With graduation season in full swing, I can’t help but think of my mother during my high school years. We didn’t see eye to eye all the time, as mothers and teenage daughters often don’t. But one memory stands out that I pray will influence my motherhood journey for years to come.
It was my senior year of high school, and I had big plans for a great year. I was a cheerleader, in choir, in school plays, and had a football player boyfriend. I was highly involved in church youth group and had a part-time job for shopping money. Life was good.
Then, a month into school…a broken heart. My boyfriend decided it was time to part ways. My 17-year-old heart was devastated. Suddenly roaming the halls meant emotional landmines to avoid. My plans for the year crumbled, and my previously peppy spirit turned numb.
My mom didn’t fully understand my heartache – or at least, I didn’t think she did. After weeks of moping, I have no doubts she was ready for my gloominess to end. Secretly, I think she was relieved the relationship was over – she saw no need for me to get serious in high school.
I don’t know whose idea it was – my mom’s or my friends’ – but one night after a football game, they threw me a surprise slumber party at my house. Complete with girl-power movies, my fave junk food (always Doritos), and a homemade banner that read BOYS – Bums Oafs Yucks Stupids. We didn’t really believe boys were all those things, but the point is, even 24 years later I still remember that sign.
I can imagine my mom from the kitchen, smiling because her daughter was laughing again. All was right in the world.
What I Learned as Her Daughter
- I learned that my feelings were important to my mom – and that I could trust her with them. While we still had plenty of talks about dealing with disappointment and trusting God’s best, that slumber party showed me that she didn’t belittle my heartache.
- My friends were important to me – and therefore important to my mom. My mother loved having my friends around and getting involved in their lives. She talked freely with them, sometimes to my angst-ridden chagrin, but so many friends share precious memories of her that I cherish, especially now that she’s gone.
What I Learned as a Future Mother
- Don’t expect your children to react like you would. You have years of knowledge, hindsight, and maturity that they don’t yet possess.
- When they do share their hurts with you, don’t dismiss it. Hold their hands and listen. Whether they are 7 or 17, heartache will come from a variety of sources – not making the team, not getting invited to the party, or missing out on the lead role in the play. I realize there are two extremes on either side of this – overindulging our children and their every emotion or toughening them up to prepare them for life. But in the middle is a sweet balance of grace and truth – be sensitive and wise with the timing of both.
- Your children will catch more than you know – even if it’s not applied until years later. There’s a saying “more is caught than taught” and while both modeling and teaching are important, I don’t remember having a single conversation with my mom on “This is How to Be a Mother.” I saw her excitement for her children, her empathy, her commitment to God and others, her willingness to admit when she was wrong, and expectations for us to apologize for our wrongs and pay the consequences.
My mom isn’t here anymore to share her motherly wisdom with me – she died the year before my son was born. And while I’m grieved to miss out on watching him with his Grammy (who delighted in her other grandchildren), I’m so thankful for the lessons I learned on motherhood by simply being her daughter. I’m a better mother for it.