I’ve written before about how I grew up in a family of 17 children (nine boys and eight girls). The 16th child, Elizabeth (Liz), was born in 1974. The baby of the family, Anthony (Tony), was born in 1975, the same year I graduated from high school. Liz was born four months after the 15th child, Kathryn Mary, died.
Liz was like an angel who was sent to our family from Heaven. She was bursting with charm and charisma and captured the hearts of everyone. Tony was born 14 months after Liz and was also like an angel from Heaven. He was playful and good natured, and he had the energy of a wind-up toy that was always wound up.
As toddlers, Liz and Tony reminded us of the type of characters we were accustomed to seeing in a Disney movie. They were like two little bunny rabbits — always hopping around the house, getting into mischief, singing, and playing. One method my mom used to occupy their time was to play LP (long play) records of music from children’s movies.
When Liz was four years old and Tony was three years old, one of the records they liked the most had songs from several Disney movies. Their favorite song was “I’m Wishing” from the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In the movie, Snow White sings the song while she is standing at a well that is surrounded by birds. She starts out by singing the following verse:
Make a wish into the well
That’s all you have to do
And if you hear it echoing
Your wish will soon come true
She continues singing while looking down into the well and some of her words are echoed by the well. Here are the lyrics of the next verse of the song, with the echoed words in parentheses:
I’m wishing (I’m wishing) for the one I love
To find me (to find me) today (today)
I’m hoping (I’m hoping)
And I’m dreaming of
The nice things (the nice things) he’ll say (he’ll say)
After listening to the record several times, Liz and Tony had the song memorized. Then they started singing the song while they played together. Liz would always sing Snow White’s part and Tony would sing the echo part. It’s been 39 years since they sang that song, and I can still play back the image in my mind of four-year-old Liz and three-year-old Tony singing the song. Unfortunately, we didn’t have video recorders at that time, so we weren’t able to permanently capture their performance on tape.
I thought about the two little angels recently when I read an article about Anna Strode, a young mother who is known for her fitness videos on the internet. The article was about Strode’s reaction to a comment that was posted on her website. The comment implied that because Strode is a stay-at-home mom, she doesn’t have to work like all the mothers who work outside the home.
Strode posted a lengthy response to the comment, explaining that she is overwhelmed by the tasks that are required of her to care for her 22-month-old twins while preparing for the birth of her third child in the next few months. She explained that she is only able to exercise for 20 to 30 minutes a day with constant interruptions to “fetch toys, bring food, stop hair pulling, and break up fights over toys.”
Strode went on to state that her days are spent changing diapers, dealing with tantrums, playing games, cleaning her house, and teaching her “two little humans” to share instead of bite, pull hair, scratch, and push each other. While she was able to describe her daily “work,” Strobe failed to comment on the most important thing that a loving mother does for her children.
It’s easy to hire a replacement for a mother if the job only requires her to change diapers, cook food, play games, break up fights, and lay children down for a nap. But there are certain things that a loving mother cannot hire a babysitter or daycare worker to do for her.
A loving mother has known and loved her child since before the child was born. She has a burning desire to plant the seeds of greatness inside each of her children. She is constantly on the lookout for hidden and sometimes trapped or dormant qualities and talents that her children possess that can be developed. She’s willing to sacrifice her time, energy, freedom, youth, and, at times, sanity to make sure her children have everything they’re going to need to survive and thrive in the world.
More importantly, a loving mother repeatedly makes heroic efforts to transfer her most prized gifts and possessions to her children. She knows that each child is like an angel who is born with a blank slate. What is transferred to that slate while the child is growing up will determine whether the child will successfully complete his or her journey on Earth and whether he or she will ultimately end up in Heaven with God for all eternity.
The prized gifts and possessions that my mom transferred to me and my brothers and sisters while we were growing up were (1) her love of God, prayer, family, and music, and (2) her beliefs concerning marriage, the Catholic faith, and the value of hard work. She also did her best to develop and transfer to us the virtues of humility, honesty, charity, forgiveness, purity, mortification, order, patience, frugality, temperance, kindness, sincerity, justice, moderation, obedience, cleanliness, and wisdom.
When I was dating, one of the most important things that I was looking for in a woman was what kind of mother she would be to her children. After our first child was born, my wife was scheduled to return to work when the child was six weeks old. She had a great-paying job with generous benefits. I was still in law school and we desperately needed the money. She was torn between what she felt was her obligation to support our young family and her obligation to raise our child.
Every time we discussed the matter, I repeated, “One of the primary reasons I married you was because I wanted you to be the mother of my children. I don’t want some paid worker raising our children.” She was the only person who could transfer her prized gifts and possessions to our children. That responsibility couldn’t be delegated to anyone else. By the grace of God, we made the right decision and she gave up a promising career so she could stay home and raise our children.*
Most of us tend to take credit for our positive attributes and achievements without giving much thought to how those attributes and achievements were developed and refined by our mothers while we were growing up. We conveniently forget that there was a special woman in our lives who set aside her own ambitions so she could care for and develop us into mature, loving adults.
Today, I want to thank and honor all the mothers who sacrificed (or are still sacrificing) the better part of their lives for their children. Each of you made heroic contributions to your family, our society, and the world we live in. You were (and still are) willing to sacrifice your bodies, hearts, careers, time, and lives so your children could achieve their full potential.
Our hope for the future depends on the mothers of the world.
Happy Mother’s Day!
*This article should not be interpreted as a criticism of loving mothers who have to work outside the home because of financial need. Those mothers have the same power and ability to transfer their prized gifts and possessions to their children.