Dear Mom, Thank You for my Ordinary Childhood
I am ten years old and it’s a sunny Saturday morning.
I’ve settled in to watch cartoons, legs dangling over the side of our wingback chair surrounded by my sisters and my cousin Krissy, who often spent time at our house on the weekend.
We sit glued, enjoying our usual line up: Flintstones, Tom and Jerry, the Smurfs. Those were the days before VCRs or On-Demand movies. We had one chance to see the show, and we didn’t want to miss a minute.
We are interrupted by my mother’s voice, calling us to come eat breakfast.
We run like a herd of elephants into the kitchen, sliding stocking-footed on the shiny red-brick linoleum. We shimmy onto the wooden bench worn from years of use at our table, and wait to be served.
The kitchen was full of the noise of life: the clinking of cups and dishes, the sizzling of the skillet, and the chattering and laughter of a house full of all girls.
Mom would serve English muffin sandwiches with egg, salami, and cheese, an Italian staple. Other days we’d have pancakes and sausage links with pools of real maple syrup. We were happiest when we got junk cereal like Trix or Boo-Berry, which was a rare treat.
Mom would try to settle us down, thank God for our food, and acknowledge His watch care over our day. The day and all its pursuits were always acknowledged as His. As we sat munching our breakfast, she’d fit in a short reading from the Bible or a page from “Our Daily Bread.” Sometimes we’d go over the plans for the day and she’d promise us a trip to the penny candy store after lunch if we’d memorize a certain Bible verse. Somehow, we were always able to memorize it.
After breakfast, we’d head outside to ride bikes around the dirt roads of our cranberry bogs, catch tadpoles in the ditches, swing on the rusty swing set that lifted out of the ground from our over-pumping. We’d climb the stone wall borders of our property and paint skull and cross-bone warnings for other children with what we imagined were poisonous berries. We’d studiously squeeze the blood-red juice into Tupperware, and carefully paint the Bewares using dandelion stems as brushes, until our hands and clothes were stained with “berry-blood.”
Mom would interrupt our play to bring us out popsicles and drinks. All the neighborhood kids would appear. She’d serve them all.
On hot days, she’d set up the sprinkler. We’d run through like it was the olympics high-jump competition and slide-land on the slick, freshly cut lawn. We could have done that for hours.
She’d call us in for lunch. If we were too covered with mud or grass, she’d hose down our legs and serve us outside in the garage. Always sandwiches, chips, cookies, bug juice made of equal parts grape and orange juice. We’d play until evening when the table scene repeated at dinner time, all of us seated around the table as soon as my dad got home from his work on the cranberry bogs. Dad would thank God for the evening meal, and again we’d sit and eat, the table central, as hearts and lives were still temporarily around bowls of mom’s spaghetti sauce and garlic bread and conversation.
I never realized how special my ordinary childhood was until I was much older.
I never knew that some kids lived in fear, with daily neglect, or with trauma caused by parents.
I never realized that some kids never heard the words “I love you.”
I never realized that some kids had to parent their own parents.
I never realized that some kids lived with wounds inflicted by the person who should have loved them most in the world.
I never realized that of all the things in the world my mother could have pursued, and of all the things money could have afforded, she chose to give us an ordinary, extraordinary childhood.
Our life wasn’t without its trials. Like every family, we had our heartbreak moments but on the whole, home was happy because I had two parents who loved God, each other, and all of us girls dearly. That love was shared outside of our home to all of our extended family, friends, neighbors, strangers, and church members as my parents opened our home to others and shared a generous life.
I’d later grow to appreciate the choice they made to raise us with the traditional Christian values which shaped and guided them personally. They taught us from God’s Word. They made church a priority. They sent us to a Christian school so that biblical ideals could be reinforced during our school day.
It’s not lost on me that I benefitted from my parent’s integrity.
Their choices were far reaching an all of us benefitted.
Isn’t that the way it is?
The legacy-making-ripple-effects of our private choices, for good or bad, always affect more than we think in the moment.
Moms, I know that some days feel like a rat-race, like we’re on a treadmill, doing the same things over and over and wondering if they matter at all.
And some days are so painfully slow, and time seems to stand still, and we wonder if our life will count for anything at the end of it all.
But I want to encourage you that your loving service, your late night vigils, your frantic car runs, your never-ending-cooking-cleaning-organizing-and -I- can’t -even- remember -what- all -we- did- in- those-bleary-eyed-early-years, when done with love and for God —it all matters.
I know some days you wonder if…
filling another sippy cup, changing wet sheets, reading another book, picking up cereal that found its way under the table, chopping vegetables, bandaging boo-boos, talking, laughing, teaching,
matters in the grand scheme of things.
But hear me,
Mundane moments are it. They are not the dress rehearsal.
Mundane moments are the actual performance and they matter to your child, and to the God who gave you that child. And God is going to reward you and every one of His kingdom workers for their part in His work, however big and splashy or hidden and unseen. It’s all seen by Him. It’s ALL seen by Him.
In the small moments, you are building a legacy for your kids.
So we must choose the right choices for them and their someday, not the easy choice for us in the moment.
Set the example. Set the tone. Set the table.
Love when it’s hard and you are ready to pull your hair out.
Mom, I don’t know how you did it all, but it all mattered to me.
It has made the difference for me and my kids, and now my grandchildren.
So on this Mother’s Day, I want to say:
“Thanks, Mom. Thanks for choosing us kids. Thanks for serving and caring. Thanks for spending your energy on things the world would call “mundane.” Thanks for being there and supporting me (and my kids, and now my grandchildren) in all the special moments of life. Thanks for teaching us to celebrate life the way it was meant to be lived, centered around God’s love. I always knew you loved us and it made it easier to believe that God loved us, too.”