4 things my mom has taught me about mothering

mom (2)

With Mom in Florida last year.

1.  It’s extremely hard, but most of us are capable of it My mom has taught me that the act of mothering is perhaps THE greatest challenge—and THE greatest gift—of this human experience.  She also taught me to fully reject the social construction of the Western world that says that nurturing has everything to do with gender and biology.  I have had multiple Moms and Grandmas, some of them are related to me, many of them are not.  And some aren’t even women.  The blessed gift of maternal care springs forth from our spiritual essence and has so little to do with our biological realities.  A great mom senses this, and is willing to make the unthinkable commitments associated with it, while seeing the vast rewards—both present and future.

2.  Take pride in it!  For my parent’s 25th wedding anniversary, I threw a big party in the town square of Clarkdale, Arizona.  Friends and I spent weeks planning it.  The gazebo in the center was transformed into one of three stages for a fast-moving show that included readings, dramatic (and comedic) presentations, a narrator, as well as music and song.  It was rather elaborate, but the main takeaway and memory to this day was when the volunteer-actress (an old friend) portraying Mom adlibbed a line in which she said to me, “Oh you’re SUCH a good son.”  The crowd roared at the familiar refrain of my mom taking pride in one of her kids.  Meet my mom, meet my fan.  It’s embarrassing, but it’s something I now do with my own kids—with purpose.

3.  Be honest.  I continue to be amazed at the level of dishonesty—or perhaps more accurately said—the level of inauthenticity—that exists in family relationships.  Mom and I, though, would rather have a good old fashioned fight than have a “fauxly” friendly exchange to keep the peace.  This human experience is too real, and too brief for the fake.

4.  Be purposeful.  The power of intention to inform both short- and long-term outcomes should not be overlooked.  The mother-to-child relationship is complicated to be sure.  It is nuanced and layered.  And that’s what makes it badass.  Many can breed.  The choice, the intention, the use of purpose to summon excellence from the ordinary, though, requires a mom who is willing to tap into sacred heart-places, into resources often only available through sacrifice, and into that which most are too afraid to explore.

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13 Responses to 4 things my mom has taught me about mothering

  1. Carla B. Heinecke, M.Ed.
    May 13, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    I loved your four points. Thanks for this. Anyone who has not met your mother will now, for sure, try to get an appointment with her via phone or in person. Yes, she is incredibly credible, just like this blog.

    I thought of one more point which is probably on the tip of your tongue and alive and well in your heart: Laugh often and rejoice over small blessings in disguise!

    ALways,
    CBH

  2. Dad
    May 14, 2012 at 3:41 am

    This is a wonderful tribute to your mom. Thank you.

  3. Suzy
    May 14, 2012 at 6:34 am

    Again ….you have touched the deep chords of the heart with your words and wisdom. The darkness of the African night is pushed away with the brightness of the hope you impart with the delicate dance of frankness and deep meaning of your writings. Thank you sir. You are loved and appreciated. The world needs your voice. Keep writing!!!!

    • May 14, 2012 at 9:45 am

      Thank you, Suzy. You’re always so generous. You almost match my mom in the fan-department. = ) –N

  4. Sue Dunigan
    May 14, 2012 at 7:13 am

    Thank you son for sharing these impacting words. I know that you have learned these lessons from many in your life and “just know” much of this coming from the well of your own heart’s wisdom. Bless you. MOM

  5. Barbara
    May 14, 2012 at 7:55 am

    I know your wonderful mother through emails, phone calls, and our shared concern for the world’s children. Your four points are right on the mark! If I had known about all the challenges that I would be faced with as a mother, I would probably have run the other way. So glad I did not. Every challenge met with commitment has turned out to be a joy waiting to be uncovered. What a lucky mom I am.

    • May 14, 2012 at 9:46 am

      Barbara! I love this comment. Thank you for sharing, and for all you do for my kids! –N

  6. Tiki Inacay
    May 16, 2012 at 8:54 am

    My Dearest Nathaniel

    Hence on Mother’s Day, I wished you Happy Mother’s day for you embody the spirit of motherhood for so many. It is a powerful force of love. For in a mother’s heart are the values of “servant leadership.” Motherhood leads and serves. This is the great paradox of the spirit of motherhood. How wonderful this truth. We rejoice not in the flesh that bears it, but in the existence of it.

    THE PARADOX OF SERVANT LEADERSHIP

    Strong enough to be weak

    Successful enough to fail

    Busy enough to make time

    Wise enough to say “I don’t know”

    Serious enough to laugh

    Rich enough to be poor

    Right enough to say “I’m wrong”

    Compassionate enough to discipline

    Mature enough to be childlike

    Important enough to be last

    Planned enough to be spontaneous

    Controlled enough to be flexible

    Free enough to endure captivity

    Knowledgeable enough to ask questions

    Loving enough to be angry

    Great enough to be anonymous

    Responsible enough to play

    Assured enough to be rejected

    Victdorious enough to lose

    Industrious enough to relax

    Leading enough to serve

    Poem by Brewer — as cited by Hansel, in Holy Sweat, Dallas Texas, Word, 1987. (p29)

  7. Stacey Kasendorf
    May 10, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    Beautifully stated! Thanks!!

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Nathaniel is CEO of AidChild.org. He holds a Master's Degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University where he was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship, and winner of the 2010 Harvard HDP Marshal Award. He also holds a PhD in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego where he was the Dammeyer Fellow in Global Education Leadership, and a Cordes Fellow at Opportunity Collaboration. Nathaniel is author of "We Are Not Mahogany: Three stories about the male African life." Prior to his move to Uganda in 2000, Nathaniel was Deputy Director of the Office of the Governor of Arizona, and Director of Education at Leadership, Inc.

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