As you become an adult, you realize that you’re actually not responsible for any of your problems because your issues are 100% a product of your upbringing. So thankfully, due to the the failures of your parents, you’re off the hook. Just make sure that in every single facet of parenting, you raise your children in an opposite manner than you were raised.
That’s how I feel sometimes, anyway. It’s so easy to blame other people, especially the people who raised me, for my own faults.
But then I remember some surprising things.
Even though I’m strong-willed, a free spirit, and I completely lack a sense of moderation, I was able to make it through high school without the painful smear of a “rebellious stage.” I didn’t clean my room and sometimes, horrifyingly, I ate raw cookie dough, but I never even dreamed of sneaking out or going to wild parties. I didn’t refrain from doing these things because I was afraid of my parents' punishments...in fact, as far as I remember, they never even gave me a curfew. They just made doing the right thing fun. My mom made spending time with family a truly desirable pursuit.
I think it’s pretty cool that in my young-adult years I never felt the need to get into drinking or crazy parties because I just never perceived that I was missing out on anything. My mom, my brother and I would have “tasting parties” in which we blind-tested fun flavors of soda or chocolates. We would unapologetically destroy each other in Sorry and Phase Ten. That was really fun.
My mom would call the entire week of my birthday “Hope-a-palooza” and she would throw fake flower petals on me in celebration at any random moment…even when she was picking me up from youth group, which was a tad embarrassing. But she made me feel so loved and special.
One time we chased a rainbow because my mom was certain we’d be able to go right through it and experience all the colors from inside our car. We drove all around town, trying to get to the bottom of the rainbow, and we never found it, but in that moment my mom instilled so much wonder and spontaneity in my brother and I that it fed our childlikeness in the best way possible.
In the summers, we would travel all over our county to visit the coolest libraries we could find. I also remember a time when we drove 45 minutes just to go to a Sonic Drive-in because we didn’t have one in town. My mom created adventures for us out of the most mundane things and always taught us that "Only boring people get bored."
During hurricane season, even if the electricity didn’t actually go out, my mom would occasionally designate a day or evening for a “hurricane party” and turn off all the lights. We would completely unplug from electronics and cozy up to read by lantern light.
Decorating the Christmas tree was an extremely momentous event that was always complemented with delicious snacks. I never realized how much effort my mom put into making Tree Decorating Night so sacred until I became a homemaker and had to attempt it myself. Making special traditions is a lot of work, and my mom joyfully put in that work.
Every time we go on vacation, my mom writes all the participants a very formal letter as if she were a travel agent. She plans with us in mind and she always makes sure we do the kinds of things that create the strongest memories.
Last week, my mom invited all of us over for Family Olympics. The Olympic rings, painstakingly cut out of construction paper, welcomed us at the front door, and my mom had spent a long time the day before planning out each “event”, most of them being minute-to-win-it style challenges. She even threw in some Bible trivia and speed-yoga-pose challenges for the less-physically-gifted, namely me. And there was, of course, a medal and American flag waiting for the athlete with the most points.
Even since I’ve been an adult we’ve done some crazy adventures together, including taking my kids (then 3 and 1) to Washington, D.C. by ourselves when I was seven months pregnant. We looked absolutely crazy struggling down the Metro escalator with our babies and luggage, and we definitely got glares and discouraging comments from confused passersby, but my mom showed me so much about her steadfast, sacrificial, and adventurous character by how she loved the kids and me.
Even last night I didn’t get all my cleaning done because I was texting my mom so much. “Literal lol!” is the phrase we say to each other more than anything else because far too often we find ourselves accidentally snorting in public when we read the funny thing the other person wrote.
I hope I’m not painting my mom to be a fun-crazed but shallow person. Growing up I always knew that every morning my mom would be in her prayer closet praising and begging of Jesus, and that consistent and humble reminder of her dependence on God is one of the most powerful ways I could’ve been discipled. It’s always been quite obvious to my brother and I that we need the Lord.
My mom is definitely not the spotlight-type person (and she’ll almost certainly be mad that I’m writing this; sorry Mom!) but anyone who knows her is aware of how much she wants to serve God. I love getting to watch her grow in Godliness through the years…in her teachability she is learning more about God all the time, and our conversations get richer every year as I grow too. If I tell her I read a really great chapter in a book, she will go and read the whole thing. (She’s read Spurgeon’s Treasury of David, for crying out loud. Cover to cover!)
Aside from the dreadful middle school years, my brother and I have always had healthy self-confidence and we've never felt the need to be like "everybody else." I'm convinced that this is because my mom always instilled in us the fact that we are valuable. My heart breaks when I hear moms say “I can’t wait until the summer’s over and my kids go back to school” because my mom never wanted the summers to end; she made it obvious that she enjoyed spending time with us and she missed us when we were gone. She’s always encouraged us in the areas we’ve wanted and needed encouragement. She’s shown us the emptiness of status quo survival and the fullness of pursuing a life of love. She's the most thoughtful person I've ever known and shows no signs of slowing down.
I’m not going to say that my mom and I have a Gilmore Girls relationship, or that I even want that. There have been plenty of times we’ve been frustrated with each other, and our opinions on some subjects vary greatly. We have opposite personality types, we didn’t choose the same church, and we don’t call each other every day and chat for hours. But our love for each other is real and it always has been, and there are so many ways I want to be like her.
I love you, Mom. You are steadfast and I treasure you forever. Thanks for being you.
Thanks for the idea to write this, Tim Challies! #dearmom17
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude and raising three little people ages 1-5. I like chartreuse, calligraphy, Coke Icees, childbirth, crocs, Studio C, and...alliteration.
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Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today