When I was 8 years old I told my mother about a boy I liked at school. He had blond hair and was wicked good at four-square. At recess if I was it, he was the only one I ever tagged. My mom saw his name scribbled across my notebook and asked me what I liked about him.
“He’s fast.” I told her. Because at 8 I didn’t know I should ask about his Myer-Briggs or credit scores.
“Oh darling,” she said grabbing hold of both my hands, “you should never have to chase a boy.”
I remembered what my mother told me. And so at 15 when the quarter back of the football team stopped dialing my number, I deleted his. And at 22 when my now husband told me he wasn’t sure if he would ever get married, I cried into his chest, and told him that I understood. I wanted him, but not bad enough to chase him. I knew that falling in love was just as important as letting it go. I didn’t think that a woman should have to chase a ring, or an answer, or her value. A girl can lose a boy if it means she can keep her dignity. Moms are prophets in silk pajamas. Remember what they tell you.
In middle school the girls were mean. Apparently, puberty is like a scratch off. There’s just enough winners to make you think that you’ll be next, but most of us go home empty handed. I always felt a day late and a dollar short.
“Don’t let them see you sweat,” she’d say. And then we’d eat Froyo till I didn’t give a crap what Stacy thought about my romper.
I remembered what my mother told me. And so at 18 when the girls in my dorm started talking about me, I bought headphones. I decided that what other people said about you wasn’t nearly as important as what you told yourself. Some nights when the room was empty I’d cry into my pillow. I’d call mom, who’s psychic abilities went into full swing knowing when “nothing,” was something, and “fine,” was miserable. Mother’s always seem to know when something is wrong before we even say it. She’d crank me back up like a wind-up doll and I’d have enough self-esteem to get through fall break. Girls can break without being broken. You don’t have to let them see you sweat.
I wanted to drop out of college. School was hard and I didn’t feel smart enough. “You may not get through the next four years,” my mother told me, “but you can get through today.”
There have been many moments since then that I didn’t think I’d survive. Deaths, breakups, poverty, my own motherhood…but I remember what she told me.
No, you may not be able to endure your grief, or your divorce, or the loss of your job. You may not make it through years of loneliness or this political season. It’s okay if the thought of 10 more years of hardship or despair make you want to quit. Just don’t give up right now. Because you can get through today.
Mothers earn their stripes by being girls once too. They are sages. They are goddesses among us who make tough days feel livable, and Froyo feel like medicine. Mothers have eyes that only see greatness, and when they cast them in your direction, you can’t help but feel like you’re still being born.
Moms are postcards that foretell life as a never-ending journey. They watch us grow, and being in their presence reminds us that growing is what we do. Every time you feel stagnant just go sip tea beside your mom. Her very presence is like a blanket that reminds you of how far you’ve come. Their wisdom stays with us, even if their bodies leave. They are angels that carry our burdens and share in our joy. They dream when we can’t, try when we don’t, and pray when we won’t. Moms are hearts with arms.
At least that’s what my mother told me.
Heather Thompson Day is an Assistant Professor of communication at Andrews University. She is the author of 5 Christian books including Life After Eden, available now.
You can follow Heather on IG at HeatherThompsonDay
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