course it's one thing to recite the momily and another to live it. Having seen my mom in community volunteer work my whole life and in Congress for over 25 years, it is true as she often says that she sees her service as an extension of her role as a mother and a grandmother. The same organizing, cajoling, quarter mastering, coalition building and encouraging that all moms do in the house is essential to the work my mom and so many others do on the front lines of human rights, economic opportunity and social justice.
Now a mother myself to the brave and boisterous Bella, I find myself invoking the momily as my 5-year-old makes her way, through the impish moments when she draws on walls and the inspiring ones when she shares her toys and affection with others. Bella's generation is freer then mine from social divisions, with more diverse friendships amongst kids from families across race, religion, sexual orientation and nationality: what I call the "21s century blend." Born into a country with an African American president of the United States, Barack Obama, and a female speaker of the house (Bella's "Mimi"), hers is a generation that will know no limits. My road warrior for justice, Bella has traveled with me to campaign boot camps in 27 states and three foreign countries watching me engage future leaders to public service, and has answered her own call to be part of something bigger than herself.
Watching your child respond with empathy to others is the greatest feeling a parent can have. I'm proud of Bella's embrace of other children, particularly the call to be part of one human family and to embrace immigrant Americans as her brothers and sisters. I kvelled as Bella performed my pre-speech mic check and shouted out "we are here for the DREAMers!" Being here for the DREAMers -- and all other members of our extended human family -- is exactly the "good behavior" my mother always asked for, and a new momily to live by this Mother's Day.