It will be an odd sort of Mother’s Day for me this year. Neither of my children will be home — one in New York City, the other headed on a mission trip to Ethiopia. And it will be the first Mother’s Day that I don’t have a mother or mother-in-law to call. I’ve often struggled with Mother’s Day, finding it a bit mushy and sentimental for my taste, but reflection on important relationships in our lives helps us maintain the health of them, and Mother’s Day provides that opportunity.
Several years ago, I reflected in this column about what I’ve learned over the years from my mom about parenting — and I think these lessons still hold true for parents, regardless of gender. So I’m sharing them again to encourage us all to reflect on what healthy relationships between parents and children should be and how to model them for our kids. Here it goes:
▪ Tell your kids that you love them. Tell them a lot, and then tell them some more. Eventually, when they start to roll their eyes and say, “I know, I know — you love me!” then you’ll know that they are beginning to hear you.
▪ Help your kids understand that while in many ways your world revolves around them, the world in general does not. This means they will learn to share with others, take their turn and come to the challenging but important realization that life is not always fair.
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▪ Find ways to enable and encourage your kids to give back to the community, through volunteer projects or the sharing of their talents. Growing up, I watched my mom give back to the community in important ways — through her work with disabled children and in her involvement in our church. It helped me learn what it means to be part of a community.
▪ When you lose your cool, or make a mistake, apologize to your kids. It really is OK to say, “I’m sorry.” It will make them respect you more, not less, and it helps them learn, in turn, how and when to apologize.
▪ Let your kids see you laugh at yourself when you do something goofy. Again, it models a useful skill they will need later in life.
▪ Model for them healthy adult relationships — with spouses, friends, extended family and others. If that isn’t always possible, at least model civility.
▪ Learn to let your children go when it’s time. Let them try new things, explore new territory and eventually leave the nest. Trust that the values they’ve watched you live will stay with them as they grow and mature. I’m still working on this one.
We learn how to be adults, spouses and life partners and parents from watching our parents. And we make choices as we become adults about whether to keep or to discard the things we learned from our parents. I’m still constantly discovering the things I want to keep. So this Mother’s Day, I’ll say thanks to my mom, even if I can’t do it on the phone, for the ways she has helped me become a better mom. I hope my kids feel the same way when they have children of their own.
Anne K. Ard is the executive director of the Centre County Women’s Resource Center. Contact her at 238-7066 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.