Last week my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We feel so old! Where has the time gone? We’ve had 10 children, lived in 10 different homes, and raised our family in 3 states and 2 countries. It’s been an adventure, to say the least!
Every story is unique and life isn’t perfect for anyone, but perhaps there are some universal truths that apply to all of us. As we’ve contemplated our years as a couple, we’ve identified certain principles that have become foundational to our family.
For what it’s worth, through the ups and downs and blessings and bumps, here are 5 lessons we’ve learned in 25 years of marriage.
Worship often. For us that means regularly attending Sunday services as well as the temple—a holy edifice we revere as the House of the Lord. But no matter how you choose to believe, putting God first brings definite strength to a marriage. When we make sacrifices and acknowledge deity we are blessed in ways we can’t always understand or foresee. Our family and children and circumstances benefit from the protection and vision of a power higher than our own. We believe that keeping God at the helm of our marriage has given us direction and peace. The sacrifices we make to worship daily and weekly are definitely worth the divine dividends.
Choose children. Consciously choosing to have children and raise a family is like Adam and Eve departing the Garden of Eden: leaving a pattern of ease is difficult, but our eyes are opened and we understand good and evil and see life more clearly. Through experience we come to know what truly matters and spend our time on things that will last. Sure, raising a family is no cakewalk, but it is a true exhibition of the age-old adage that ‘you reap what you sow.’ Effort and experience blossom into eternal blessings. The number of children we bear isn’t what’s vital; it’s the consciouschoice that matters. Putting someone’s life above your own brings sweetness to everyday living, even despite the drudgery and exhaustion. And in the end, choosing children brings us joy.
Take opportunities. The greatest regret people have when they grow old is that they didn’t take enough risks! Marriage is the same. Life is full of chances, and we can and should benefit from ventures outside our comfort zone whenever reasonable. The more opportunities we pursue, the more life gives us in return, until our days are full and rich and wonderful.
One theme of our marriage has been, “Why not?” We only live once, and aside from making obviously stupid decisions, we’ve tried to take the road less traveled and accept good risks when they come. Job promotions, service callings, solicitations to move, and even dinner requests keep life interesting and full. Life rarely sends us an invitation more than once, so when a good chance rolls by, take it!
Bloom where you’re planted. This is actually my in-law’s life theme, and we’ve adopted it as a couple, too. Similar to the Boy Scout adage to ‘leave every place better than you found it,’ blooming where you’re planted denotes a level of contentment with our current circumstances and situations. (In comparison to my last point, yes, take opportunities, but don’t waste your days looking over the fence in wishful agony.) As human beings we have the ability to improve the world around us. We can paint walls and fix up homes, even in grey neighborhoods. We can plant gardens and flowers, even in the downtown smog. We can reach out to those around us and make friends, even with a grumpy co-worker or neighbor. We can create temples and palaces and lives no matter where we live.
I’m grateful for a husband who has planted gardens in rocky soil, made friends with neighbors who didn’t wave the first time, and painted and patched surroundings, both temporal and abstract. Making the most of each situation has made life ideal. Realizing that we are creators and have the ability to grow, change, and bloom is liberating.
Choose to Celebrate Life is a choice, tied to our agency. We can literally choose happiness or misery. We can live the life we want to live. We can make choices to pursue the career we want, serve those we wish to serve, have the health we desire, and create and build the deepest stirrings of our hearts. Accepting our agency is exhilarating. The glass is always half full or half empty, really.
In addition to embracing our power to be, we can also purposely and purposefully celebrate the little things in our marriage and homes. Form traditions, give flowers, mark anniversaries, blow out candles, revel in holidays, anticipate milestones, make things special, and go the extra mile to bless our spouse, our children, and those around us. I’m not talking about cutesy living. I’m describing traditions and anticipation that give stability and strength to a marriage. Some of our sweetest moments as a couple have occurred because we planned ahead, took the time, and marked with gratitude what we have and what we have accomplished.
What will the next 25 years bring? God only knows, and I’m sure when we celebrate our fiftieth anniversary we’ll be much older and wiser and have even more adages in our pocket. One thing we know for sure is that the life lessons will continue, both the good and the bad, and we are excited to travel the trail together.
Six months ago my husband and I moved to Okinawa, Japan with six of our children. Yes…I know. Crazy!!!
We bid farewell to our country life in the States, flew to a small tropical island, and set up house. We left our classic hobby farm and spacious home for a small rental house next to banana and mulberry trees; started driving on the left side of the road, and traded our snow boots for snorkels. It’s been an adventure!
Even though I lived in Japan 25 years ago as a college student, coming back here as a busy mom has reminded me what a unique people the Japanese are. Their traditions and culture are inspiring! In fact, being here in Japan has inspired me—and my family—to re-examine several aspects of how we live.
Yes, the language, culture, and climate are different; but the biggest change has been our altered paradigm. Instead of seeing the world through the rose-colored, affluent lens of small-town Utah, we now view life with a broader vision—complete with more empathetic hearts and a greater understanding of people in general.
Here are nine lessons we have learned from our Japanese neighbors and friends.
There is a truth, universally acknowledged, that when you eat less, you feel better! Everyone knows Americans eat too much, but living in Japan has taught me how much Americans actually eat—and, I’m slightly embarrassed. We thrive on Big Macs and Biggie sizes, while most of the world survives on rice and veggies. The bottom line is we, too, could subsist (happily) on less.
Five of my children attend local Japanese schools and eat school lunch everyday with the native students. At first, their daily bowl of rice and seaweed soup left them feeling “starved”, but after a week their bodies adjusted. Now they happily scoop up their rice with their chopsticks and slurp up their soup in the bowl. And they are content. On rare days when a piece of bread is offered, they eat it carefully and savor the sweetness. When fish or chicken is part of the meal they are grateful. And if they get a slice of orange or pear for dessert, they consider it a good day.
No, the Japanese meals aren’t stingy, they are simply sufficient. Instead of Dino bites and mac and cheese, they offer tofu and cabbage, or fish and beans. Compared to our old school lunches, these meals actually feel real. They are not processed, but produced by local farmers and cooks.
I am grateful for this change in our family food mindset. At home we still enjoy lasagna and Cheerios and all of the traditional comfort foods we are used to, but we now know that they are a nicety, not a necessity, a luxury not a likelihood. As Mary Poppins said, “Enough is as good as a feast.”
Eat less, America.
2. Clean More
I know, I know. This sounds like an abusive rant. But the truth is, Americans often view “cleaning” as a chore for the lower class. We leave the floor mopping and toilet scrubbing to those who can’t get better jobs; and we sometimes live in grime ourselves at the excuse of being “too busy” to clean up or maintain our lives.
Japanese people, on the other hand, consider cleanliness a skill that even the young should learn. I find this perspective refreshing. After all, isn’t cleanliness next to godliness?
I remember when I went to pick up my kindergartener from his first day of Japanese school. There he was, dutifully washing his classroom floor with a rag. Was I appalled? No, but I was slightly shocked. Where were the janitors? The cute colored carpets? The cozy “classroom jobs” like line leader and teacher’s helper?
Then my older kids filled me in: “Every morning when we arrive at school, and every day after lunch all of the students spend 30 minutes cleaning the school.”
My kids explained that they wash windows, scrub floors, pull weeds, and wipe down walls. I was shocked and impressed. But what surprised me more is how much my children enjoyed it!
“I have to get to school early today,” my daughter remarked. “It’s our class’ turn to sweep the school yard.” Sure enough, when we arrived at the school there were several kids with “stick” brooms, sweeping the dirt, pulling up weeds, picking up trash, and preparing the grounds for the morning lessons. Fun? I guess so! As I watched, the Japanese kids laughed, visited with friends, worked together and were genuinely happy.
There are side benefits, too. One Saturday when I needed something to keep my kindergartener busy, I simply asked him to “wash the stairs.” He happily found a rag and showed me how he could get it wet and wring it out properly before mopping with it. Hooray! Happy boy, clean stairs, happy Mama.
Which brings me to my next point…
3. Live Simply
Japanese school playgrounds are not fancy: a dirt field, an exercise bar or two, maybe a baseball diamond. Nothing compared to the elaborate slides and jungle gym equipment I generally see at American schools. At first—much like the cleaning—I was slightly appalled.
“How do children have any fun on an empty field?” I wondered. But again, my kids set me straight.
“We run around and play tag, or kick a ball, or jump rope, or dig in the dirt and look for bugs.” In other words, their creative minds still find plenty of play during recess, and they actually thrive with the challenge of living with less.
The PE skills are impressive too. My kids have been taught and tested on cartwheels, frontwards and backwards rolls, turns and flips on an exercise bar, and high jumps over vaults. It’s really incredible.
A few days ago my girls excitedly shared, “We just got four swings on our playground!” Four swings for several hundred kids to use each day. Kids—that I might add—who have walked a mile or two to school while carrying their supplies and wearing…a mask.
4. Wear a mask. Asians have been doing this for years. Just do it.
5. Don’t use your car horn. Never. Ever. Ever.
Wait, what? Yep. Don’t ever use your car horn. I’m serious. Unless someone is dying, don’t push the button. Even if you’ve been cut off. Even if the guy in front of you stops suddenly. Even if the line of traffic slows because someone is entering or exiting. Just don’t use your horn. This is how the Japanese live, and I’m always amazed.
When someone absent-mindedly doesn’t start moving right at a green light, the Japanese all wait patiently, “ohne” horn. When someone noses in front of them, they kindly let them merge, without honking. Can you imagine how relaxing it is to drive without road rage? If you make a mistake, that’s ok. If you mess up, no worries about feeling terrible. Just do your best and assume that everyone around you believes you are doing your best as well.
The other day I made the mistake of glancing at my phone while waiting at a red light. When I finally looked up again, I had entirely missed the green light, and had to wait another whole cycle before I could go. And, not only did I miss the green, but all the cars behind me did, too! I was so embarrassed!
But thankfully, the long line of cars waited patiently and silently, without laying on their horns, assuming my text must be more important than driving through the intersection. Well, my text wasn’t that important. But I did learn how courteous the Japanese people are, and I decided to be kinder myself. Remember, don’t use your horn.
6. Take your shoes off.
Leave the grime and dirt of the world outside. Don’t bring it into your house. It’s that easy.
I promise, taking your shoes off will make your home cleaner and somehow, softer. Those who enter, including your children, will feel more respect for the sacred space within your walls. As the Bible teaches, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). Homes are holy. Walk softly, in clean feet.
7. Take daily naps
We’ve had a few painters and other maintenance workers in our yard recently. One day when I walked outside to get the mail, I was surprised to see a worker curled up comfortably on the driveway. Another was sleeping under a bush, and a third worker was prostrate on our porch, catching some shut-eye. After my initial shock, I smiled, grabbed the mail, and left them all to their few minutes of break.
After that, I watched and discovered that everyday they took a few minutes to rest, in a prone position. How smart! Everyone needs an afternoon nap, even those of us who are not infants. Taking a brief siesta in the afternoon rejuvenates and regenerates us. It’s a piece of our American culture that we should reinsert, and would likely make each of us a little more cheerful.
Which brings me to my next point:
8. Be Courteous
Japanese people are incredibly courteous and kind. Their polite, quiet mannerisms and ability to follow directions and rules make Americans look like brazen bulls. Bowing to your neighbor, always (always!) extending a greeting on the street, and willingly obeying laws and guidelines make their communities simple and safe. I am embarrassed to turn on the news and view the bashing, the riots, and the shameless disregard for authority that Americans often display. I am not referring to our right to free speech and the power that We the People are blessed to hold; I mean the lack of restraint and respect that comes from common courtesy for mankind. We can do better, America.
9. Be content
I realize that being discontent is an American trademark. We are bred to stretch our horizons, go further, and aim for the stars. That’s the American Dream. However, while spreading our wings is commendable, there is also something beautiful about simply being content.
I’ll say it again. “Enough is as good as a feast.” Japanese people are inspiringly content with their lives: a simple house, a car with maybe a carport, veggies and fish for a meal, some flowers on the balcony. By American standards many of them are poor, yet they are grateful and happy. As I walk the streets of our neighborhood I see small yards, simple gardens, and plain houses. Yet the children play happily with a ball or a piece of chalk, and it is enough. Their parents live in one place throughout their lives, assist the grandparents, learn a simple trade and have a good life. Perhaps there could be a happy medium between the grit-driving/always attaining lifestyle patterns of the Western world and the peaceful living of the East. Be content.
Yes, aside from the rice, the ocean, the fish, the shoes, and the myriad of other culture differences, I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned from the Japanese. When we return home, I hope my kids will carry some of these patterns of living in their pockets: health, cleanliness, courtesy, contentment; and make their own lives—and our future neighborhoods—a better place to be.
No! SUMMER CANNOT BE OVER YET! It absolutely may not end!!! I know I write this exact same column every single year, yet I have these exact same emotions every single year. August turns into September and then into October long before I am ready to give up July.
“Wait!” I want to shout. “This mom is just getting into the swing of things. I am finally accustomed to swimming and vacationing and reading without any schedule. I am finally adjusting to meals on the fly and sudden trips to the library. I am acclimated to long, hot, lovely days when flip-flops and shorts will suffice.”
And then, suddenly, those days are over, there is a cool nip in the air, and school has started. It just isn’t fair.
I’m sorry. I cannot readjust my life that quickly. It is impossible to morph overnight from a summer-silly-fun mom to a September-school-strict mom who puts children to bed at 8 o’clock when the sun is still above the horizon and there is daylight to enjoy! I cannot—in my rightful mind—get little students up at 6am to catch the bus after weeks of summer sleeping in. I cannot suddenly tell my children to put a book down and start their homework. Or come in from the swing set to work on a math assignment. I cannot say goodbye to the marshmallow roasts and hikes in the sunshine and bike rides on the trail.
No. Don’t make me admit that there is change in the air. That fall is inevitable. And whatever you do, absolutely, positively do NOT show me an orange-gold pumpkin. Not in the fields, not on the neighbor’s doorstep. Don’t you dare put up Halloween decorations in the stores. I don’t want leaf wreaths or yellowed stalks of grain. Don’t say the word “Jack-o-lantern” or show me a black cat or an apple pie. I only want summer. Pink and orange and green and brilliant summer. Fun, carefree, no-responsibility summer. That’s still me.
Just give me one more week without homework and bus schedules and supply lists. Give me a few more days without lunches to pack and schedules to keep. Let me buy some more time to eat picnics and run through sprinklers. We still have a thousand movies to watch and a million books to read on our summer “to-do” lists. Please…hold back time for this muddled mother.
But then it happened. Despite my groanings and murmurings and pleadings, the school bus showed up on the first day of school. My children (bless their hearts) were actually happy to put on their new tennis shoes. They donned their fresh backpacks and—swinging their new lunchboxes—said goodbye to me as they left, without even looking over their shoulders. My heart crumbled. I watched them skip down the street and around the corner, and then I walked back into an almost empty house and cleaned up the dishes on my own. I did laundry on my own, and I read a book during the quiet afternoon. I even went outside to harvest some vegetables.
Before I noticed, it was the second week of school. And then the third, and then the fourth. Now, despite my best rantings, the inevitable fall has crept in around me. Geese are flying overhead, caramel scents and smells are everywhere. At first, I ignored it. It was easy to pretend that our pumpkins weren’t ripe and we didn’t need jackets quite yet. I was still in summer mourning.
Then the Saturday soccer games and school field trips started. And (it’s hard to admit) after a few golden days I was delighted with autumn leaves. I actually enjoyed the smell of new pencils and notebooks, and loved the reading homework the teacher sent home.
This week the air was even cooler and as we ate dinner on the deck (squeezing that last bit of summer from the evening) I looked over and saw golden red in the trees. Halloween costumes became the dinner conversation chatter. “This year I’m going to be Cinderella.” “I’ve waited so long to finally fit the Superman costume.” “My friends and I already planned our trick-or-treating route.” I finally relented.
“OK!” I called up to the beautiful harvest moon, just rising over the horizon. “I was still enjoying July and August. But I’ll give up. You can take summer and I’ll be happy with fall. I actually do love orange and red and yellow and brown. I’ll be content with lovely jacket Saturdays, with corn at the farmers’ market, and freshly-pressed grape juice and applesauce on my counter. I might eventually feel happy to pull the boots from the shelves and dig the winter coats out of the closet. Ultimately I may even want a good soup on the stove or a fire crackling on the hearth. Sooner than later I will crave crisp apple pies. You win, world. I suppose I really do like all of your changes.”
Now the orange pumpkins are everywhere. Now the cornstalks are dried and decorating the farm fence. Now there is a sweet nip in the morning air, and we gather a little more closely for family prayer on chilly mornings. It’s time to stop my summer soliloquy. The lazy days of July and August have turned into golden September, and we are—despite my best hesitations—enjoying this season. Our summer sorrows have turned into autumn joys.
CURSIVE handwriting is becoming a lost art in our society, and that makes me sad! I remember my elementary teachers’ careful instruction on writing in beautiful cursive. They taught me that writing well was a sign of maturity and skill.
Our older children attended a private school in Las Vegas, Nevada and cursive was required in their school work. However, our younger children now attend public schools in Utah. Cursive is barely introduced and rarely required.
So…I decided to take matters into my own hands, literally! During the summer I ask my kids to do one written sheet of cursive each day. Then, during the school year, I offer CANDY for CURSIVE!
If my kids show me their daily school planner and work written in cursive they get a small treat. Each day! This bribe is totally worth it to me. Most of my kids can now write and read cursive, and they are finding that writing cursive is faster than printing. Hooray!
Bribes are necessary sometimes in parenting, and I believe that cursive is one of those emergency situations! Try CANDY for CURSIVE!
It’s summertime! Lazy days, warm afternoons, swimming, and sun!
Summer is also the season when kids are home and can help around the house a little bit more. I generally don’t pay my kids for household chores, but during the summer we change things up and add some fun with MAMA MONEY!
Mama Money is earned through a variety of jobs and activities, and can be saved up for fun shopping sprees throughout the summer.
Last year The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced it would discontinue its relationship with the Boy Scouts of America and introduce a worldwide youth program in 2020. While our family fully plans to embrace the new Church Child and Youth Development Initiative, we also intend to continue our participation in Scouting. Here’s why:
Reason #1: Structure. The Boy Scouts of America has been around for over a century, and the BSA has proven its worth as a structured program. This structure is a remarkable support to both Scouting leaders and Scouting families. Regular quality activities, handbooks full of information, and leader specific trainings all provide a tried and true ladder guiding youth to leadership, character, citizenship and fitness.
BSA programs—Cub Scouting thru Venturing—are based and built on age-appropriate activities, like stepping stones. My Cub Scout learns to handle a pocket knife, my Boy Scout earns the Woodcarving Merit Badge. My younger son takes a mile hike with his den, my older son hikes for 30 miles with his troop. You get the picture. My children are benefitting from a program shaped and tested for decades, with applicable achievements for each group, and all under an umbrella of specially trained leaders. Scouting is a safe place to learn and grow.
Additionally, I love that Scouting youth have requirements—steps that must be followed—and hard tasks to complete. As humans, we rarely choose to over-extend ourselves, but the organization of Scouting gently and consistently compels youth to climb higher, be better, and accomplish hard things. In a world becoming increasingly wishy-washy and self-centered, I find the structure of Scouting remarkable and helpful to my parenting efforts.Reason #2: Skills. Scouting is all about skills—building fires, camping, backpacking, tying knots, pitching tents, cooking, swimming, lifesaving, first aid. The list of Scouting skills is endless! Take a glance at the 137 merit badges offered to understand the full gamut of opportunities available to Scouts. Where pushing buttons with thumbs has become an all-to-common society staple for youth, I am grateful for skills taught through the BSA programs.
“Outing” is a key component of Scouting. Leave the lethargy and apathy at the door and step into adventure: rock-climbing, rappelling, canoeing, biking, rafting… the list goes on and on.And the fun isn’t just for the older youth. Last week our Cub Scouts learned and played the iconic game of marbles. Imagine seven 9-year-olds, squealing, laughing and cheering as their marbles rolled across the dirt. And in the preceding weeks our Cub Scouts hiked, whittled with pocket knives, cooked over a fire, constructed with carpentry tools, pitched tents, conducted science experiments, practiced safety, and built contraptions with simple machines. Scouting is all about skills.
The skills lead me to Reason #3: Substance. Scouting is chock-full of substance. Let’s face it; there are a million and one extra-curricular options for kids today. But I can’t think of another activity, club, pastime, team or sport based on Duty to God, Country, and Family. Each week I watch Cub Scouts raise their arms in the Scout Sign and recite the century-old Oath and Law—promising to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind…the iconic list goes on.
When any youth commits to Scouting values, we’ve won a battle for our future. Like I’ve said before, our time as a family is precious, yet the substance—the values and character-building opportunities—offered through BSA programs put Scouting at the top of our extra-curricular list.
And my fourth point—if I may have one—is Patriotism. No one does patriotism like the Boy Scouts of America. Two weeks ago I stood with over 100 other observers at a campfire. The sky was crystal clear. The stars shone brightly. The full moon came up over the ridge. The fire glowed orange and red. It couldn’t have been a more picturesque evening. Around the campfire stood eight solemn Boy Scouts. With all the respect they could muster, they displayed a flag, tattered and torn. Then, while the audience watched, they shared history in broken and emotional tones, before respectfully retiring the flag in the flames.
The audience was completely silent, engulfed in the emotion of the moment. My 12-year-old son was one of the boys by the fire. Four of his younger siblings watched him participate in that sacred event. It was worth gold to me to know that he had set a standard of respect for our family as he handled the American flag that evening. Yes, no one does patriotism like the Boy Scouts of America.
Will the partnership between the Church and the BSA end in December? Yes. But for our family Scouting will go on. The structure, skills, substance and patriotism offered by the BSA are—in my mind—indispensable. It is my belief that Scouting will compliment—not compete with—any other extra-curricular activity, including the forthcoming Church initiative.
Our family looks forward to another century of citizenship, fitness, leadership, and character through the Boy scouts of America. In 2020 we will Still be Scouting.
I wasn’t even a mom when I first used this phrase. Well, I wasn’t quite a mom.
It was the day of my college graduation ceremony. There I was—dressed in a black gown, thrilled to be receiving my bachelor’s degree—when I spoke the false words.
“What are you doing after graduation?” a caring friend asked.
Glancing at my large belly with a smile I said simply, “I’ll be just a mom.”
I wasn’t disappointed, just truthful. With a new baby arriving in a few weeks, I wouldn’t have time to pursue a job and career. I’d already made my choice: motherhood.
Still, my answer didn’t seem quite as adventurous as my colleagues who were going on for higher degrees or enviable jobs.
I mistakenly thought I had spoken the truth. I would be “just a mom.” But I had no idea how false my words were.
~~~~~ 22 years later~~~~~~
At 5:30am the alarm rings. I roll over to turn it off and remember that my husband is out of town…again. I’m a single mom for a few more days this week.
My exhausted body tells me I CANNOT get out of bed, so instead I lay there for a minute and think through the day: the meals, the carpools, the homework, the piano lessons, the preschool. There is so much to be done! Who is going where? When must they arrive? What has to be done before they leave? And the never-ending question, “What’s for dinner?”
My mind cannot possibly solve all of the puzzle pieces or unknowns, and so I finally crawl out of bed. It’s time to make breakfast.
I open the cupboard and see the oatmeal. Again. I have made at least a million gallons of oatmeal in my life. And a million peanut butter sandwiches. And sliced a million oranges for lunch. And wrapped a million carrots. And buttered a million pieces of toast. And don’t even get me started on how many morning ponytails I’ve brushed or diapers I’ve changed.
Mothers totally comprehend eternity and infinity.
In fact, I’ve lived a million days like this one: waking children, cooking for children, helping children, dressing children, feeding children, cleaning up after children, signing homework for children, sending them out the door, folding laundry, sweeping floors, washing dishes. Sometimes I even envy Cinderella.
With the tasks of the day looming over me I cannot possibly get my slippers to move. So instead I sit down on the couch and shut my eyes… just for a few more minutes. But, no matter how well I did it yesterday, I must do it again.
The clock is ticking, so I finally stand up to wake the first batch of children.
On mornings like this one the falsehood from my graduation day comes back to me, and I hear discouraging voices.
You are just a mother. You are just a mom. You are just one more robe-clad bleary-eyed Mama calling up the stairs to wake sleeping kiddles. Your daily routine is empty.
But the beauty of this moment is that my minuscule perceptions are completely and totally false. Despite the exhaustion and mundaneness, these feelings are not real.
They are actually a farce and a dream.
First, the voices are wrong because I do go on. I do get up each morning. I do wake up children. I do make the breakfast. I do brush the hair and kiss the cheeks and hug them goodbye. Yes, like every morning, and every other mom around the globe, this Mama goes on. And on and on and on… Like the Little Engine that Could, or the Titantic, or the Energizer Bunny.
We don’t stop because we can’t. And that’s the paradoxical beauty of our situation.
Motherhood is forever. Once the decision is made, there is no turning back. In fact, even on those mornings when we do stay in bed, or do skip fixing dinner, or do forget the homework, we are still mothers—indispensable, never forgotten.
The world would stop turning without us. Literally. And the sooner we come to realize this amazing fact, the more empowered we are to go on.
Second, the discouraging voices are false because we will never be “just”. We will never be disposable or invisible or even secondary, no matter how the legislators and the regulators vote. We are the world.
But with all respect, these truths are hard to remember at 6:00am.
I call the children down to family prayer. I cook the oatmeal. I kiss high-schoolers goodbye. I pack lunches. I find lost library books. I comb tousled hair. I listen to piano practice. I sweep up crumbs. I find matching socks. I zip up the backpacks and the coats.
And the world turns.
I somehow survive this morning like I have survived a million mornings in the past. And as I work, the glorious truth unfolds.
By the time the kids have eaten breakfast, their happy chatter and eager smiles have miraculously lifted my spirits. Their sticky hugs, their shared concerns, their innocent conversation carries me up and over the mountain of motherhood.
Somehow the very souls that increased my burden have actually resolved it.
In fact, by the time they walk back through the door that afternoon after school, they are literal saviors. Their happy chatter heals me. Their souls are my souls. Their accomplishments of the day are my victories. Their friendships and kindnesses have filled my bucket. This reality is surprising, and our shared existence is exhilarating.
We eat dinner. We do homework. We feed chickens. We fold laundry. We brush teeth. We resolve calculus. We read stories. We say prayers… And over and over again these small efforts become big. My minuscule motherhood moments have become monumental.
As I crawl into bed that night I count my victories, and comprehend who I really am—the Mama beyond the “just.”
I am the scientist (my son) launching satellites around the globe.
I am the missionary in Sweden (my son) changing the world one door at a time.
I am the student secretary at the university (my daughter) managing service events.
I am the DECA president, (my daughter) traveling across the nation to compete in marketing.
I am the first chair flute (my daughter) performing at the state band festival.
I am the Scout patrol leader (my son) teaching First Aid skills to his peers.
I am the student leader (my daughter) sharing hope with others.
I am the Science Olympiad contestant (my son) practicing with his teammates.
I am the bubbly first grader (my daughter) reaching out to the injured classmate.
I am the adorable preschooler (my son) carefully writing his name and sharing smiles with all around him.
Temporal accomplishments are certainly not the goal, but influence is the natural offspring of effort, and my children make me shine.
I have never been to Sweden, or the moon, or the Science Olympiad—yet I have miraculously impacted those corners of the world.
Who knew that one oatmeal-making, hair-brushing, story-reading mama could affect life with this scope and magnitude?
I know nothing about satellites. I cannot speak a word of Swedish. I can’t play the flute, or recite the Scout Outdoor Code—but I am all of these things because of my children. It’s a humbling and exhilarating realization!
And this motherhood success is irrelevant to numbers. One child or twenty, the hand that rocks the cradle literally rules the world. Children make us more than we are. They make us who we are!
In fact, Mother by definition, is everything. The world. The future. The universe.
The very opposition that entices us to be “just a mom” is evidence enough of our eternal and influential nature. Our daily struggle provides ample proof that our role matters.
The mornings of exhaustion. The mounds of oatmeal. The million pony tails. The pages of homework. The hours of piano practice. These are our stepping stones to exaltation.
In the end, the truth will set us free. We are not and will never be “just” mothers.