[Reprinted, with updates, from her book, “Miss Ruthie Speaks” 5/l4/10]
I recently received a call from a lady who asked me, “Are you a mother?” My reply was “yes.” She then proceeded to say, “Well, you understand. You know how a mother feels.” She was referring to her grown daughter who she had expressed concern while in trying to help her but she wouldn’t listen. They were in another disagreement. While I have no daughters, I certainly understood how she felt.
I am the mother of three grown sons. I often say that it’s the hardest thing to “parent” grown children. While having done my best to raise them, I’ve had to let them go. But in my heart, I really can’t let go, even though I act like I have. I recall a time when they were little boys, and I had control over them. I sometimes wish I still do. I watched them grow up and leave, knowing I had to let them go. One by one, they each went out on their own to ﬁnd their own way. They all have made me very proud!
As grown men, they still come to me for advice and help on various issues. For this, I found new purpose in my life. I was happy that they shared their potential mates with me and sought my advice before they got married. I was elated when they had children, making me a grandmother. But as the poet Kahlil Gibran says in his book, “The Proﬁ t,” on children: “Your children are not your children… They come through you but not from you … You may give them your love but not your thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls…
My children have taught me more about myself as a mother. I have learned to be a friend, a coach, a fan, and an adviser on the side. I have learned to relax, hold my tongue and measure my words. I’ve had to close my eyes to things that I felt were hurtful to my sons because of their wives behavior and overlook changes in their behavior because of their wives. As a mother-in-law, my daughters-in-law have taught me how to step back and “stay in my place.” This is the hardest. My grandchildren are my absolute joy. They have taught me that my heart can be so enlarged to add a special place for each one of them. I also learned to just walk away from situations and pray instead.
Someone said we mothers raise our daughters and spoil (baby) our sons. Thank God they had their father who brought balance to our home. Someone else said, “fathers rule (the home) with law and mothers rule the home with love.” I grew up in a time when it was thought that children needed a mother and a father.
As I said, I have sons, no daughters. I can only imagine how it is to mother a daughter. I have been told that it’s harder than mothering sons. And I have witnessed many mother, daughter relationships with a great deal of tension. On the other hand, I have witnessed very loving relationships between mothers and daughters and seen how daughters take care of their mothers. I have also personally experienced the saying, “A son is a son until he takes a wife, but a daughter is a daughter for the rest of her life.” This is so true. It rang loudly in my ears when I ﬁrst heard my son’s wives being called by my name (“MRS. HOPKINS”)! I later came to realize that my sons told their wives EVERYTHING. Don’t get me wrong. This is a good thing. Husbands and wives should leave their father and mother and become one.
That mother who expressed concern for her daughter would agree with me. In our conversation I said, “You know how when you see your children are walking off a cliff. You want to jump in and save them, but they don’t want to hear what you have to say. So you have to let them step off and see for themselves. They have their own experiences and lessons to learn.
We have to let them go and pray they won’t fall too far. Eventually they will come back and confess they should have listened to you” Then I reminded her of the Bible scripture which says, Train up a child in the way he (she) should go, and when he (she) is old he (she) will not depart from it.”
I had a wonderful mother-in-law in Joe’s mother, Christine Hopkins. Through her, I learned how to be a mother and grandmother. She had her own relationship with each child and grandchild. She and I also had a great personal relationship. I learned by her example. She used to say, “I love Ruthie because Ruthie loves Joe.” I would think, “She should love me because of me.” In time, I came to realize that she did love me, and that was because of her son who loved me. He was a part of her ﬁrst, just like my sons are to me. As a mother of grown children, I realize how much love I have for my children. I followed her example because that’s the kind of mother I want to be.
That’s a mother’s heart!Happy Mother’s Day!