Teaching Mom

Married with four children, I started college. I asked for only one concession – not to attend Saturday eight o’clock chapel. Granted that, I did not ask to be exempt from the Physical Ed classes. After taking the general course, I had to pick two more – archery and golf seemed safe.

After finishing the golf course, our youngest son Tom had me promise to play a nine-hole round of golf with him. Sounded like fun, so with borrowed clubs we started out. Around the fifth hole it started sprinkling. This seemed, to me, a good reason to head for home. “No,” Tom insisted, “You promised nine holes. A little rain is no excuse.” Thankful we didn’t have to play in a downpour, we finished the course and Tom was ready to go home so I could start supper. Making me keep my promise was a good example, one that matched another concept: “Finish what you start.”

Playing sports is not my strong suit, so when our oldest son Bill offered to train me in a game of tennis, I hesitated but thought it worth the time spent with him. One reason I liked golf is that the ball is not coming at me, but the tennis ball didn’t seem that offensive. At least it has more bounce than a baseball. The tennis lesson was going well, or so I thought, until Bill came around the net to give a hands-on demonstration. It had to do with my elbow. He said, “See this. It bends.” When the ball came to me across the net, I’d bend at the waist with my elbow stiffly in place to meet the ball. That tennis lesson turned into an anatomy lecture, and one game was enough for me.

Now you’d think cooking would be a better activity with my daughter Becky. But when it comes to baking cakes, she has me beat. Two-layer birthday cakes challenged my skills. The top layer would always split. I did take pride in one birthday cake when I made a battlefield on top. I used my son’s tiny toy plastic soldiers and positioned them in the hills and valleys of the iced cake. Years later I watched Becky take cake layers out of her oven, grab a long knife and slice the rounded top off, even with the pan, then dump the top into a trash can. I gasped. She saw my shock and asked, “Would you have me eat all those cake tops for every wedding cake I make?” So that’s how you get layers to stack evenly.

Our second son John taught me about listening and watching, both examples of patience.  In high school one of John’s favorite singers was Elton John. I only heard the beat and volume. One day I took the time and sat with John to listen to some recordings. Above the beat I heard the words, the message Elton was sending. Some made sense, and for those that didn’t, we talked. Years later I watched John sit by his youngest son as they ate lunch. Patience was the name of the game, for his little boy’s eating habit was slow motion, waiting between bites, more interested in talking than eating. Neither were in any hurry to leave the table.

A mother is expected to teach her children, and I’m sure they caught some worthy truths. But I’m grateful for those experiences when the reverse happened, for I learned from each of my children how best to engage in the lessons of life.

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