We’re All Guilty When it Comes to Judging Other Parents

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When I said that I was running a conference and getting ready to go on stage and couldn’t get to the school before school let out for the day, the assistant high school principal told me that maybe it was time I made my son my priority.

She has no idea.

She has no idea about the changes I made in my life to be more available for my youngest, who is twice exceptional and has had a very difficult time navigating the innane structure we call public school. She has no idea how difficult it was for me to make the decision to go to work after being a stay-at-home mom for well over a decade. She has no idea the number of hours I volunteered when my older kids were in school, or how many of those hours were spent volunteering my own time answering phones in the very office where she now sits every day. She has no idea of my own heartbreak when I would arrive home from my part-time job at 3 AM on a Sunday morning to find my youngest asleep, curled up in a ball on cold tile near the garage door, where he would wait for me until he fell asleep. She doesn’t know that it was his inability to cope with my job that motivated me to launch my own company where I could be the boss and decide my hours. She has no idea how hard it was to have to fly out of state that first time I left him at home with his dad and his older brother — or the growth in confidence I saw in my son because of my travel. She has no clue about the number of times I have walked out of meetings in New York City, San Francisco, and everywhere in between to help him talk out his frustration and walk through his options to make a better choice in a difficult situation. She has no idea — none at all — about my life, my commitment to my family, or my own personal struggles in making all of the different demands on my time and my life work on a daily basis.

She has absolutely no idea.

But, all the same, she made my life — and my son’s life — incredibly hard that day, if for no other reason than to teach me a lesson because I wasn’t the mom she decided I should be.

Let’s don’t do that to each other.

Life is hard enough, and we’re all just trying to figure it out. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom. I’ve worked part-time from home. And I’ve worked as an entrepreneur where I basically work ALL the hours in a day when I am not taking care of my family.

None of these roles is easy or perfect. And none of us gets to decide what works for someone else.

So the next time you start to tsk-tsk and judge some other mother or father, remind yourself: YOU HAVE NO IDEA.

In fact, all you have is a wrong attitude.

And that, at least in my book, means you have even more to work on than whomever you are judging.

That woman who judged me? She works as an administrator at a school. That is a full time position with many evening hours required. I can bet that I am often at home more hours in a day with my son that she is with her kids (if she has any). But she judged me in that moment, because I am a CEO who travels to other cities and who runs conferences and has obligations that sometimes mean I simply cannot drop everything to drive to school to sign a piece of paper that says that I understand my kid had his phone out in a class when he wasn’t supposed to. I sent an email — while standing backstage. I spoke to someone by phone (while my cofounder took the stage in my place). But when I couldn’t make it to school by 3 PM on a Wednesday afternoon, she made a decision to refuse to release the phone at the end of the day to my son. She made that decision after I begged her not to — not because I didn’t want my son held accountable but because it created a risk for my family. She was well aware of the consequences of what she was doing — leaving my son without a phone to call 911 in an emergency. She chose to send a kid home without his cell phone, knowing he had no home phone. I think the most astounding comments from her and her colleagues were that I was the one who decided to get rid of our house phone (really — what about every kid out there without a house or a phone?) and the suggestion that I could just go buy a burner phone (um, maybe the part about me not being able to leave didn’t quite sink in — and, besides — really? Do you know more than a handful of parents in your school that have money to blow when an administrator makes an arbitrary decision to keep personal property overnight which also serves as a child’s sole access to a phone line? How did administrators become so elitist that this is a valid response in their mind?).

So I’m left to wonder who cared less about the kid in question. The one begging the administrator to find another way to punish a kid other than leave him without a way to call 911 or the one who decided his phone could stay locked up overnight after being made aware of the consequences of her decision.

Well, that’s a lie. I don’t wonder. I know. And I believe that any school district that doesn’t think about the consequences of withholding phones overnight when many children no longer have home phones — and many don’t even have homes — and that if school boards and administrators are not considering the liability of lawsuits generated from such a policy, they should be. It will happen, and it won’t be pretty. And for the family that suffers the tragedy that results from that policy? They will never recover the loss that some school personnel decided was a negligible risk and worth the possible lawsuit.

I’ve been guilty of judging other parents myself, so I’m including myself in this admonition: Let’s do better. Let’s support each other. Let’s make life a little better, a littler easier, a little less lonely for the rest of the parents who are trying to do their best, the same as you or me.

Put yourself in the shoes of the parent you are judging. Could you live with their stress, with their obligations and responsibilities? Probably. Most of us rise to whatever we have to face. But why do we feel ok about ourselves, even self-righteous, about tearing someone else down whose parenting and lifestyle looks different than our own?

It’s a tough gig, this parenting thing. So is teaching. Maybe instead of assuming we’re at odds, we ought to find ways to support each other and make it work better for everyone.

That’s the world I want to live in, no matter how many hours a day it takes to make that happen.

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Learning How to Just Shut Up and Love

When my kids were little, I thought I pretty much rocked the whole parenting thing. My kids sat still in the pediatrician’s office – at least for the first hour. They obediently held my hand all the way across the parking lot. And when one of them tried on the whole defiance attitude, I moved in swiftly with strong parental authority, setting them down firmly in a chair while telling them to sit there and think about it until I said they could get up. And nine times out of then, they did.

When my children became adults, I believed the same authority-driven parenting skills would still work. I continued to believe it would work despite multiple failed attempts proving otherwise. Making a toddler sit in a chair until they’re willing to accept your rules may be exhausting, but sitting in a chair all night wondering where you almost-adult child is … that is terrifying. I struggled quite a bit with the transition of being a mother of adult children, and it was fear that drove me to escalate my attempt to control my children as they escalated their own attempts to break free. I tried withholding affection and giving them cold shoulder. I pointed out every wrong decision and lectured whenever possible. I held strong, despite it feeling very much like bondage, believing that not giving ground was the only way to parent a child who was making choices I was sure would end badly.

And then one day my great-aunt, a sweet, quiet woman who had raised six children, pulled me aside at a family gathering. At the time, I had no idea it would be the last time I talked to her. She passed away a few days after our conversation, and I am so grateful that she intervened in my own struggle – when I hadn’t even asked for her help – to tell me that what I was doing was all wrong. Her words changed everything for me as a mother of adult children.

“I’ve learned a lot in my years on this earth, and I feel compelled to tell you something that I wish someone had told me when I was a younger mother,” she said. Something in me bristled. I didn’t want to hear that my parenting might be part of the problem. “Right now … where you are with your kids? This is the time in life when you just shut up and love them.”

She had tears in her eyes. Her advice obviously came from experience, from wisdom she’d gained at great personal cost. Not a week later, my own mother gave me the same advice, and when I received the same advice from two women who had dedicated their lives to being good mothers, who were looking back on their own journey and seeing from their side of the struggle what might have delivered better results, I knew I had to listen.

I decided to swallow my pride and try their advice.

Instead of pointing out the obvious to my kids, I just shut up.
When I felt hurt, I shut up.
When I wanted to lecture, I shut up.
When I wanted to get angry and yell, I shut up.
I just loved – whatever the cost.

And here is what I learned:

  • Just because something works well for one stage of a relationship, it doesn’t mean it will work for the next.
  • Don’t make rules that keep you in bondage.
  • Be willing to hear hard truths and swallow your pride.
  • If you want things to change, be willing to make the first move.
  • It isn’t anyone else’s job to call you, reach out to you or make the first move.
  • They don’t owe you, even if you think they do.
  • A child never learns a good lesson from a parent withholding love.
  • You can make your children fear you, but you have to earn their respect – and their love.
  • Sometimes, the right answer – the only answer – is to just shut up and love.

For me, her advice worked miracles almost overnight. The bonds that were so nearly severed, the fights that almost ripped our relationship apart – they ended abruptly when I chose to take the higher road, to give my children the space to explore their own adulthood. And they’ve made mistakes, painful ones that cost them. But instead of anger and self-righteousness, I’ve found myself filled with compassion, my heart breaking right alongside theirs. They learned they could lean on me, ask for help and advice, and they learned through their own journey that with almost all of the mistakes we make, there is still a way out, a way back – even if it is with a few scars and consequences along the way. My children found the courage to address their own problems once I wasn’t trying to wrestle the decisions away from them in order to prevent the mistakes.

I am sure that I will have to once again have to learn how to be a different mother when my children begin having families of their own. But whatever it is I have to change, I’m ready. I now know that whatever it requires on my part, it’s worth it. It’s so well worth it.

Raising Gifted Children: Rules to Live By

imageI discovered this unpublished post this morning and thought it might be worth sharing. These are a few of the rules I’ve learned to live by raising gifted children, who tend to be high intensity, high engagement, and – sometimes – highly frustrating. These are a few of the things that worked for me:

Always explain why there is a rule so that kids understand it isn’t just arbitrary. (Even if the reason is because I’m frazzled and can’t take any more. If kids know why, they’re more likely to acquiesce.)

On rules that really matter to you (pick a handful), don’t EVER give in. If you finally give in, what your child will learn is that it takes 483 times to get mom to cave and say yes.

Keep it unemotional. Don’t put your kids in charge of your emotions. If you’re crying, yelling, or out of control, your kids will feel out of control and won’t be nearly as likely to comply.

Negotiating and Bribing aren’t always bad, and sometimes they are the most expedient path to a desired result. If it is the only tool you use, it will lose its power, so use with care.

My eldest, now a fine arts major in college, freaked out about textures and buttons on clothes when she was small. I decided it wasn’t something I wanted to fight on a daily basis, so for about 5 years, her clothes were all a specific type of material and did not have buttons. She now is nicknamed Crayola because she wears the entire spectrum of colors and textures at once. I’m so glad I didn’t expend energy creating a power struggle over something that didn’t matter in who she became as an adult.

So my question is why is it so bad for your kiddo to play with figurines in bed?

Isn’t the goal for him to be confined to his room so that he can unwind and not bug you anymore for that night? I am convinced gifted kids need or at least get less sleep. Their little minds go a mile a minute and take longer to unwind. The rule in our house has always been about going to bed and staying in the bedroom except to go to the bathroom. If the bathroom trips became excessive, then there was a warning that if another bathroom trip happened that night, then the next day something would be taken away arbitrarily. The fear of not being able to weigh whether it was worth a specific item being taken away for one more foray out into the family area almost always worked.

My little guy used to do full-out Star Wars fights all by himself in his room, complete with light sabers. As long as he didn’t come out, I didn’t bother him. Once he started school, we did add a rule that the light had to be off by 9 PM. Half his bed is filled with figurines, and I hear him talking in the dark many nights.

As to the nuancing of rules, as in the “you didn’t say to do it TODAY”, I’ve definitely had my share of that. I’ve handled it two ways. I’ve learned to get very specific, because it really does help. And I’ve also called my kid on the carpet for evading something by pretending it was my fault for not being more specific with a comment like, “If you want to try to play me, go ahead. But know that you are still just as responsible for what I asked you to do. If you continue to do this, I’ll add more responsibilities to give you more practice until you decide you want to respect what I’ve asked you to do.”

Why You Must Find Your Passion to Find Success

I was helping my daughter box up things in her room as she prepared to move to an apartment near the university. Buried in her closet was an old backpack covered in stickers and stuffed with purple ribbons. I set it aside, certain she wanted to keep over a decade of memories from climbing competitions all over the country. She was an intense youth athlete. From the time she was about nine years old until she graduate high school, she spent most of her time training and climbing. She earned an invitation to compete at the national level almost every year and eventually gained coveted sponsorships from several national companies. Climbing was a big part of her youth, so I was certain that she wanted to save the memories tucked away in her old backpack.

I was wrong.

“Those? They’re “participant ribbons,” she said, the word rolling off her tongue like a bad word. “They’re worse than no ribbon at all.” The ones that mattered – from the competitions where she ranked at or near the top – those awards were carefully preserved elsewhere.

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I’m not really sure exactly when participant ribbons actually became a thing, but somewhere between my generation and my daughter’s, the value of winning was diluted to include just showing up. It seems that today there are dueling mindsets prevalent in society when it comes to how we view winning and losing. On the one hand, we tend to protect feelings by telling everyone they’re a winner whether they are or not. But we also support this notion that to win we must embrace an attitude of winner-takes-all and be eager to crush anyone and everyone else in one’s way. I honestly believe that both extremes of this pendulum are rife with problems that actually prevent the desired result.

Looking back to my own childhood, I don’t think I ever earned a participant ribbon. I learned that there was absolutely nothing wrong with being competitive or playing to win. I also learned that it was simply not an option to accept defeat or celebrate victory with anything less than grace.

In her later years, my great-grandmother was confined to a chair in the room where she lived in my grandparent’s home, and I spent much of my time playing card games and dominos with her. I was little – maybe five or six years old, and I loved to listen to the stories of her life as we played. She homesteaded a ranch in the remote, windswept plains of northern New Mexico, chased off intruders with a shot gun and killed snakes in the chicken coop with a shovel. She was, by far, one of the toughest women I’ve had the privilege of knowing.  She brooked absolutely no tears or bad behavior when we played games together – and she was certainly not one of those grandmothers who let her grandchildren win.

I clearly remember once when I started to cry after being soundly trounced at gin rummy. Grandma frowned down at me, and as she started to pack away the cards into their box, she scolded, “Dry it up. If you’re big enough to play, then play to win – and shape up your attitude when you lose. No one else is required to feel sorry for you, so feeling sorry for yourself is wasted energy. Everyone wants to win just as bad as you, so you better play because you love the game, not just to win. Now either dry your tears, or I’m putting up the game so you can go pout somewhere else where I don’t have to watch.”

Her words may sound harsh, but she’d lived a tough life. Her inner strength was something to be admired. She taught me that it was perfectly fine for a girl to be competitive, to want to win. She taught me to do something for the love of the journey, the excitement of the challenge, because sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but if you love the journey, it is worth it with either outcome.

Enjoying the heady thrill of a hard-earned win or tasting the bitterness of loss — and learning that neither experience is as important as who we become through either experience: how we treat others, what we do with our success or failure, whether we maintain our integrity and compassion — these truths are what shape us. Being protected from the pain of losing? That does nothing except make it harder to face the realities of life. And finding joy in the challenge of our own journey instead of focusing on our competition? That shapes the quality of a person like little else can.

Life is too short, too precious to simply coast. There are no participant ribbons in life. It is never too late to find your passion. Fire in the belly – the kind that creates enough drive to push through setbacks, gut-wrenching fear, stress, disappointments, and roller coaster successes and failures – that kind of fire doesn’t come from wanting to crush the competition. Passion like that only comes when we fall so in love with a problem that we cannot imagine doing anything else except jumping in with both feet to solve it. Don’t get distracted by others – their successes or failures. They’re not yours and in no way change what you need to have inside of yourself to find success. Don’t forget that. Instead of seeing others as the enemy, the competition, choose to learn from them. Build a network through your own generosity and good will that will expand your world far beyond yourself. And never, ever begin anything because you like winning. As a very wise woman told me, “Everyone wants to win just as bad as you, so you better play because you love the game.” Anything less will simply not be enough to carry you across the finish line.

Reposted on Huffington Post and on LinkedIn Pulse.

Why We Should Stop Worrying if Other People Like Our Kids

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Here’s a thought:

It is not our job to make our kids likable by conforming to others’ expectations but to help them blossom within their own uniqueness.

Think about that.

Do you realize how liberating that is – how much guilt it removes when you’re able to do what your gut is saying is right for your child instead of what you know someone else is judging you for doing or not doing?

I remember when my oldest was a toddler. I wasn’t that far removed from being a kid myself, and so many of my decisions about how to raise my children were a constant vacillation between what my instinct was telling me was right and caving in under the weight of well-meaning advice and unspoken judgment of others who believed me to be in varying circumstances too harsh or too permissive, indulgent or strict, or too controlling or lazy in my parenting. I didn’t know it then, but my daughter is what is now called Twice Exceptional (and, no, that does not mean my kid is twice as wonderful as yours). A child who is Twice Exceptional qualifies for special education under at least two distinct and different diagnoses, with one of those exceptions being a gifted IQ (130 or above in most places) and the rest being some cocktail of learning disabilities.

Raising a Twice Exceptional child (or more than one) is usually a daily adventure into the unknown, especially when a child is young – because the exceptionalities are rarely identified that early, leaving parents a bit off kilter as they struggle to understand their child’s unique approach to life. All three of my children were on high speed from the time they awoke until they fell asleep – and they spent far less time asleep than did the children of my peers. They were intense, driven learners – and this usually meant that they wanted to do things that were far beyond their development level, which, in turn led to high frustration and meltdowns. I can say from first-hand experience that there is nothing  quite like a toddler’s meltdown in a museum (or zoo, store, or library) to entice complete strangers to negatively judge your parenting skills.

It wasn’t until I finally hit the wall with an exceptionally bad experience that I finally found my real footing as a mother.

I remember the day well.

My youngest – also Twice Exceptional – was in second grade and just newly accepted into special ed with a long list of learning disabilities including dyslexia, dysgraphia, and auditory processing disorder – although it would take three more IQ tests over four years to finally get him qualified for gifted as well. My son’s teacher that year leaned more towards the highly organized, rigid style of teaching, and it was a terrible match for my kiddo who failed miserably at helping her meet her self-defined goal of curing my kid of his ‘bad habits’. She spent many a day yelling at my son for his forgetfulness and messiness and sent angry emails home every Friday to report another failing grade in spelling. I was still a bit insecure, trying desperately to find ways to help my son learn to memorize his words and feeling guilty as a mother that I’d failed to find a solution that would work.

But in our last parent teacher conference of the year, with my little 8-year-old sitting beside me, the teacher began ticking off one complaint after another. She pointed out every one of his failings with great emotion. And as she detailed each failing on her list, my son sat quietly by my side, swinging his legs and rolling his little dinosaur over and over between his fingers. He did stop and listen as she reported his state test scores but never spoke a word.

When she finally ran out of breath and stopped, I looked at her and quietly asked, “This is all of your feedback?”

“Yes,” she said, still visibly upset.

“Nothing good to say about my son?”

She looked surprised for a moment and then, with a tight jaw, said that no, there wasn’t.

“Not one good thing?” I pushed her again to reconsider.

“No,” she said. “You son is difficult. He doesn’t do his work like the other students. And he says things in class that challenge my authority. He questions what I say – right in front of the other kids. He argues with the facts I share in science. And he is the student. He should be learning from me. Your son is a problem.”

I ignored her and turned directly to face my son. I put my hand under his chin and lifted his head until his eyes met mine. I said, “Do not listen to her. You are not a problem. You are wonderful and unique, and you will one day do amazing things because of your special gifts. Do not listen to her.”

We walked out of the meeting, and my legs were shaking so much I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the car before I broke down. I buckled my son into the back seat, climbed in our minivan and prepared myself for what I believed would likely be one of the most painful conversations I would have to endure – helping heal the wounds inflicted by his teacher’s words. I gently asked, “How do you feel about what your teacher said in there?”

“I was excited!,” he replied, much to my surprise. With a bit more prodding, he explained. “Did you hear what she said? I was at grade level in reading. Finally!”

It was in that moment that I realized my responsibility to my son. It would be my job to make sure that he learned the lessons life required of him, but that those lessons happened so that my son could embrace his own unique gifts to decide for himself what his contribution to this world might be.

My son is a teenager now. He’s already done some amazing things with his young life. He’s launched his first business. He helped his friend as she organized the first Teen Startup Weekend by teens for teens … the first in the world. He’s designed a plethora of mini games in Minecraft that his friends want to buy, and he’s created several of his own musical compositions. And yet his teachers, for the most part, continue to focus on the problems – his inability to conform to their specific process of turning in papers or his input in class which feels disrespectful or disruptive. One of his teachers recently sent an email asking about my son’s grip on reality – because the teacher just assumed that a child who still can’t spell a word the same way twice in one sentence – much less the correct way ever – could never  have the ability to launch a business at the age of 13 and must be bragging about things that didn’t really exist.

While I am all for teaching our children to respect authority, learn discipline and responsibility, I have also come to understand that it is so not my job to make my kid feel defective because he doesn’t fit in the right box. There are a long list of leaders across multiple industries who all rose to those heights in their careers by not fitting in a box, by not being the “easy kid in class”. While I won’t tolerate bad morals or bad behavior, I am completely over apologizing to anyone for my kid not being some bland version of himself so that he’s easier to manage.

When I stopped worrying whether someone else was comfortable around my kid or liked them, I discovered something pretty magical. I discovered I genuinely like my kid. Just as he is. So I’m pretty sure that I’m the one who’s ended up on the lucky end of parenting.

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Melting Down in the Frozen Foods Aisle

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There was a tension in her tone that made me look up from the frozen food section, my quest for finding the no sugar added grape juice concentrate completely forgotten.

At the other end of the aisle was a young mother, her back to me. She raised her arms to her head, holding it for a moment and then pressed her hands to her eyes, her back straight and shoulders tensed. A young boy was busy pulling a box of cereal from the stroller in front her.

“Just stop!” she said, the tenor of her voice filled with anger. But more than that, there was panic and desperation, too.

I’d been there before and knew she was close to her breaking point.

I hurried away from my cart until I was beside her and gently asked her if she was ok.

She looked at me, her eyes full of tears. “No, no I’m not,” she said. “I just can’t think. He keeps pulling things, and asking things, and I forgot my list and can’t remember what I need to get. And I have to remember. I have to.”

The little boy was now standing in front of me, holding up a plastic tow truck which, despite the cardboard packaging, was emitting loud honking noises. I squatted in front of him, still looking up at the young woman beside me.

“I’ve been there. It’s hard,” I said. “How about I talk to your son here for a minute while you gather your thoughts?”

“Thank you,” she said. “I need that.”

She roughly brushed her eyes with the back of her hand, and I noticed her hand was shaking.

She stood there quietly for several minutes while I conversed with her young son. He showed me every button on the truck, how the lights flashed, and how he wanted to take the truck home if Mommy would let him. He told me he was three and that he needed a truck that had a hook on the back like this one. He was a ball of energy and talked nonstop for the few moments I visited with him.

Finally bored with the truck, he set it down and hurried to the stroller packed with several items of food and tugged at the box of cereal still lodged underneath several cans of vegetables. He said wanted to show me the new cereal they were going to buy.

His mom, now calm, thanked me for helping her. She told her story to me as we took up most of the space in the frozen vegetables section of the grocery store. Her husband had dropped her off with her son so that she could use a $50 voucher a local food pantry had given her little family. She’d forgotten the list at home – the list where she’d calculated exactly what they could buy with that voucher. And as the panic rose over not knowing what to get, she felt herself buckling under the weight of the responsibility – and the feeling that she’d failed. The nonstop talking and questions of her happy three-year-old were just too much for her.

And with the gift of space in those few moments, she’d collected her thoughts and remembered the missing items on her list.

As I walked back down the aisle to my abandoned cart, I heard her conversing gently with her son.

My heart went out to that young mother. I’d been in her shoes – that overwhelmed place of too many things crashing down at once and then lashing out at a child in that moment. And I’ve felt the shame of being that mom. I felt a deep respect for her, because in that moment when a stranger reached out, she accepted the help. That is not easy.

It was a good reminder that sometimes all we need is a kind word, a moment of generosity, to help ease the burden of living and avoid melting down in the frozen food aisle.

Why Mothers Are Just Different Than Anyone Else

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I’ve been thinking a lot about moms, in part, I think because of gaining a new level of respect and regard for my own mother over the past few years as I’ve witnessed the grace, gentleness and kindness she’s shown caring for my dad who has Alzheimer’s. It’s also on my mind because of the changes in my own journey as a mother now of adult children. I’m realizing that I don’t tell my mom nearly often enough how much I appreciate her sacrifice, her unwavering love, her steady example that helped me become who I am today. Our relationship with our mom is just different than any other relationship we’ll ever have. As a mother of three, I’ve found this to be true. I am a mom, and with that has come a completely different perspective.

Mothers Believe

file0001547158812Dads? They usually serve it up to you straight and tell you that your dream of being the first astronaut allowed to go into space despite having severe asthma is never going to happen and that you might as well focus on being a research scientist or engineer that helps other healthy astronauts get into space. A dad tells you your math skills are too weak to get into a NASA program anyway and that you’d better buckle down and start doing more math problems or you’re going to end up on the street because you sure as heck aren’t living in his basement when you figure out you can’t support yourself because you didn’t do your homework and apply yourself while you had the opportunity. It’s probably a good thing that most dads are usually realists.

But Moms? We believe in you. And we move mountains to help you make it happen, because we know with just the right opportunities you’ll rise to the occasion and shine bright for the world to see the amazing you that we’ve seen since you were born. We lobby Congress to pass laws forcing NASA to accept astronauts with asthma. We lobby drug manufacturers to discover a new drug to cure asthma in time for you to have a chance to make your dream come true. We quit our jobs and move across the country to enter you in a reality show where the winner gets a chance to go into space – and then fight for you to get on the show. And when, a few months later, you change your mind and decide you want to be a race car driver, we start researching the rules to see if there is anything we need to fix to make this new dream possible.

Moms Correct

Your friends may feed the bad attitude you’ve tried on for the first time, reveling in your bravery to mock the awkward kid sitting alone, talk back to your teacher, give attitude to your boss, or act badly with your spouse. Your girlfriends or your buddies will pat you on the back and tell you that you’re perfectly in your right to have said or done whatever deed it is that has you in hot water. They’ll back you up – even if when they secretly judge you when you’re out of earshot.

file1941291214177But Moms? Ours is the voice that rings in your head when you act badly. Facing our disappointment and disapproval is often the driving force that prevents you from acting on your urges. We are the first one in your life that makes you sit in a chair and think about what you did. We are the first one to make you say you are sorry to your younger sibling if you ever want to see your toys again. We’re the one who sits you down privately and tells you of the pain you’ve caused someone else, of the shame you should be feeling over your choices, of your responsibility to make it right before things get worse. Moms are your moral compass until you grow your own.

Moms Forgive

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you forget your spouse’s birthday or your anniversary, good luck finding anywhere else to sleep besides the couch. Screw up a major bid at work, and your boss is not going to give you a hug and tell you that you’ll surely do better next time.

But moms forgive you, even when you haven’t yet found your own way to genuine remorse. You can neglect her, not call her for months, even forget to call her on Mother’s Day, and she’ll still be the first one at your door with homemade soup when she sees from your latest Facebook status that you’re flat on your back in bed with a nasty bug. Even when our hearts are breaking on the inside, we set aside our feelings to support you when you need it, when no one else around you understands your struggle or how to help you grieve through your failures.

Moms Love

A lot of people will love you over the span of your life, but none will ever be as unconditional or unwavering as your mother’s. Your friends will love you, but if their lives change or they find a new love interest, you’ll quickly take a back seat in their life. Your spouse will love you, but that love comes a more strings than you’ll find at a Cats In The Cradle Competition and will take more effort to keep alive than you ever expected. Not that nurturing these loves isn’t worth the relationships we enjoy because of the work we put into them; they are.

IMGP6064But Moms will love you when you fail. Or succeed. When you’re petty or magnanimous, when you lie or tell the brutal truth. We will still love you when you have to move back in. Our love is unwavering whether you meet your goals, move the goal post, fall flat on your face, or when you mess up so badly that no one believes you are capable of redemption. Moms will fight for you when you have lost the strength to fight for yourself. We’ll struggle to reach you when you don’t want to be found. Mothers love. Always.

No, I know this isn’t true of all mothers – and I honestly do not understand a woman who doesn’t feel this way about her children. But by and large, this is a universal truth. This Mother’s Day or on her birthday or just because it’s Thursday, tell your mom how much her love means to you. It will be the best gift you’ll ever give her. I promise. It is the best gift I’ve received.