The Silent Teacher

Most children take after one parent more than the other. Such was the case with my family. I am the spitting image of my father: the nose, the opinions, the gregarious nature. My sister is equally like my mother: quiet, stubborn, and extremely shy.

In these situations, it can be easy to assume that the big life lessons come from the parent that the child is most like. I beg to disagree. For me, a lot of the things that I work on to this day, I’ve learned from my mother. My father’s nature is already ingrained, natural. But when I think of the things that I want to cultivate in myself, my mother comes to mind.

As I said, my mother is quiet. She’s funny and vibrant and has a razor-sharp wit, but she shares that with only a few select people. She was never one to dictate great truths and expect us to take note. Her actions are her edicts and these are a few of the things that I learned from watching her love us.

Read. My father loves to read. My mother loves to read. The difference is that my mother read to my sister and me. It started with simple children’s books, of course, but it didn’t end there. She read novels to us, series of books that we would look forward to getting a chapter or two of before bed. She taught us that sometimes the best escape is between the leaves.

Be rational. My mother is possessed with book smarts and common sense. In seeing her deal with two children and a somewhat high-strung husband, I have often thought I would have torn my hair out. But she remained calm. Kids will wear out their energy and husbands will eventually see that they are being unreasonable. And in the end, you will be the one that didn’t hurt anyone in anger trying to control something that isn’t controllable.

Be present in nature. Once again, my father loves to be outside, with a camera, shooting in the woods. My mother loves to go out walking as well. While Dad is on his knees in the dirt, my mother is the best wildlife spotter I know. She’s aware and present in her surroundings, unencumbered by f-stops and aperture. Instead, 40 paces ahead, she’s seeing the fleeting beauty that a camera misses.

Be the friend you want. My mother is a great friend. She’s shy, so it takes a while to get to know her, but when you do, she’s warm and attentive and puts in the effort to be friendly. I make friends easily, but being the friend that I would like to have and be is more difficult. She has taught me that sometimes more isn’t necessarily better.

Live your lessons. My mother used to make my sister and I read a chapter of the Bible a day and write down our favorite verse. At the time I found it tedious, especially when the subject wasn’t very exciting. But in addition to this, I saw my mother reading her own Bible. She wasn’t just giving us busy work to try to get us interested in our faith. She was trying to share the words that gave her comfort and inspiration.

These were never spoken things, but they resonate with me today. Sometimes mothers need to lay down the law. And sometimes they simply need to live a life worth emulating. Mine always has.