Lessons from my mother

“Mom knows best.” Three words I grew up believing with all my heart.

Until I reached my teens.

Then, for some reason, I stopped believing in those words and began relying on my own instincts to make decisions. I entered my twenties, met my wonderful husband, married him and eventually had a son and daughter of my own.

One day I sat on my daughter’s bed, surveying a collage she had created on her bedroom wall. It consisted mostly of pictures of her and her friends, interspersed with magazine pictures of things she particularly liked. I gazed at it for a long time, not wanting to miss anything. That was when I saw it – a little slip of paper close to the edge, on which a simple sentence was written – “Mom knows best”.

That was several years ago. Today my daughter is approaching twenty, and the piece of paper no longer graces her wall. And I’m okay with that. Because those three words are written on the wall of my heart. I have learned that no matter how hard you try to convince yourself otherwise, Mom really does know best. And it took becoming a mother for me to realise this.

So many times I find myself beginning a sentence with “My mother taught me…”, something I remember promising never to do when I was in my teens. Only now can I see how much I have learned from my mom. Some are in the words she said; most I learned by the way she lives her life. They are simple, yet invaluable life lessons that I live by each day and have tried to instil in my children.

These are the ones that stand out the most:

  • Always go to church on Sundays, especially when you are going through a difficult time. The sermon preached that Sunday morning might just be the one you need to hear.
  • Take your babies to Sunday School and church. The sooner you instil in them the importance of church attendance, the greater the likelihood they will grow up to become faithful Christians.
  • When life gets complicated, prioritise as follows: church, work/school, sport, fun, and everything will fall into place.
  • A man who loves and respects his mother and is kind to animals will make a good husband.
  • When visiting someone else’s home, always say “Thank you for having me” when you leave, no matter whether they have shown you hospitality for a few days or a few hours. It’s just good manners.
  • When guests drop by for a visit at short notice, make sure your bathrooms and kitchen are clean, then the rest of your house will look spotless.
  • Take care of orphans – not only babies and children who have been abandoned or neglected by their parents, but anyone, including adults, who is separated from their family for some reason.
  • Never break a friend’s confidence, even if they don’t ask you not to tell anyone.
  • Dress modestly, especially when you become a mother. You have an example to set.
  • Never skip breakfast. It’s the most important  meal of the day.

Thank you for everything you have taught me, Mom. Truly, you do know best.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Rina Bowes – A Virtuous Woman

I am reposting this today, in honour of my beloved mother-in-law, who passed away peacefully on 26 August 2010. Today would have been her 80th birthday.

Who can find a virtuous woman, whose worth is far more than rubies?

Her name is Catharina Cornelia Bowes; Rina to her family and friends, Ouma to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and to her children and their spouses – Mommy.

She will be remembered as a faithful and devoted wife to her husband, and a joyful mother of seven children, to whom she not only gave life, but lovingly and tenderly moulded each one’s individual personality, instilling in them all a good measure of the humanitarian and Christian principles by which she lived.

Never needing to adorn herself with the latest fashions or trendy cosmetics, Mommy glowed with an inner beauty that personified the attributes of love she radiated – patience, kindness, humility, peace, gentleness, unselfishness, forgiveness and compassion.

Consequently, people were drawn to Mommy’s loving temperament and generous nature. To anyone in need she was always prepared to listen and provide a word of encouragement and, not surprisingly, she had many friends. Some turned out not to be friends at all, but abusers of Mommy’s kind-heartedness, yet she never rejected one of them or turned them away when they were in need. Without a malicious, spiteful or vengeful bone in her body she shied away from all forms of conflict and in her humble, submissive way would do everything in her power to bring about peace, even if it meant sacrificing her own dignity and wellbeing.

Her husband trusted her completely with the affairs of their household and as a full time wife and mother, Mommy’s hands were never idle. She rose early each morning to tend to her family’s needs, and with such a large one to take care of, there were many. Seldom during the day did she have a moment to herself.

Because she loved her children so much, Mommy was not afraid to mete out discipline when it was necessary. Woe to the child who tried to borrow a few pennies from her purse, without asking, to buy sweets, secretly sneak out of the house to visit a friend, or feign an illness in an attempt to get out of going to school. But no one could ever argue that she wasn’t fair.

Raising seven children on a single income was not without its challenges, but not once did they suffer physically or mentally during their growing years.  Mommy sacrificed much for them, never hesitating to give up her own pleasures to ensure their comfort. Indeed, at meal times, after serving her family supper, it was not unusual for Mommy to retreat quietly to the kitchen to eat her own meal – a slice of bread and a cup of coffee.

Later in the evening, when the children were asleep, Mommy would spend the quiet time mending clothes, darning socks and knitting – never for herself, always for her family and often, even for others.

As her children entered adulthood and chose marriage partners, Mommy welcomed each one into her family without reservation, freely giving them her love and making them her own. She was always there to nurture and support their dreams, or give a gentle push when they ran out of steam.

After her husband died and she had seen her youngest child comfortably settled in his own home, Mommy, for the first time, sat down to rest. To her family she had become more than just a mother, mother-in-law and ouma, but an integral part of everyone’s lives.  She had taken care of so many for so long, and now it was her turn to be spoiled.

Treating Mommy was just as much fun for the one doing the treating as it was for her because she indulged in each experience with childlike delight, finding great joy in the simplest pleasures. But nothing made Mommy happier than having all her children gathered around her. Getting the whole family together for a special occasion was no mean feat, and if someone was unable to make it for some reason Mommy would never fail to mention how much she missed them.

Now it will be Mommy’s place that is empty and we will be the ones talking about how much we miss her. But she has left us with a beautiful gift. All the love we shared and all the fun we had with Mommy have been replaced with wonderful, happy memories – of lappies and bonks, blokkiesraaisels and television soapies, Dream chocolates, Liquorice Allsorts and Ouma’s lazagne, trails of crumpled tissues, gentle admonishments of “Ag, jy’s laf” and exclamations of “Ek kry die piep”.

Along with these beautiful memories, we have the assurance that even though Mommy’s life on earth is over, today her spirit lives anew with God, where she has gone home to share in His glory for eternity, and is waiting to meet up again one day with her children in Christ.

Today and always, Mommy, your children rise up and call you blessed. Many women have done virtuously, but you surpass them all.

via Rina Bowes – A Virtuous Woman.

Unless you have all the facts…

Switched at birth – to know or not to know?

I was deeply moved by the following story, recently published on parent24.com. While I am an avid proponent of a child’s right to know their biological roots, I can’t help wondering whether this is one instance where it would have been better for the parties involved not to know…

Switched at birth

Moms faced with terrible decision after babies switched at birth.
twin babies

Image: via Shutterstock

Two SA moms only found out after 18 months that their babies had been switched at birth, leaving them with an agonising decision- swap the babies they loved for the ones they gave birth to, or simply carry on as if nothing had happened, according to mamamia.com.au.

For many parents, the choice would be easy- who wants to bring up another mom’s child? But for Sandy Dawkins and Megs Clinton Parker, the 18 months of intense bonding with each other’s babies made them each choose to keep the ‘wrong’ baby.

How did it happen?

23 years ago, both moms gave birth in the same hospital – Sandy, a struggling single mom, and Megs, a wealthier and more secure mom were handed each other’s babies. A paternity test 18 months later showed that Greg wasn’t Meg’s son…

That was when the two moms were faced with the decision which has haunted them. In a Channel9 interview, in response to the question “should you have swapped the boys back, as you look back?” Sandy replies: “In retrospect, yes. Because in time to avoid them getting hurt – in time to avoid a lot of people getting hurt. We’ve actually – I personally feel we’ve done a lot more damage.”

The damage took years to appear: At first, the two moms spent lots of time together, the boys growing up as friends. It was only as a teen that Robyn began to notice that he was losing out, as he was living with Sandy, the less financially independent of the moms.

She was left “with no son at all”

Wealthier Megs realised that her biological son was struggling along, and, when he was 15, invited him to come and live with her. This meant that both sons now lived with her, and Sandy was left with no son at all.

The decision made so many years previously had effectively left Sandy childless – she now has no contact with either one of the boys, who are now 23.

Some day…

Dad tells son (11) he’s adopted

An adoptive dad (who wishes to remain anonymous) reveals how telling his son the truth about his adoption has changed their family dynamics for the better…

I have two adopted children: my daughter, now 18, was adopted at the age of ten, and I adopted my son, now 11, when he was just three years old.

My daughter knew her biological father and had some contact with him before I adopted her, but they never really enjoyed a close relationship. After I adopted my daughter, she decided to break contact with her biological father altogether, even though I never discouraged their relationship. I wanted to make sure that she knew she could have contact with him if she wanted to.

My son did not know he was adopted until recently, when we decided he was old enough to know the truth. I was extremely reluctant to tell him about his adoption at first because he and I had a very difficult relationship, and I had also heard about so many adoptees who found out late in life about their adoption and the pain this caused.

I guess one will never know for sure when it’s the perfect time to tell someone that he/she is adopted; my wife and I made our decision based on our son’s emotional maturity level and readiness to hear this sensitive information. We asked a close friend, who is a preacher and counselor, to facilitate the process for us, as we knew our son would need access to someone he could trust when this life-changing information was revealed to him.

We approached the process as a family, and included my adopted daughter to support our son and be there for him should he have any questions or concerns. Although it was difficult at first, we believe that we can build a better family structure without having to pretend that we are something we are not.

My wife and I both suspected that Nathan (name changed) knew I was not his biological father, but I don’t think he understood his adoption and the complexity of the situation. When the facilitator revealed the information to him, he was not surprised, but became very emotional. That he was not surprised confirmed that he suspected the truth, but the complexity of the situation made him emotional.

As we spoke, the facilitator continually checked that Nathan understood what we were trying to tell him by asking him for feedback and examples. One comment Nathan made was that he knew I loved him, because of what we do and share together and that if I didn’t love him as my child, I would not have to do what I was doing for him then.

As a psychologist, I appreciated the facilitator’s effort to continually “check-in” with Nathan during the session to ensure he was okay and reassure him of the love our family’s and my, as his adoptive father, love for him. Nathan cried a lot while we talked, not because of his adoption, but because his mother was very emotional and he was the focus of attention in a serious matter.

This session firstly made me feel that I can be a father without having to pretend that I’m someone I’m not: I could be Nathan’s adoptive father and no longer pretend to be his biological father. Some may wonder why this is so important, and it’s difficult to explain, but it was important for me as I don’t have any biological children. Although I wanted to, I have come to accept that I will never have any. Pretending that Nathan was my biological child constantly reminded me of the fact that I do not have biological children and that I was living a lie.

Also, pretending to be someone I wasn’t caused me to push the children away, as indirectly and subconsciously I blamed them for my not having biological children. However, by telling and living the truth of being their adoptive father, I can make peace with not having biological children and be the real father to my children that God intended me to be.

For Nathan, not much has changed; he does not blame anyone or feel unloved. His standing in our family remains the same and he still regards me as his only father. He has not asked about his biological father and we don’t think he will for a while yet, but we believe that when he does, he will be ready to understand more about this complex situation. For now, he knows that he is adopted, and that this doesn’t change our love for him – he is our son, regardless of who his biological father is.

Should he want more clarity and information on his biological father later in life, we will support his decision, as we did with our daughter. We will never prevent our children from contacting with their biological fathers if they choose to do so.

Unexpectedly, telling Nathan about his adoption has positively changed my relationship with my daughter. We communicate better, trust each other more and talk about things we never could before. I believe that although my daughter knew about her adoption, she also never realised how much she gained by having a “real” father who cares for and loves her, and how much having a father and mother who love each other has changed her life for the better.

What was discussed with Nathan was not a surprise to her, as she already knew about it, but I believe that what her and her brother’s adoption has meant to them has helped to change her previously negative and antagonistic attitude and behaviour.

For my wife, the biological mother of our children, this session has helped her to realise what I was going through as a “secret” adoptive father. Her relationship with Nathan has also changed for the better – previously she always tried to protect him from the truth, to the extent of becoming over-protective, which hampered Nathan’s emotional growth as he was overly dependent on his mother.

I firmly believe that the truth has set us all free from pretending and living a lie. Now we are free to be who we really are and to build on a family unit regardless of the past. Finally, we can start building a family based on truth and trust. Because it’s not the blood in your veins, but the love in your heart that makes you a family.

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