This is the speech I gave at the Unitarian/Universalist Church in Clearwater in 1990. Three different people presented their brand of motherhood. I was to present the traditional view, another woman presented her viewpoint as a mother with an adopted child and the third was a gentleman who was a stay at home, full-time caregiver dad. Hope you enjoy.
Good morning. Happy Mothers’ Day. What an opportunity for any mother—to stand before a captive audience with the express purpose of telling them about her wonderful children. I thought about bringing the home movies but John (Pastor Burciaga) said I would only have five minutes.
I was asked to speak about motherhood in the traditional sense. Oh yes, my children went to parochial schools or to Sunday catechism. I did my share of teaching Sunday classes, room mother duties, chaperone or designated driver for school field trips. Being home during the day and driving a twelve passenger family van seems to qualify you for a wealth of job opportunities.
I was married for twenty-five years to a career military officer, so even though some would call my mother’s role traditional in that I was not employed outside my home, it had unique challenges and responsibilities specific to the military wife and mother. During the twenty-five years, we moved nineteen times and it was necessary for me to be mother and father often when my children’s father was frequently away on maneuvers in addition to two years in Vietnam and a year in Korea. I remember feeling the responsibility was awesome and prayed often for help and courage to guide my children to be loving, productive adults. I want you to know I’ve been rewarded a thousand times over. I’m not saying there weren’t normal, trying times as there are with all families—tempers flared, feelings were hurt—disappointments arose; but my children and I said “I’m sorry” when it was appropriate and “I love you” often. Today, all my children (four girls and one boy) appear to be free thinkers and do a good job of following the Golden Rule. They also remain my dearest friends. I’m extremely proud of that.
My teacher told me to always do the very best job I knew how in raising my children and then not to berate myself or take credit for the outcome. Children are people with free wills and make decisions and choices in spite of parents’ desires and instructions.
I always felt lucky to be home with my children while they were young. We played together, learned together, and grew together. We even had chicken pox together. You see, I was only twenty-four years old when my fifth child was born. By the time my third child got started in school, I could even do the new math!
I learned so very much from my children. Being happy and being optimistic are normal, child-like and shouldn’t require work. Isn’t that a terrific lesson learned? My second oldest child was angry one day at a restriction imposed by her father that she felt was unfair. For some reason I’ve always felt the need to be a peacemaker and maintain harmony so I was trying to convince her that her father’s reasoning was accurate and the punishment justified. I’ll never forget her response. She said, “Mother, just let me feel mad for awhile.” How smart they are to know so young that channeled anger is healthy and doesn’t need to be suppressed.
They also have a way of making you humble very quickly. My youngest brought home a paper in second grade that had the title “My Mother”. This little essay is embedded in my memory bank also. It was worded: “My Mother is nice to everybody.” (How puffed up I felt after reading that sentence.)—next line—“My Mother likes to read a lot”. (I’m looking good-right?)—last line—“My Mother sits and reads and drinks iced tea all day.” Thank goodness she knew how to spell “iced tea”.
I suppose you’ve all heard the poem—“Children learn what they live”. Well, I learned that a mother should try to be what you want them to be because they are going to observe and copy everything you say or do—be it right or wrong.
Special rewards of my motherhood have taken the forms of a little one crawling up on my lap years ago, putting her arms around my neck and for no special reason saying—“I love you, Mommy”. And recently, another child phoning long-distance to say—“No special news, Mom—I just miss you and love you”.
Today I’m especially lucky to have with me my teacher and best friend, my mother Mildred Atkins. Happy Mothers’ Day, Mother.