“Oh darling, without my mother and you, what would I have been!” –Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States
My husband showed me the Facebook status of one his friends one Valentine’s Day: “Taking my wife out to see Die Hard 5,” he wrote. “I know. I spoil her.” Dale laughed, but was smart enough not to go on and make fun of the guy. If he had, I would have been forced to remind him of the year he wanted to take me to Rambo 4 for our wedding anniversary.
Knowing that there are a lot of Romeos who would rather take Juliet to a soothing truck rally than a stressfully expensive restaurant should make us appreciate their efforts. A box of chocolates, a massed-produced greeting card, or a grocery store rose, mean much more than a man can say. “You, Wife, are my only confidante”, or “I depend on you alone for affirmation in my life”, do not generally roll off the tongue or the Hallmark presses.
Of course, when a man like that goes above and beyond the call of cultural norm, he deserves notice. I would like to so notice my own son, who took his wife to no less than the ballet for their Valentine’s date. Evidently they had a marvelous time and my son said he loved it, though my daughter-in-law confided to me that he fell asleep before the ballerina playing Sleeping Beauty did.
My son’s sacrifice and goodness makes me prouder than Prince Charming’s mother. The fact of the matter is I raised him to be a loving husband. Whenever I rewarded fistfuls of dandelions with happy squeals and hung Mother’s Day handprints on the fridge—I was teaching him what makes a woman happy. And when I did my best to exemplify admiration and respect for his father, I was giving him the desire and courage to entrust his life to a wife.
Of course, the trick as mothers is in sensing when to let our little boys grow up; in knowing how to not only respect their innate desire for independence, but to encourage it; and in making room for the woman who will take over as his primary inspiration. If we understand that that is exactly our mission as we mother our sons–to prepare them to succeed as men, husbands, and fathers—then the transition should be as natural as Sleeping Beauty waking up to a kiss.
I’ll never forget the conversation my son and I had the night before his wedding. We sat on the edge of his bed, like we had for thousands of mother-son conversations before, and he put his big, long arm around my shoulders, the way I used to wrap his little torso up with mommy hugs.
“Mom—” he said—“as of tomorrow, you won’t be the one I tell all my secrets to.”
“I know, honey,” I replied. “And it’s okay.”
I cried myself to sleep that night—but I knew I had succeeded as his mother.
Woodrow Wilson, who, by the way proclaimed the first Mother’s Day in 1914, paid this tribute to the first woman in his life: “My mother…prepared me for my wife. If I had not lived with such a mother I could not have won and seemed to deserve—in part, perhaps, deserved through transmitted virtues—such a wife—the strength, the support, the human source of my life.”
As my daughter and daughter-in-law read this, both will understand what I’m saying in a way that neither could have before birthing male children. Their precious sons are the entire world to those mothers, and each of is pouring her heart and soul into her boy. Those relationships are a joy to behold, not only for the present charms, but for their promising tomorrows. If my girls continue to invest in my grandsons (which of course they will)—remembering what all the time, care, and devotion are ultimately about—then I can attest to each one that someday, some way, some amazing woman will enter the picture to love and honor not only her son, but also his mother.
And that relationship makes the decades of investment preceding it, incredibly worthwhile.
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