As I progress through my 50s, I can see the source of my personality and character with greater clarity. I was blessed to have good role models in both of my parents throughout my life, and I have tried to exhibit Mom’s and Dad’s best qualities.
I credit Mom with my strength, determination, unselfishness and patience. I wouldn’t date blame her for any of my shortcomings. Here are the other key traits I believe I inherited from her:
I have always credited my mother with my academic success. She was a high achiever and stressed the importance of doing your best in the classroom and making good grades. She majored in math and minored in English in college, which strikes me as atypical. She likes and understands structure. Logic helps her navigate the world, and her intelligence and problem solving serve her well. As she raised her three boys, Mom alternated between working full time in computer programming and staying home with her babies. Her career culminated in teaching high school math for more than 20 years, combining her ability to teach and nurture with her love of math and order.
Mom has a high tolerance for discomfort and puts others’ needs before her own. She always made sure we were well fed, received good medical care and were equipped with clothes and school supplies. She looked after our needs even while balancing the demands of her career and her responsibilities at church. She was our biggest fan and responded with an empathetic ear when our challenges threatened to overwhelm us.
My mother is a creature of habit. She builds and relies on routines. She spends time in prayer and scripture each morning, and in the past few years, she begins and ends her day with exercise. When she set her mind to losing weight so she could have knee replacement surgery, she well exceeded the 40-pound goal set by her doctors, and she has successfully rehabilitated from having both knees replaced, maintaining a healthy weight with self-control and discipline.
She is the ideal preacher’s wife. Mom understands that she has to be “above reproach” and makes an effort to not only do what’s right but also avoid “the appearance of evil.” She knows she isn’t perfect, but if people see her that way, she derives satisfaction from knowing she is doing her part to support my father’s ministry and the work of the church.
Mom loves her family and enjoys seeing her children and grandchildren succeed. It gives her joy to know when we are doing well, and it breaks her heart to hear about our setbacks and sufferings. Her resistance to showing emotion also extends to conflict, and it can be difficult to know when she is upset. Restraint is part of her discipline, though her capacity for love and affection is strong. She doesn’t force physical affection, but in her older years she has grown bolder in insisting on hugs for greetings and goodbyes. She doesn’t hesitate to say “I love you” at the conclusion of our phone calls now, but our tradition growing up was not as showy about our emotions.
Like my mother, I crave structure and maintain a regimented schedule, even when on vacation. I rise at the same time every day, seven days a week, and begin my day with coffee, Bible reading, reflection and prayer. I exercise six days a week, track my calories on a smart phone app, and strive to be disciplined about my health, seeing my primary care physician for an annual physical, visiting the dentist twice annually and making regular eye appointments.
I, too, prefer to put other people’s needs and wants ahead of my own. It is rare that I have a preference about meals or where we eat out, and if someone wants to taste what’s on my plate, I have grown comfortable with sharing. I usually don’t mind being inconvenienced to benefit a friend or family member, and I routinely yield the right of way in traffic and play a supporting role in my relationships and career.
I don’t mind discomfort. Everyone has a breaking point, but I try to ignore or push through mild aches and pains without medication. I have worked to internalize one of the seven habits of highly effective people: seek first to understand before seeking to be understood. I prioritize listening over speaking, though my gregarious nature can overtake me at times.
My career in public relations demonstrates my deeply internalized “above reproach” philosophy, and I care about and understand how my words and actions are viewed by those around me. I am a preacher’s kid, and, like Mom, I have worked to not undermine my father’s leadership in our home or in our church.
I am not overly emotional, but I have learned to be more expressive with my affection. Hugs aren’t second nature to me, and I am conflict averse. I have my mother’s capacity for restraint, but it can slip when stress builds up.
In these and many more ways, I am like my mother. I am grateful for her and hope the world is better because she passed on the best of her qualities.