Sometimes the gifts that survive the years and really prove to be the most precious are those little snippets of advice passed down from generation to generation—a yellowed photograph with tiny rips at the edges from being stored so long and stories— lots and lots of stories.
As Mother’s Day approaches, let’s consider how we can make use of those things that build a meaningful life, and share them.
How can we communicate a prayer of future well wishes?
How can we honor a time-tested memory?
How can we translate those experiences that have shaped our histories and turn them into an offering for the recipient?
I started a website for my daughter when she was born.
She’s now 11, and I randomly send her a few emails a year so that when she is an adult she knows that her mom was a person with her own dreams, heartbreaks, and failures. I plan on giving her access to this site when she’s a little older to let her know that contrary to what her teenage or young adult self might think, I have been where’s she’s been. I want her to know that I survived it all, and she will too.
The past few weeks, I’ve been struggling with making a big decision, and I thought to myself, What would I say to my daughter if she were trying to come to a conclusion and couldn’t?
I decided to write her an email and hoped that I’d gain some clarity through the process.
EEEK. I am so scared. Not like a, I think I’m going to die scared or an I’m going to end up alone as one of those people who spend hours on the beach with a metal detector scared—although I’ve experienced both of those as well. It’s like a Can I do this?, Am I worth it?, or Do I look like an ego-maniac scared. Am I being recklessly scared?
All my self-limiting beliefs are coming into sharp focus. Questions that I don’t have clear answers to are resurrecting doubt.
How am I rebranding a brand that doesn’t even exist yet?
Am I getting ahead of myself?
Do people even want this?
Is what I do at all valuable?
And then, I picture you.
What would I say to you if you approached me with a big, bold, and outrageous idea that cost a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of grappling with the chorus of voices singing in your head, This is crazy. You are crazy. Get over yourself.
Here is what I would say, how that conversation would look:
I would lock eyes with you first—and I would recognize it. I would recognize the dancing flames and the upbeat anthem playing behind your pupils. I would notice the half-bitten lip competing with your side smirk.
I would tell you, “I am proud of you,” and then I would ask you to ask yourself the following:
Does this chance you want to take fill you with excited anticipation—the kind where you’ve just reached the top of the roller coaster hill and you sense that terror of whatever is coming next is going to be f*cking fun—provided you survive the fall?
Does taking this chance come at the expense of anyone else?
Does it contribute to making the world a kinder, more beautiful place in which to live?
Is the worst possible outcome worth the chance of not realizing the best one? In other words, if this thing goes sideways can you still keep your smile? And your faith? Or will you morph into the sad cynic who regrets having tried?
That is the litmus test: soul-stirring + nonmaleficence + acceptable risk/loss ratio = go for it!
Back yourself, girl.
You are worth every chance—worth every cost.
We live here not long. So I say, “Light it all up and see what survives the fire. What precious rewards such alchemy can yield.”
And yeah, I’m allowing myself to use some mixed metaphors here.
Love you little Lou!
While the above is a gift to my daughter, it ultimately is one for myself as it provided the precise answer I was so desperately searching for. I could easily rework the concept as a gift to my mother too by acknowledging how her advice has influenced the course of my life—and maybe even how I myself mother.
I could frame an old pic and attach a note about why the memory captured in it means so much to me—of how it has reminded me of all that is good, especially in times when I felt scared or uncertain.
I could record myself telling my own childhood bedtime stories about her lineage and surprise the family matriarch with the audio file.
I could put a reminder on my calendar to send my mom emails on a consistent basis, as I do my daughter, to let her know I think about and honor her in months other than just May.
I don’t know what the mothers who will soon be celebrating might want. I’m willing to bet that something from the heart like a letter—a nod to how they’ve influenced you and your children’s lives—or a recapturing of favorite familial stories will have a far greater impact than a bouquet of flowers or hand lotion—although those are nice too.
Hell, give mom all of them—she probably deserves it.