“Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up”—Deuteronomy 6:7 (NIV).
No one ever told me that being a mother could be heartbreaking. Neither did anyone ever tell me that it could also be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. My own mother, who passed away almost nine years ago, certainly didn’t tell me, but then, she raised two daughters. I raised two sons. Therein is the difference, at least from my perspective.
Before I became a mother at age 23, I read the books on parenting. You know the ones that tell you, “Do this, but don’t do that.” Fewer volumes of advice were available in 1977 when my first son was born. When the second son came along almost four years later, who had time to read a book? The wisdom I had learned in the trenches before his birth, however, did not prepare me for the differences in the two. When I talk about my sons, I always tell others that if my second-born had been my first-born, he would have been an only child. God certainly has a sense of humor. So does my second son.
Recently, I spoke to approximately 50 graduating seniors at a mother-daughter tea. To prepare for the event, I asked other mothers what advice they would give to the young women who were beginning a new chapter in their lives. I don’t have room to include all of their sage advice but have distilled their words into the following, which is appropriate for both genders:
- Never let society define the most important things in life, such as values, integrity, truth, success, and your own self-worth. Those things are far too important to be determined by popular opinion.
- There is nobody else in the world like you, so be who God uniquely created you to be. Don’t try to pattern yourself after somebody else.
- Always put your relationship with Christ first. As long as you focus on that, everything else will fall into place.
- “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12). This should be a guiding principle for all aspects of your life—personal, home and career.
While I never received this specific advice as a teenager, I learned some real-life lessons from my mother. She taught me how to be a survivor and the value of hard work. She taught me that doing well in school and getting a college education would ensure a better future. She taught me to treat others with respect, no matter who they were. She taught me the basics, like cooking, cleaning and ironing. I can’t say, however, that I like to do any of these practical things today.
While my mother was a model of good behavior and proper decorum during my impressionable years, my spiritual growth has come through reading scripture, Bible study and personal experience. Today, I celebrate the foundation I had in her teachings.