As I was re-reading my new book in preparing for its upcoming release, I came across the dedication to my mother at the beginning of the book.
Interestingly, when I was a child and a teenager, at both times in my life, I thought my mother was unfair.
I thought she enjoyed making and enforcing rules. There were times when I told her as much. There was even an instance when I decided it was time to leave home. I was eight. I packed my suitcase, tears rolling down my face, made my way out the door dressed in briefs. The reason? She told me I couldn’t stay up until 9:00 pm to watch my favorite show, and what I felt was a child-appropriate one. The show? If I recall correctly, “Three’s Company.”
I made it to the edge of the patio, suitcase in hand, and decided otherwise.
This dance between single mother and only son continued throughout the years. At times I felt she was rooting for me; others against.
In my mind, and from my perspective, it was never straightforward.
I couldn’t see that it might be a tad difficult being the sole-disciplinarian and the sole-supporter; personally and financially. I couldn’t see how making me do my laundry, and allowing me to make some of my own decisions, could be beneficial in the future. It just seemed to be extra work for a kid who was “never, ever difficult,” (insert grin here).
Then, something happened. I reached adulthood.
I moved out on my own. Roughly 4,000 miles out in fact, and started my first real career.
This move took me from my little nest in a small town, to a city with a population of roughly 750,000.
It turned out that the independence my mother allowed me was, dare I say, useful. The unconditional support; priceless. The discipline; crucial.
I’m quite certain had she not taken the approach she had, an approach I rebelled against all those years, I would not have survived, (and thrived), in my new career so many miles from home.
It was her influence though, as a single mother and as a woman, that helped me most in preparing for life on my own and any success I may have had in the years since.
One of my biggest career strengths, for instance, is that I multi-task hourly. This is a trait they say men tend to be weak; at least in comparison to their female counterparts. I have no delusion that my mother passed along this trait. I watched her multi-task so many times while raising me, taking care of the house, volunteering, and working in a career she loved, to put food on our table each evening.
In addition to her influence, approach, and the traits she helped me develop, my mother also taught me many life lessons.
For instance, she taught me about the importance of communication. She is never short on words, and taught me the value of effective communication; mostly by her example.
She taught me the lesson of perseverance. We were so low on money at one point that rather than admit defeat, she used some collectible coins to buy us supper.
She taught me the value of etiquette. “Please,” and “thank you,” were as common as my name in our household.
And she taught me the value of compassion. A childhood friend and I had the same jacket, but mine was in much better shape. One day he took mine home and I got his. I complained to my mother that we should call his mother and tell her so I could get my jacket back. My mother knew the conditions this friend was living in and told me he needed the jacket more than I, and that we would find a way to get me a new one.
The result of this single mother’s lessons? My mother and I are as close as any parent and child I know. We can discuss anything and everything. We have each other’s back. She is the biggest supporter in my career, and this support has led me to believe I can achieve anything I set my mind to. I know too, by her example, that she can achieve anything she sets her mind to; after all, she has already survived the toughest job in the world!
Most significant of all, she taught me the value of love. This has been such an important aspect of my life over the years, especially now that I am raising a two-year old son.
It is my hope that mothers everywhere realize that many children do grow up to appreciate and love them for all of the sacrifices made and the lessons share;, even if we might not say it at the time.
To that end, I salute you, mothers. And, I see you. I see you doing this most important work.