What I love about Mom

In the South – old or new – we love our mothers. It’s the right thing to do, and even in those rare circumstances when it may be difficult, a child’s bond with his or her mother lasts a lifetime.

Mom, Dad and their bundle of joy
Mom and Dad, circa 1970 with their bundle of joy. Because of my mother’s attentiveness, legend has it I was the cleanest baby every born. Bathed and washed three or four times a day.

As I age my relationship is changing with my mom. It is growing and deepening as I face the challenge of parenting three boys, just as she did… does.

So this Mother’s Day I offer a review of what I love about my mom. Maybe you’ll recognize some of these traits in your mother. Maybe they are unique to my mom. In either case, these are worth stating. I don’t tell her often enough.

She is smart. A retired math teacher, Mom was always available to help me figure out the mental puzzle that is higher math. I’m sure she had moments of frustration at my inability to grasp proofs, polynomials, derivatives and the proper application of the Quadratic Formula. But beyond mathematics, she has life intelligence. Wisdom. She is pragmatic and makes good decisions. When I discuss a quandary with her, she always sees angles I haven’t thought of. She is a good problem solver.

She is loving. We’ve never really been a very demonstrative family when it comes to showing affection. Maybe it’s all the boys, but Mom still gives her hugs and makes sure we know she loves us. She shows her support in lots of ways, not the least of which is “liking” every photo, post and blog entry I offer up through social media. It’s her way of posting my artwork on the refrigerator. I know not every New South Essay appeals to her, but she’s always showing her support and letting me know she’s paying attention. I’m sure it’s not easy to find ways to say “I love you” when you’ve got boys who make a joke of everything. She finds ways to make her true feelings known, and that gives me strength and confidence, even at age 41.

She is unselfish. Mom doesn’t have to get her way. In fact, she’s probably more comfortable not getting her way if it means someone else is happy. Now that I’m a parent, I have realized that she probably didn’t want to eat at McDonald’s all those times, and birthday parties at skating rinks and Chuck E. Cheese probably weren’t her favorite destinations. A person of deep faith, Mom lives out her convictions in a way that clearly demonstrates her priorities. She possesses genuine humility and seeks the benefit of others. Before she retired, I have known her to arrive early and stay late after school for weeks on end to help struggling students – even the students who drove her crazy with classroom antics and disrespect for authority. She has gone without so her three boys wouldn’t have to.

Mom with her grandkids
Mom is proud of her grandkids, but it’s raising her three boys that requires the most work.

She is patient. Being a preacher’s wife is about the most difficult role a person can take on in life. Expectations are as demanding as the president of the United States. Hours are long and thankless. Effort is unrewarded. Commitment is unnoticed. Talent is taken for granted. Add being a school teacher and a mother to the list and you have the trifecta of patience. Only in adulthood has she ever expressed frustration to me or given me any indication that she is ever upset. Her smile has been her defense, her outlet for what I’m sure are complex emotions.

She listens. As I struggle to practice this discipline with my own children (“Umm-hmmm… then what did Sponge Bob do?”) I have grown in appreciation of my mother’s keen listening ability. She lets me vent without offering comment, share my important moments and small victories and offer analysis on situations that are none of my business. Her listening validates me. When I have needed correction, she hasn’t failed to do so with compassion and gentleness. Her listening helps me verbalize and sort out the circumstances that trouble me. She has unspoken thoughts, and I could stand to learn from her restraint. She is an example of how listening strengthens relationships.

My list could go on and on, but as I forced myself to focus on five, it became clear to me that my mom is a remarkable, multidimensional person. I appreciate her more with every passing year. Next year, the list could be completely different and still just as valid.

Thanks Mom, for being who you are. I love you. Happy Mother’s Day!

What do you love about your mom? See how your list matches up with mine by sharing your thoughts in a comment below.

Call your Mommer ‘n ’em

Mom
Mom, a.k.a. Sharon Wallace, showing off a prized photo.

As long as I can remember, my mother has been “Mom.”

I’m sure when I was just a babbling little baby she started out as “Mama.” There was probably even a “Mommy” phase that ended at about the age of 8.

It wasn’t until I got to college in Troy, Ala., that I routinely heard adults refer to their mother as “Mama” and for the first time heard the phrase “Mommer ‘n ‘em”. There were the “yo momma” jokes back in the 1980s, but otherwise, “Mama” or “Momma” weren’t appellations I encountered until after I left urban Texas and central Florida for the deep, traditional South.

Shakespeare wrote in “Romeo and Juliet” the famous line “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” but what do all the derivations of “mother” mean? In analyzing my own speech patterns, I think I did have different meanings behind each form.

For example, “Mom” was common, everyday usage. It was conversational, and in a lot of ways, for my two brothers and me, it was her name.

“Mommy” was employed when I faced life’s scariest moments, usually involving blood coming out of me somewhere.  It was used when there was great need or when I was just greatly needy. It could imply urgency, depending on the volume and pitch, but mostly it was just whiny. I’m sure Mom didn’t particularly enjoy it in either case.

“Mother” was too formal to ever be used. It just seemed too detached. There was no affection in it. I can’t remember a time I have ever called her “Mother” during a conversation that wasn’t an attempt at humor.

“Mama” just sounded so country, that for a city boy, even from Texas, it was out of character. I guess in my glossary, it means the same as “Mom” but with a more down-home, primitive feel. “Mama” sounds like a big hug to me.

Mama
Mama, a.k.a. Cynthia Barron, showing off prized artwork from her grandsons last Mother's Day.

Now that I have two mothers – the woman who gave birth to me and my mother-in-law – I have grown comfortable with adopting my wife’s name for her mother. It wasn’t even that big of an adjustment. “Mama” just rolled off my tongue. Maybe it’s because the name fits her so well or maybe it’s a throwback to my first vocalizations as a child.

In my case, I’m blessed to have a supportive and encouraging Mom, a compassionate and considerate Mama and a wife who is living into motherhood for our three boys in a beautiful and nurturing way. While they call her “Mom” sometimes, it seems that right now, she’s mostly “Mommy” or “Mama.” I wouldn’t dare call her any of the names for “mother.” I know plenty of husbands who do, particularly as they age together with their wives. I just don’t think my wife wants to be my mother.

So, on this special weekend dedicated to remembering the contributions and sacrifices of our mothers, it doesn’t really matter what you call her, just be sure to call her, especially on Sunday.

Happy Mother’s Day!