If you’re reading this, this is your reminder: Mother’s Day is this Sunday. I can’t prove it, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the re-opening of West Virginia has less to do with an impending economic crisis and more to do with the mothers of the Mountain State not being content with dandelions pulled from their yard and burnt toast for breakfast. And rightly so: if ever there was a year to give thanks for mothers (the ones by blood, by choice, or by luck), it’s this one.
Mothers, do not be shy in pointing out that you have been, in my own mother’s word, “a Dang Good Mother this year.” As my mother pointed out, Dang Good Mothers (DGMs for short) deserve celebrating, a lot. Because DGMs are not the norm. It takes someone who isn’t afraid to not be their child’s friend, who frankly isn’t afraid to put their child in their place no matter what age, to be a good mom. And in this day and age where parents somewhat seem scared that their children will grow up to blame every bad thing in their life on them, the dang good ones not only don’t care, they welcome the challenge.
When you have a DGM, there’s no question of whether or not they love you. They do all the things moms are supposed to do: feed you, clothe you, take you to doctor. If your mother is in the medical field, they might spend an entire 24-hours after you get your wisdom teeth out changing the dressings, and doing such a good job the oral surgeon jokingly offers her a job. If she’s a teacher, she might make every opportunity a learning one, making sure you have books, or sitting down with you and your homework every night. There’s never a question of whether the DGMs love you.
There is, however, a question of whether they like you. DGMs, they are not interested in being your friend. They have friends already, and they love talking to their friends about their children and how they could be better. If my mom had a bumper sticker on her car, it wouldn’t read “My Child is a Honor Student.” No, hers would read “My Children Are Less of a Disappointment Than Before.” Not because she’s not proud of what we’ve accomplished in life, but just so we never forget: we can do better, and she knows it.
DGMs know that its not just loving a child that makes them grow into the kind of adults you can almost be proud of. You can’t be afraid to tell your child “no.” You can’t be afraid to have expectations for them. You can’t rush in and fix every problem they have, minor and major alike. You have to be brave enough to let your child fail at something they can learn from. That’s not easy to do, because no one likes to see someone they love fail.
But you have to be willing, as a DGM, to play the long game with your kids: they won’t understand why you didn’t bring them the high school homework they left on the kitchen table to school and “let them” get a bad grade. But they’ll understand it in college when they put that homework right next to the door to their dorm so they don’t forget it. Resisting the urge to save your child is hard, but it pays off in their ability to problem- solve and be independent later.
The DGMs of the world, they know their children won’t appreciate them when they’re young. Your children will complain to their friends that their mom is “so mean,” or “never let them do anything,” and say how they wish they had a “cool mom.” And then those kids grow up, go to work with people who had “cool moms,” and proceed to spend half their monthly paychecks on gifts for their DGMs, because it only takes a few weeks with someone who was raised by a mom who wanted to be friends with their child to make you grateful for the DGM who loved you, but whose “friendship” was mostly just “tolerance.”
So to my friends who are Dang Good Mothers: thanks for raising a generation of kids I’ll be happy to work next to well into my eighties. And to my fellow children of the Dang Good Mothers: treat them to what they really want for Mother’s Day this year. A nice gift, yes. A card, absolutely. But make sure you thank them for being “mean,” for busting your chops, and for having expectations for you, no matter how old you get.
Because there is one thing Dang Good Mothers value above everything else, above jewelry, above framed pictures of your family, above dinners out: it’s being told that what they did to make you the best version of yourself, mattered. That choosing to love you, but not always like you, made you a better person, and that you not only appreciate it, you wouldn’t have it any other way.
Oh, and tell them they were right about something. Doesn’t matter what, just tell them they were right about it. My mother is hoping for a big metal sunflower for Mother’s Day, but she’d be almost as happy with a card that reads “You were right. I was wrong. Happy Mother’s Day.”
So Terri, if you actually read to the end of this column: you were right about leaving outside Christmas decorations up through May: it is tacky, and I’ll shoot for having them down by January next year. Happy Mother’s Day, to my Dang Good Mother!