An ounce of mother is worth a ton of priest.
The above photograph was taken several years ago, and when I think of my childhood, I think of this photograph even though it is of my little brothers and my mom (um and look at Jakey’s chubby little baby cheeks… where did they disappear to?). When I remember Mom when I was small, I remember her reading to us. All the time. It is not surprising, then, that the majority of her children are readers, and voracious ones at that. Some of us prefer books to television any day. Rare is the night I go to sleep without reading away my chance at eight hours. I blame my mom and J. K. Rowling for that.
James and the Giant Peach is the first chapter book I remember loving and before that The Giving Tree stands out. Mom read. She wasn’t one of those moms who played with us all the time, though I do have those memories too. I wasn’t her, um, easiest child, so I think I love all those reading memories a lot, because if she was reading, I probably wasn’t giving her grief.
It was Mom’s birthday this past week, and I have been thinking about what it means to be a mom and to have a lot of kids and to try to instill value in each of them. Something I think my parents did well, maybe their best contribution I can distinguish at the moment, is give us healthy doses of confidence. They are not the kind of parents who cling so tightly to their kids that we did not learn to try new things, to figure out what we love and to go for it. Those of us who are grown have done just that or are walking in that direction.
If you are a parent, and you read to your kids and couple that with giving them confidence, you teach them to both think and dream. My mom also did the risky but invaluable investment in us kids that is this: she taught and teaches us how, not what, to think. We come from hearty stock when it comes to politics and faith, and rather than beating either or both over our heads, for the most part, we learned values and critical thinking skills. And though I think differently than my mom on some things, I think deep down she trusts that I am using my heart and brain to work things out. She taught me that.
Here is something else that is great about Mom. She and my dad are together. They don’t claim a perfect union, and I know they don’t always like each other. But this they do: they love, and as best they can. They aren’t afraid to work on things, and they know how to be friends. They know how to laugh. They know how to be a team. Mom knows how to go to baseball games and violin concerts and doctor’s appointments and the endless array of errands a week brings and somehow connect with Dad and figure out how to do life together.
My mom is worthy of celebration, and I’m thankful for the family I’m in, super-sized and all… I’m glad there are birthdays to make me stop and think about how good it is to have the ones I’ve got. We’re blessed to have each other. And we mostly know it.