On a fun family trip to Disney World, a friend told me she'd met two amazing little girls one night as they exited an elevator heading for dinner. They were dolled up in beautiful spring dresses and accompanied by their parents. As they energetically conversed with her in fresh, sprightly Welsh accents, my friend was delighted by their open, friendly style and energy. As they parted to leave, their mother asked them, "Girls, what do you say to the lady?" They turned to my friend and said in unison, "You look amazing!"
"And what else?" their mother gently prodded. Looking up at my friend again, they said with zest, "Invest in yourself!" And pranced off happily to dinner.
My friend was stunned. Tears sprang to her eyes. The encounter with these lovely young girls left her breathless and aware of something she had needed desperately. She, who had struggled for so long with her own value and self-worth, had come face to face with two sisters who would probably never have that struggle. They were being taught to love themselves, to celebrate themselves, and to grace others with words of encouragement and affirmation.
Their mother, no doubt standing proudly behind them, had very craftily taught her daughters to re-enact this scene over and over with the strangers they came in contact with, wisely knowing their unique power as children, and the gift and reinforcement it would be to them to see the wonderful impact of their own words on others.
Their mother was much more than a good mother. She was a grand, amazing, thoughtful, and actively engaged mother. She had thought through the messages her daughters should receive and taught them to give those same messages to others generously.
I'm encouraged by the many great mothers I know in this world. These mothers love their children fiercely, protect them, teach them, push them. They are priceless. These mothers are those who teach their children how to see themselves accurately and then to reflect that beauty outward, like the mother just mentioned.
They are unafraid to set high standards and model them, like the mother I know who doesn't allow her daughter to have opposite sex visitors in the house when she's not there, even though her daughter is over 18 years old now. The daughter and her boyfriend often sit on her porch talking, waiting respectfully for her to come home. The admiration her children have for her is evident.
There are great mothers who have willingly fought for their own emotional healing in order to better care for their children and give them the love they did not receive when they were growing up. Others have sacrificed time, dreams, and comfort to place their children in situations they felt were best for them. Others have stood by offspring who have deeply disappointed them and fallen short of the hopes they passionately held for them at their earliest moments, continuing to believe in them and urge them forward with enduring love.
Great mothers come in the form of neighbors who look out for the children on their block, educators who continue to pour into the young lives that sit before them every day, foster parents who look after the little ones others were unable to, and strangers who sow kind words into the ears of those who will listen.
To all these mothers, including my own great mother, I say thank you and Happy Mother's Day.
Tabi Upton, MA-lpc is a local therapist and writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.