To moms of sh**theads everywhere.
When I was 15 years old my mother told me I was being a shithead.
She always had a knack for telling it like it is.
I was in the kitchen, reluctantly chopping cucumbers for a salad after she had repeatedly asked me for help. I don’t remember the specific shithead behavior I had partaken in, but I clearly remember going to the bathroom afterward and crying. I wasn’t upset because my mom had called me a name. I was upset because if my mom said I was being a shithead, I knew it must be true.
Her ruthless honestly was like that throughout my entire life. If I asked a question I always got a truthful answer, although she was cautious about subjects I was sensitive about.
In fourth grade my friends and I wanted to audition for the talent show. We spent hours at my house practicing a screeching version of “Lean on Me.” Despite our deep dedication (a few hours) to this performance we could not decide who should be the lead singer. We agreed to have a sing-off, but one friend thought my mom would be a biased judge. She promised to tell us the truth about who sang the lead parts the best.
After the end of the fierce competition she started off by noting that my keen dance moves positioned me to be a better background dancer than a singer at all, then she chose from the other three vocalists. It was years before I realized my mom had told me I was a horrible singer. Her honesty saved a lot of ears that day.
My mom was a social worker by profession so she utilized this honesty everywhere she went, but she always followed up the truth with a deep belief in an individual to do better. She used to joke that being a social worker meant people who need help gravitate to you. Driving through a nearby Indian Reservation we couldn’t even stop at the gas station without a young woman engaging in a conversation with my mom for 45 minutes. My mom returned to the car and said something similar to “she is in a bad place but she’ll be OK.” I think people actually gravitated to her when they needed a good dose of honesty.
The beautiful thing about people who tell you how it is, is when they tell you good things about yourself, you accept them to be true.
So even though I was a bad singing shithead, those are not the words I remember most from my mother.
I remember her telling me she loved me more than life itself.
I remember her telling me she would do anything to take my pain away.
I remember her telling me that I’m smart and kind.
“You can do this,” she said about a lengthy list of obstacles. Sports, driving, school, life. If she said I can do it then it must be true.
I remember she told me that I would be a good mother when I was unexpectedly pregnant at the age of 23 during a time when nobody else, especially me, believed it. And then in her true fashion she told me if it turned out I wasn’t, she would be there to help.
And she has been. Through it all. Through the times when I’ve been a shithead parent, through the times when my kids have been shithead grandchildren, providing us with love and honesty through it all.
So to my mom on Mother’s Day, and to the moms of shitheads everywhere, thank you for telling us the truth even when it is not what we want to hear. Thank you for continuing to believe in us even when we’re less than believable. Thank you for being there when we inevitably fail. Thanks for making us feel like we can always try again.
Thanks for inspiring us to not be shitheads.
We love you more than life itself.