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Thank you, Mother.

Life lessons learned...

By Dee Henderson Published 2 years ago 9 min read

When most people think of “mom,” I think they envision a maternal figure full of warmth, caring, and loving commitment, whether they think of a biological mom, or someone who stepped up to fill those shoes in a time of need. Most of us try to be that ideal mom, giving our children (or the children of the world) the best chance to grow up happy, healthy, and loved. We use days like Mother’s Day to honor the women who have loved us and helped to shape our lives. I believe that mothers are worthy of honor, even those mothers who maybe weren’t the ideal, because no matter what kind of mothers they have been, we have managed to learn from them. Sometimes what we learn is what not to do with our own children… My story is a little different from many others, yet I still want to honor my mother for the contributions she made in my own journey to becoming a Boss Mom.

My mother wasn’t much of a “boss,” by any stretch of the word. She didn’t stand up for herself, or for her children. I learned that there is importance in doing so, in order to keep them safe from those who would wish to harm them, sometimes even in the name of love, the right to do so, or religion. In seeing her weakness, I learned to be strong. I remember that, as a child, I thought she was strong because she was always working on something. As I grew up, I learned that strength lies not in keeping busy, but in working toward the right things, like the protection and nourishment of your family. An incident in high school firmly shocked me into the realization that I had been wrong about her. As her abusive husband ranted and railed, and she rocked back and forth, crying and screaming, I realized that there was no real strength there for me to learn or draw from. In those few moments, I realized that I would never allow myself or my future children to be put into a situation like that, and that of all of the women I knew, I was becoming the strongest one. It was empowering, and a valuable life lesson. Mother, I honor you for that lesson, even though I feel it was at your own expense. Thank you for showing me what happens to yourself and your children when you give up your own power. It is a lesson I have never forgotten, and it has served my family well.

I learned about unconditional love from my mother. My own children aren’t perfect – no one is. The difference, however, lies in my children knowing that I am always here for them, with open arms and all the love they could ever need – no matter what’s happened. Now, that love doesn’t mean I never get angry with them, or disappointed in their choices. It also doesn’t mean that I blindly support their every move. It just means that no matter what happens, I am here to love them. From the time my children could understand language, that was one thing I always told them. “You can tell me anything. I may not always like hearing it, but we will always find a way to work it out together.” True to my word, I haven’t always liked hearing what they needed to say, but that declaration has kept us close and in good communication for their whole lives so far. My children have uttered things to me that many people would hide, knowing that I would not be making them feel anything other than loved and heard. Mother, I honor you for this lesson as well – as hard as it was to learn. Feeling your harsh judgments, lack of empathy, and conditional love taught me to give my children the understanding, patience, and never-ending love that children so desperately need. Thank you for teaching me the real way to love, even as you withheld yours at times.

My mother taught me to be independent. I learned, by watching her dependence, how to stand on my own two feet. I learned how to do things for myself, and not need other people to do things for me. I have taken great pride in being independent. Maybe I’ve gone overboard at times, being too stubborn to ask for help when I need it, but that is my own struggle, and I bear it as part of my independence. I can admit that too much independence has brought me some grief, but I know for certain that it is far better than living in dependence on others. Yes, I still find it difficult to ask for help when I need it, but I am trying to learn how to balance it. I’ll get there, I know, because I’m a strong and independent woman. Thank you, Mother, for showing me the importance of being independent, as well as the pain that comes with being too dependent on others. Thank you for showing me that my happiness has to come from me, because no one else can give it to me. I’m sorry that you don’t know the sense of accomplishment that comes with personal independence.

Integrity is one of my moral compasses. True integrity, I mean. I grew up with situational integrity, where others see only the good that you do, and feel that you are a great person, never knowing the deficits that lurk behind closed doors. I learned that actually being a good person, being honest and truthful, keeping your word, and being true to yourself in all situations is the only way to truly live a life of integrity. Being able to recite nice poems about integrity is good, but actually having integrity is better. Thank you, Mother, for showing me what happens when you only outwardly appear to have integrity, leading me to embrace the integrity within me, using it as a guide for my own life. Thank you for this important step in being a good person in all ways, at all time, and in all places.

Another of life’s essential lessons, I believe, is moderation of family. To me, this means knowing your limits, and staying within those bounds. I am one of twelve siblings. To be fair, only seven of those siblings share my mother with me, while the others share my father with me. Still, eight children, when your resources are few, is too many. I learned from a very young age that I wanted only a few children. When there are too many, the older children end up having to do some of the parenting functions of the younger children, cutting into the precious time they need to be children as well. Childhood is such an important time. No child should have their childhood cut short, just because adults want more children that they don’t have the time or resources to take care of themselves. Of course, I also believe that if you have the resources to care for them, you should be able to have as many children as you want. Moderation in family size is an important lesson I learned, for myself and my own life. Thank you, Mother, for that. Thank you for showing me that more is not always best. Quality is much better than quantity. I cherish my four children, and have very good relationships with each of them, in part, I believe, because I had the time to fully be the mother to each one. There was always time for everyone, because there were few enough to spend the time with, without anyone else having to give up their own one-on-one parenting time. Thank you for teaching me the importance of that time spent with each one, giving each the personalized guidance they needed.

My childhood was spent in remote places, running wild and free, learning from the land, and from my elders. You know that saying about it taking a village to raise a child? It’s true. Not literally, of course, because obviously, single parents raise children on their own all the time. However, I believe that there is something vital in having connections with others, knowing that you’re not alone in the world, and that there is a wealth of knowledge out there, waiting for you to be ready to learn it. Roaming the reservation lands as a child, I learned to have a deep respect for the wisdom of my elders, who were always somehow nearby to guide me back to the appropriate path when I began to stray. Any of the Grandmothers and Aunties could, and would, take any child to task or teach them any lesson that was necessary in the moment. Failure was never a fear, because there was always a lesson to learn, and an elder to support your learning of it. Any child could go to any elder for any need, and they would be cared for. It was a mostly good childhood, and I am thankful for it every day. Thank you, Mother, for choosing to live where there were elders to impart wisdom to me, and for the opportunity to run wild and free, unafraid of the land and in harmony with the creatures of the land. Thank you for choosing to have a village for my siblings and I to call home, and to be connected to our roots. Thank you for the gift of the wisdom of my elders, allowing me to teach my children the importance of family, whether by blood or by love.

My mother wasn’t the best mother, but I learned so much from her. I am so thankful for every lesson I learned, on my journey to becoming a Boss Mom for myself. My mother once tried to apologize to me for some of the negative events of my childhood, but I told her then, as I still believe now, that there is no need for that. Every event, every situation, every lesson taught… all of these things have shaped who I am. I like who I am, so there is no need to regret or wish that things would have been different. While my mother wasn’t a Boss Mom, her actions and inactions both led me to that path for myself. For that, I am more grateful than I can adequately express. Her actions and inactions taught me so many valuable things. A lifetime of lessons, however imperfectly imparted, helped shape me into the matriarch that I am today, with a family of children and grandchildren that still look to me for my own wisdom and guidance, as we forge through life together, as a family. So today, I honor my mother for all of these things.


About the Creator

Dee Henderson

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