Mother’s Day. The one day a year where we recognize this all important figure in our lives who shapes our childhood providing unconditional love through our successes and failures with encouragement and support through our struggles.
I’ve written about my own mom before and the role she played in shaping my life but of course you never quite appreciate the full contributions of Mom until you’re much older.
To be a husband and a father is to experience ring-side seats to the amazing contributions that our wives – my wife – makes on a daily basis. So today should of course by Wife Appreciation Day as much as Mother’s Day.
Tania. Our two young boys are now at about the halfway point in their childhoods. We observe them in their daily lives and interactions with their teachers, coaches and friends and we look on with pride and the wonderful little human beings they have become. We have raised gentlemen who care about the feelings of others and are polite and respectful of their peers and instructors in life. They are well on their respective journeys as young men and their trajectory largely set.
While I don’t diminish my own role in raising our children, of course I know that all of the little touches that come from you are what truly shapes their everyday life. You. And Moms everywhere.
When our boys were young you chose to sacrifice your own career to be more present in their lives. You dialed back your role to part-time worker for several years. Not every mom has this opportunity or even this desire. I know it would have been easier (or maybe preferable? ;-)) to go to your well-earned job at Google every day, but I know your choices and sacrifices came out of love for our boys.
When they were really little you sat through countless art projects, play dates and trips to the playground. You read to them nightly, tucked them in with love and bedtime stories and made them feel unconditional love and support.
We both agreed that one of the most important early skills for our boys was good socialization and interactions with friends. You went the extra mile to get to know all of the parents and to set up play dates with all the friends our boys wanted to have (maybe skipping a few rough kids and bad influences) so that they would feel confident and well adjusted on the school playground. This parenting in the background through friendship choices and creating opportunities to bond with other “good kids” carried on all the way through elementary school.
You knew every teacher. Every homework assignment. Every classroom drama or school activity we were supposed to be involved with. And while I documented it all with our digital SLR it would be lost in the ether without your countless hours of organizing photos into albums and actually printing off an annual iPhoto family album to capture, review and cherish all of our family memories.
As they grew we thought what a wonderful gift it would be in life if they could play musical instruments. And while as a dad I’m fine on “strategy,” you’re the master of “execution” and of course it’s that which matters most in life and especially in childhood. Structure. And follow through. You created the “chore charts” to make sure they practiced every day and you provided the right amount of “oh so fun” nagging to make sure they finished all of their lessons. Now three years later we look on with wonder and their developed skills on the piano and guitar. You gave them that gift, not me.
While I stayed out late talking at conferences or traveling on business trips you were home doing dioramas of Native American villages, dressing up Jacob to give his oral report on Joe Dimaggio or helping Andy with his Keynote presentation on Martin Luther King. You planned their summer activities months in advance so that they could have a mix of camp experiences including computers, animation, sports, outdoor weeks or just lazy downtime.
Left to their own devices our children would be carbohydrate junkies subsisting on sugar cereal plus pizza, pasta, mac-n-cheese and chicken nuggets. When convincing them that other food groups existed you devised your “food chart” where they got to pick one main course, one veggie and one fruit per dinner. You printed out pictures of fish, steak, chicken as well as pasta and hot dogs and let them choose their weekly meals by putting up the pictures of what they agreed to for dinner. By owning the process they accepted eating more diverse foods. They’ll never fully appreciate the love and effort that went into your food-diversity strategy. I will. I do.
I am the suitcase lifting, car-loading and driving sherpa. But trips without you would consist of mid-vacation trips to the store to buy underwear, socks, sun block or medicine. You have put in countless hours into not only creating packing lists for trips so that we never arrive without bathing suits, bedtime books and activity sets, I know that you also put in the hours to make sure they all wind up in our luggage. My fatherly “day of” shoving of clothes into a bag would never suffice. Mothers.
When we bought our son Jacob his mobile phone you displayed your motherly love consistent through all of his years. You researched proper phone etiquette for pre-teens and you combined several different parent plans into one “mobile phone contract” that he had to read, discuss and sign so that he understood the responsibilities of owning a phone. When is it appropriate to use a mobile phone? What does respect mean with regards to taking photographs of friends and what is ok to share and what isn’t? I might have shrugged and hoped he would be his normal responsible self. You, as always, followed through and provided real guidance. He’ll never remember that. I always will.
When your dear friend’s husband was diagnosed with cancer you sat with him at chemotherapy and comforted him. When he now goes to the hospital with his young children for surgeries to correct some childhood health issues you take the day off of work to help play mom to his kids when in need.
You never tell anybody all of the wonderful things you do and the caring human being that you are but I notice every day, week, year. I know it will take another 20 or so years before our boys truly appreciate what a caring, loving, responsible and thoughtful mother you have been to them. But with my ringside seats I notice all the time. I love you for it. And know that you’ve made a huge difference in their lives and the lives of many others – especially in mine. And I am grateful.
Happy Mother’s Day.