Editor’s Note: To celebrate Mother’s Day, we asked our friends in the dad-o-sphere and beyond what was the greatest lesson their mom taught them that they apply to their own children. Here’s our second wave of responses. – KMcK.
Be a constant presence
My mom taught me that life happens in the nooks and crannies of our days. Perhaps that is why she always seemed content with who she was and where she was. She lived in the moment. And she placed herself in the moments of her children. As a child, I was always aware of her presence and availability in my life. I am a better man because of this woman. And I am a better father because she was my mother.
Both of my parents can cook, but I learned a good deal of kitchen improvisation from my mother. She was always able to take a basket full of ingredients and make them into something cohesive. Even leftovers could become something new and different the next day. And nowadays, when I’m cooking dinner for my family, I don’t panic if I haven’t got a recipe or if I’ve got a less-than-ideal set of ingredients. The skills that my mom taught me in the kitchen help me feed my family without panicking or rushing to the grocery store for a pre-made meal. Plus, pizza’s cheaper and more delicious when you make it yourself.
Carry on the conversation
As a teenager, I had many laughably short conversations with my mom that began with her pleasantly inquiring about my day and ended soon after with my classic teenage non-starter responses like “fine” or “good.” Thankfully, by my mid-20s, my mom and I had a very different dynamic: conversational, personal, fun. I valued her input and generosity. I enjoyed her company. She died at 72. I was 32. She once told me that as much as she wanted to see me married and with children, she knew she couldn’t compel it, so instead she just tried to be a good mom to the person I was. I couldn’t compel it either, but I eventually did become a husband (and a father) and I would say that for me the very best part of my relationship with my wife is how much we like to chat with each other. To give some very important credit where it’s due, I think that makes me a momma’s boy.
– Eric Messinger, editor of New York Family magazine
Lend an ear
My 4-year old son has started telling me stories. Sometimes it’s a ninja turtles fight scene; other times, the entire plot of Frozen (which we saw together). Whenever he goes on one of these detailed rambles, I smile and nod attentively because I’m reminded of how often I came home from a movie or finished a book and couldn’t wait to retell the entire thing to my mother — always a captive audience, never rushing me along; letting me cram in every triviality. I admire her patience and aspire to the same with my child. I look forward to many more years of him coming to me in excitement because he knows I’ll not just listen, but attempt to share in his excitement. I realize now those interchanges with Mom made me a better storyteller — to find significance in the minutia, to revel in the unraveling of a tale, and the freedom found in an eager listener.
My mom taught me patience. I’m not saying she was always patient in every situation, but the times she was are the ones that I remember. In sixth grade, I had the lead in our school Shakespeare play and I couldn’t for the life of me memorize my lines. She sat with me for hours every night for a month, listening to me stall and mess up dialogue and soliloquies over and over. I don’t remember her ever getting frustrated with me once. In fact, I remember her smiling and nodding and celebrating every inch of progress. And when the performance came, she was in the front row with the same smile. She made me feel strong. She still does.
Now, when my daughter is trying over and over and over to accomplish a task, I resist the urge to take it from her and do it. Sure, I help when asked, but mostly I smile and I cheer and I hope she feels strong.
The greatest lesson my mother taught me is that a parent’s unconditional love shows itself in many forms. It can be a warm and tender love that soothes your pain or eases your sadness. It can be a strong love that supports you and defends you when nobody else will, or gives you that extra bit of confidence you are craving. It can be a playful, light-hearted love that makes a rainy day the best day ever. And it can also be a tough love that always acts in your best interest, whether you realize it or not, and allows you to nurture your own sense of self and independence. My mother never failed to provide me with this special love of a parent and it is the same love I hope my daughter feels from me every day of her life. Thanks Mom!