Even after all of these years, I remember the day like it was yesterday. The snowy, bitter cold Wisconsin March afternoon when I arrived home from college for a visit with my mom. My dad was in sunny California with some golf buddies and I knew this would be my best opportunity to give her the news.
Afterall, it couldn’t wait much longer.
My roommate dropped me off about 1o’clock and my mom had a lovely lunch all prepared for us when I walked in the door. We sat down to eat and I began to make small talk about my classes and ask about what my younger brothers were up to, when all at once I just couldn’t hold it in any longer…I looked into her eyes and I began to cry.
At first; she was silent.
And then she said, “You don’t have to tell me Kim, I already know.”
No one had spilled the beans; it was mother’s intuition.
I then spent the better part of the next hour telling my mom about how I’d found out during Christmas Break…how I’d agonized with big decisions and had fights with my boyfriend for the previous six weeks about what to do, what my boyfriend thought we should do…what my girlfriends all recommended I do…
At one point my mom said, “Oh Kim, I wish you’d have felt you could have come to me sooner.”
There was no judgment in her voice, I could tell she sincerely felt awful that I’d spent so many weeks trying to figure out how to handle the situation I was in being 18 and pregnant.
I should have known that’s how she’d respond, though I believed at the time that on some level she must have been disappointed that her oldest child and only daughter had gotten into the kind of trouble all parents fear. But she never said anything negative, only listened and asked me how I felt.
In the months following that conversation, my mom used her sewing skills to create an entire maternity wardrobe for me, she helped me buy my first sofa (a $25 garage sale find full of dog hair that she shampooed before it was moved into my tiny apartment), she helped me nest, she was my delivery coach and she watched my son while I worked a secretarial job so I could get myself off of public assistance and financially onto my own two feet.
In the very beginning, and throughout all of my three plus decades of parenting, she’s never judged my parenting. She never told me how to do it. She’s always encouraged me…she has been my biggest cheerleader. On so many occasions she’s believed in me even when I doubted myself!
This is what it looks like to unconditionally love your child.
The most beautiful thing a mother can do for her children is to allow them to become who they’re meant to be, regardless of whether or not she agrees with the path their child is on. To support them enough to help them succeed when they’ve made choices that aren’t what you envisioned for them, and to encourage them to pursue their own inner truth.
Because of the example she’s been for me, I have actively practiced the same kind of parenting with my five kids. At this point two of them are grown, so they are the best examples of what that has looked like in my parenting.
For my eldest, who suffered with an addiction to alcohol in his early 20s that led him to all sorts of personal challenges and trouble with the law, it meant helping him find the desire for long-term sobriety (he will be ten years sober this month), and supporting him with phone calls and visits while he slowly rebuilt his life over a few years’ time.
For my second son, it looks like open communication and careful listening on my part while he pursues his calling of becoming a priest. Believe it or not, it is possible to support them without participating in the same faith practice or compromising your own beliefs.
Son number three is about to finish college and step into a job with a starting pay neither his dad nor I could have fathomed at his age. I look forward to helping him find his first place and decorate it so it reflects his taste. I will also look forward to having him close enough to stop by for a visit or to join us for Sunday dinner.
The youngest two remain, I am committed to supporting their choices when they move beyond high school as well.
Mothers are an incredible breed. They often lose themselves in the pursuit of helping those they love the most. If you are a mother, remember you are also a human being with a unique path to forge aside from living out your role as Mom.
Mother’s Day is a time to reflect on your mother and how she helped you become the person you are today, if you’re as blessed as I am to have one that practices nonjudgment you have much to celebrate. If that hasn’t been your experience, you have the beautiful opportunity to make different choices with your own children.