Things My Mom Did Right

6 05 2011

Though my mother was not a single mom, when it came to raising the kids, in a lot of ways she was on her own; a few weeks into marriage and she knew she would be. When I put myself in her shoes, I think of how crushingly disappointing that would have been, because her marriage was less than ideal, and for the most part we don’t marry thinking it will be that way.

I have such admiration for my mom and the power of her decisions from that point on. There are many things I could write in this regard, but since this is about parenting, when my mom made a decision about how we would be raised, there was no deterring her.

My mom is not perfect, nor is she a tower of strength; I know my mom had many private sessions where she cried out to God (and just cried) but I never saw this. I was aware there were days she set aside for fasting and prayer, but when you are a child, you don’t connect the dots. So what I saw was a strong mother, and determined in a quiet, and persistent way. I never saw her pity herself, I didn’t hear her complain about dad, I didn’t see her fume in frustration; I just saw her do what she knew she had to do.

The things my mother taught me are precious, knowing that she accomplished them on her own, without much appreciation, without all the support we benefit from today; she did these things while dealing with her own loneliness, disappointment, and personal pain. She did these things while handling some significant health issues, my father’s several heart-attacks, financial crisis, teenage rebellion and all that; there is much to applaud.

If there is one thing my mother is, she is a woman of lists. So I have made my own list in honor of what she did right:

1. She showed me what a relationship with Jesus looked like

Though this list is not in order, this one would take the number one spot if it were. One of my earliest memories of mom was her asking me, “Have you prayed about it?” I had lost something and I was sad about it; and so she asked the question, had I prayed about it? Had I talked to Jesus? An important lesson connected with me right at that point, that Jesus was my friend and what mattered to me, mattered to him.

My mother is, above all, practical. And her faith with God was and is, practical. Practical means “being able to be put to use” and that is how a relationship with God has been for her. This translated very early on and I saw it demonstrated time and time again. The thing that makes me laugh is when she and dad had to make a decision and if dad was going in a direction she didn’t agree with it, she would say, “I’ll pray about it.” We all knew what that meant. Mom had a way of having her prayers answered.

I am so grateful, without words to express it, that my mom helped me find God. Even though I had to personalize all that, and ask all my questions, and discover “practical faith” for myself, she was the first one who was living proof that Jesus was alive.

2. She took me to church

My parents were part of a church planting endeavor in Richmond, BC. We went to church every Sunday and every Sunday evening (right when Walt Disney was on, which was torture). This was not a routine of legalism and liturgy; it was the natural thing to do. She showed me that God’s idea was right: Six days of the week people are busy going here and there, for one day of the week, it was good to come together to “know and be known” and to be reminded of what was important in this very distracting life.

Church gatherings are as imperfect as the people who are a part of them, so as much as I want to paint an idyllic picture, not everything was that way. How could it be? Christians are just people who are trying to live God’s way. My mom showed me what it was to be a part of a community like that and how good it can be to walk with “brothers and sisters” through thick and thin.

My mom made sure that no matter what city we lived in, we were connected with a church family and this is something I value to this day. I love the imperfect collection of people seeking to connect with God and each other and on a particular day, gathering.

3. She made me say thank you

The first thing my mother would say when we received any size of gift, any generosity, was, “You’ll have to send a thank-you card.” To this day actually, my mom can’t resist asking me if I have done so.

She taught me not to wait for the big ra-ra events of life, but to appreciate small blessings and to express thankfulness for them.

This has been an invaluable lesson and has helped me to delight in little happinesses.

4. She listened (and listened some more)

In every house we lived in, there was a comfortable place to sit in or near the kitchen. My mom did her best to be home when we came home from school and when she asked, “How was your day” there was no way we were going to answer, “fine.” It was all about the details.

Maybe I was naturally inclined this way (actually, there is no “maybe” in that) but my mom was a master listener. She let me talk and talk and talk and talk…and still does.

That was a wonderful gift to me, providing a place where I could vent, and it taught me that, sometimes, listening is enough.

5. She prayed for me

My mom had a green chair where she would sit and read the Bible and pray. She had a list of things she prayed for, and I made the list. Do you know what it feels like to have your mother pray for you? Do you know what it is like to be cared for like that?

I did and still do go to my mom and ask her to pray for this or for that. And my mom doesn’t just say she will pray; she prays.

My mom has prayed for me for things I didn’t even really make a priority myself. I have to think back to a time when I had a health issue, a tumor on my pituitary gland. Typing that it looks scary, but at the time, I was pretty casual about it. It was something I could manage with medication and I was young (and stupid).

My mom prayed and prayed about that tumor and one day it vanished. The doctors had said it would not go away, it was a “textbook case” and would respond in a “textbook” kind of way; but it didn’t. It was gone.

I was grateful, and embarrassed. It felt like such an undeserved blessing (all blessings are actually undeserved) and that this part of my story is not really a part of my story at all…it is part of her story, because she is the one who had the perseverance to pray.

My mom prayed and still prays for me, and is there any better thing?

6. She made me do things I didn’t think I could do

My mom bribed me. Unashamedly. If she thought I could do something and I thought I couldn’t, she’d bribe me. They weren’t big bribes, but they were just enticing enough to get me over the hump of fear. And by doing so, she showed me I could do things I thought I couldn’t do. And now I have done things I didn’t think I could do and my life is richer for it. My mom did that.

7. My mom taught me “culture”

Throughout every year my mom made us do something that she decided was of “good culture.” So every year she would get tickets to something that would open our minds up to music, art, or The Theater. There was the “Taming of the Shrew” and “Handels Messiah, “Zamfir” and the Ontario Art Gallery. There were museums and visiting teachers from afar. She encouraged my love of reading and paid for piano lessons and drove me to endless choir rehearsals. She saved all my bits of writing and told me I had a “natural ability” which makes me laugh because lines like, “Today I went and played in the yard, mom. Do you know what 2 + 2 is?” does not appear to be a writer in the making.

I love that she fed this part of me; it has colored my life and has shown me how to see and hear beauty. It helped me to be interested in interesting things, to be curious, and to feed the right side of my brain.

8. My mom introduced me to good people

My mom saw early on that she would have her hands full and as the years went on, our home had a certain tension to it; it was a cocktail of health issues, my dad’s silence in the home, and my brother’s responses to needing a dad. So what did my mom do? She found substitute joy for my brother and I. She found good people to connect us to who would show us another side of life and lift us out of the shadows.

I had some amazing aunts and uncles who gave me the time of my life! There were periods where I would be gone for weeks having a grand ol’ time. I saw how other families related, I learned to love cooking (something my mother never enjoyed doing and didn’t mind if someone else would spur me on), I learned about spontaneity and just plain goofiness.

My mom was so wise in doing this for us. During one time period my father had suffered a major heart-attack and was quite depressed after that. It was a pretty dark time, yet all I remember is the day my dad had the heart attack and then a summer of hilarity and fun. In the middle of all that weight, my mom made sure I wasn’t the one carrying the burden and could just be a child and have a child-hood.

9. My mom showed me the strength of a woman

My mom has opinions, a “strong sense of justice” (a phrase I often hear her say), and ideas of her own. If you would meet her, that might surprise you because she is not very demonstrative; in fact, she is more of an observer than a talker (at least in a crowd). But my mom’s wheels spin! She thinks about things and plans things and has a way of getting stuff done and finding people to help her accomplish them; and she is not about to really take “no” for an answer when “no” seems very unreasonable. She’ll find a way.

And the letters mom has written! When she was frustrated with the “system” she wrote many letters to express her displeasure in a well-thought through, and convincing manner. Some of those letters became the subject of training sessions in the department addressed, so that others would not “do that again!”

My mom knew the power of persuasion before it was ever a book. My dad was pretty stubborn, and my mom seldom went head to head with him; she just quietly prayed and prayed, researched, gathered information, reasoned with him (it’s all about the timing) and in many cases, won him over.

Then there were “the projects.” When it came to projects, my mom was the idea person; she showed how it could happen, how to financially accomplish something; she prepared the workshop and cleaned it up after. She motivated my dad to “get stuff done” and before long the whole family was carting gravel or pulling weeds or staining the side of the house.

At different points, my mom held a job outside the home and still managed to do everything. And I really do mean everything whether it was dealing with us kids, cooking the meals, cleaning the house, landscaping the yard, mowing the lawn, cleaning the vehicles, overseeing our school-work and so on, my mom worked.

It means a lot to me that my mom demonstrated that strength. I love that she was not afraid of a power tool; I admire that she didn’t just “wait” for things to happen, but made them happen. I look at the women of my family, my ancestors and others and I see that, as women, we were given a unique ability to rise up and “deal with it.”

My mom (and other women of influence) sewed in the fabric of my being the belief that I am of value, I have a purpose, I have a contribution, I can be strong and find strength outside myself, and even in adversity, when you can’t find the door, there’s still a window.

10. She gave me wings

My mom didn’t know how long she would live; she had serious problems with her kidneys and her doctors did not promise her a long life. So, as we were growing up, she always believed she needed to help us become independent; perhaps more than some other parents might have.

My mom didn’t cry on my first day of school.

She didn’t dry any tears when I graduated.

She did not weep at my wedding.

She smiled.

She was always happy to see me take steps and that she was there to see them. She was always proud of me when I did something “all by myself.” Though she still loved hearing all the details, she never clung to me and made me feel like I couldn’t or shouldn’t move on.

I am wired very differently from my mom, because I am pretty sentimental and I cry quite easily. I get choked up over almost every cool thing my kids do; but it isn’t because I long for them not to grow up, or not to go away. I am just proud of them and I love the gift of this family.

My mom taught me that kids + wings are a good thing. I am, at this stage of my life, reminding myself of this thing my mom taught me because letting go is what we are supposed to do.

*

I think, mixed in all the lessons my mom has taught me, is this overall theme: with the pieces we have in front of us, we can make something of it. My mom wishes some things had been different in our home. She wishes that she and my dad had been great with each other and he with us; but it didn’t turn out that way. Still, look at what she made with those pieces.

I could write an entire article on my mom titled, “improvisation” because to this day she is still all about that. What could you do with what you have, when you do not have exactly what you need?

And isn’t that my mom’s life?

I love you mom.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30

— Teresa Klassen

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2 responses

6 05 2011
Bev Johnston

Wow!! This is a wonderful tribute to your Mom, Teresa! She is such an overcomer! What a powerful difference she made in your life! She could have shriveled but instead decided to rise above her circumstances. I am glad she did because it obviously shaped who you have become…a beautiful woman of God and a dedicated wife and mother. God bless her and you too. Happy Mother’s Day! ~ Bev

8 08 2013
valerie

Thank you for writing this. Your Mom was my pal when I went to Pioneer Girls at Richmond Bethel. She sent me notes, came to the pal/gal evenings and invited me to your home. She was a very nice lady.
Valerie (Kuebler) Wegenast

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