The best gift I ever received from my mom was her ability to teach me how to love. How to love others, how to love my parents and siblings, and how to love those who are sometimes hard to love. She taught me perseverance and patience, especially at times when those two virtues are the most difficult to express. My mom is in her prime when she is in a teaching role, and I’m trying my hardest to fill her shoes in my job as “momma” to Regan. Since she is the best teacher I know, I want to celebrate her by sharing her thoughts. I asked my mom a few questions about our life, and I hope you enjoy her responses (below) as much as I did. Happy Mother’s Day to all the beautiful women in our lives. We each have our roles as “mother”, though not always in the traditional sense.
What were your first thoughts when you found out you would have a grandchild with Down syndrome?
After the initial shock? I was immediately worried about you and Mitch. I wanted to be there. I wanted to comfort and hold you. I wanted you to know that everything would be ok. I really didn’t have too much thought about Regan’s diagnosis. I just wanted to be able to take away all your pain, or to take on all the pain you and Mitch were feeling. I guess you never lose that motherly feeling of wanting your kisses and hugs to be able to make things “all better.”
How would you compare your role as a grandmother to your role as a mother?
Grandparents have the unique gift of knowing pure delight from their grandchildren. We know that these precious gifts from God are on loan to us, and we don’t have the worries of parenting them. We don’t have the silly worries of discipline and homework and grades and bedtime and sports and friend problems and keeping up – we get to be their unconditional pals! And we get to do it on their terms, and we are ok with that. And we get to spoil and love and nurture with no strings attached. Everything they do is totally awesome in our eyes! It’s a wonderful thing! I remember G’ma Carrie [my great grandmother on my dad’s side] telling me that I wouldn’t really know true, deep love until I became a grandmother. And I think she was right! I believe becoming a grandmother has helped me better understand the love of God our Father. I believe He wants nothing (nothing!) more than for us to let Him love us. And I feel that way about Marie and Regan and Charlie. I only want them to let me love them. My role is to love them unconditionally without parenting them.
How has watching your children become parents changed YOUR role as a mother?
I hope it hasn’t changed my role. I hope I get to keep being your mom, that I get to keep kissing the hurts, wiping the tears, jumping for joy and belly-laughing with you!! But now I get to share those with you as you share them with your children. A double-blessing, right? Because as my child goes through it with their child, I experience it doubly. And it’s all worth it! Both the joy and sorrow. I wouldn’t to miss out on either.
How would you describe your mothering style while we were growing up?
[[Laughter]] Maybe you should answer this one.
My mom has this beautiful gift of knowing exactly when to lead, when to follow and when to carry her children. There are seasons of life that require each, and she’s the one who taught me that. It’s also not always what we ask her to do, it’s what we need her to do. My mom encouraged us to take charge of our own lives. As an adult and a mother now, I can see how much it empowered us as children and young adults but can also see that it must have taken leaps of faith from her many times. I think of when Dan (my brother) was at West Point in his first year just days after 9/11, and throughout his tours with the Army. I can’t imagine the despair my mom (and dad!) felt with their child on the front lines of danger and limited communication. I think of sending BB (my sister) off to Spain for 6 months at a time before cell phones and internet were easily accessible during travel. I’ll never forget a night while I was living in D.C., talking to my mom just before getting on the metro and my mom saying, “just be careful and always be aware of your surroundings.” I laughed it off at the time, but now I understand how she must’ve felt with all three kids spread across the country (and sometimes world), with nothing but blind faith. Nevertheless, she continues to encourage us to spread our wings and share our gifts with the world.
What is one of your favorite memories as a mother?
First, I have very clear memories of holding each of you for the first time. Those are my most treasured memories. Joy beyond joy! But in our day-to-day life, my most treasured memories are the times that you, BB and Dan would get all silly and tickled at each other. And the laughter and giggling! There were so many of those times! And now, being so far apart from one another, those are the moments I miss the most. During those times, I felt a joy and a peace and a love. And I knew that if anything happened to Daddy and me that y’all would always be there for each other, that you loved each so much and would take care of each other. That’s always been my prayer. That y’all would love God first and foremost and that you would always love each other. My prayers have been answered.
Has having a grandchild with Down syndrome changed your perspective? If so, how?
Changed my perspective on motherhood? I don’t think so. I had to think about it, so obviously not. I really don’t think too much about Regan having Down syndrome (is that a bad thing?). My interest and concern for her is no different than my concern for how Marie and Charlie are doing. I delight in her milestones and worry when she is not well. But I feel the same way about Marie and Charlie. [Marie and Charlie are my niece and nephew]
I do think Regan’s diagnosis has made me more aware of the needs of parents and children. And I am more aware that it is each of our responsibilities to care for all children, to be sure they are loved, cared for and nurtured. I believe I will now become more involved and vocal, especially more the marginalized.
What advice would you give to young moms?
Enjoy your children like their grandparents do! Allow them to become the best version of themselves through unconditional love. Don’t worry about silly stuff, and most stuff is silly.
Last thought – I could not have become a mom without Daddy. And I am so grateful for his love. You know the sayin, “the best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.” Daddy gave y’all a fabulous gift. He has given me immense love.
Happy Mother’s Day to all women. I also want to acknowledge that this day carries pain for many women. Pain of loss, suffering, disparity, and sometimes pain we don’t understand. I pray these women experience a calm and peace on this day despite their pain. Thank you to all the women in my life who’ve taught me love, kindness, gentle and unconditional love. Happy Mother’s Day!