Pretty much everyone is in agreement that there is no more important relationship with any other person in the world than your mother. If people have a pretty good relationship with their mothers, they have a better chance at having a good relationship with others in their lives. There’s scientific evidence that supports it.
“Nurturing a child early in life may help him or her develop a larger hippocampus, the brain region important for learning, memory and stress responses, a new study shows … In the study, children of nurturing mothers had hippocampal volumes 10 percent larger than children whose mothers were not as nurturing.”
The hippocampus is the brain region important for learning, memory and stress responses.
Who your mother was used to be pretty clear half a century ago. It was the person who gave birth to you, or who adopted you and raised you as her own. In these days of surrogate mothers, transgender parents, frozen egg cells, homosexual marriages and more, a “mother” may mean different things to different people. Is it the biological woman who gave birth, the one who provided the egg, the one who raises the child? The definition has been expanded. While one definition still remains the biological woman, it also includes, “a person who provides the care and affection normally associated with a female parent.”
This Sunday is Mother’s Day, and we honor and celebrate the people who nurture and care for the future generation, our children. It takes a village to raise a child. The task of “always nurturing, always being present for, stimulating minds of, disciplining, and modeling good behavior” is challenging and exhausting. Add to that the fact that most mothers work outside the home now, and you can see that we all need to nurture mothers as well.
Love them, appreciate them, nurture them, make them laugh, make them a sandwich… Here are a few ideas.
Everyone likes to be appreciated. It’s one of the basic needs we all have, according to Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. When we are appreciated we know that someone has recognized our worth, and they are grateful for us. It contributes to our own self-esteem, which we need for good mental health. Even though humility is important, we all need to know that we are valued.
On Mother’s Day, you could start there, and be specific. Don’t just say “Hey Mom, you rock!” While I guarantee that it would make her happy, she might want to know if you know the depth of how she’s loved, supported, nurtured, disciplined, and cared for you. Oh yes, discipline is essential. Of course we want our mothers to love us unconditionally, but they also need to impart to us the social structure of our communities. What we can and shouldn’t do in certain circumstances and places.
I had a friend who was raised as an orphan in an institution. She lacked the nurturing a “mother” provided. She had three children and proclaimed, “My job is to love them unconditionally. Let the rest of the world teach them discipline.”
She appeared very affectionate and nurturing. She didn’t teach them how to behave in church, and who knows where else. Sadly, two of her children ended up institutionalized. Appreciate the structure your mother is teaching you!
Here is a quick review of different areas of your being that might merit appreciation by you.
– Body: How does she help your body become strong and healthy? Or, what do you like about her body? Her eyes when she smiles at you? Or her hugs when you need a little lift?
– Mind: How has she helped develop your mind and trained your thinking? Do you remember her reading to you or taking you to the library or exhibits? Does she make you come up with your own solutions to problems, or help you with homework? Or, what do you like about her mind? Is it creative? Does she have a sense of humor? Can she remember well?
– Spirit: How is she helping you connect with your soul and your creator? Does she demonstrate humanitarian love, honesty, peace, respect and integrity?
– Social: What do you like about the way she prepares you to be with others? Does she tell you what to expect when you have to do something for the first time? Did she teach you good manners, the ways things are done in your specific culture, and also the “melting pot” culture? Do you know the school rules and state laws? Does she encourage you to develop conflict resolution skills, or help you work out problems respectfully with others when they arise?
Maybe you can let her know. Not just on one day of the year, but all this week, and beyond Mother’s Day. When you get good at it, practice on your father, and brothers and sisters. Most definitely tell your teacher. They also work hard to get you a good start in life. You probably already compliment your friends, but what about people you don’t know so well?
It’s an act of kindness to appreciate others, and science has also shown that when we do acts of kindness or even observe them, endorphins are secreted into our bodies and make us feel better.
So now let’s focus on how to show mom we love her. We all need love. Without it babies don’t thrive, and our elders pine away and die. Moms and others who give it a lot also need to receive it. According to Dr. Gary Chapman in his book, “The 5 Love Languages”, there are basically five ways that people are comfortable with accepting our love.
– Gifts – People appreciate that you cared for them by selecting that perfect gift, something that demonstrates that the giver knows them well enough to go out of their way and get them something special that they would appreciate. And here’s a hint. It should be personal, not for the house, like an iron or pair of pruning shears UNLESS it was specifically requested. Rather, if you know that your mom wears a lot of green, find a beautiful scarf or a pair of green earrings, a necklace that would be beautiful around her neck. Jewelry is good. Notice whether she prefers silver or gold.
– Quality time – Some people just want your undivided attention, without any interruptions or distractions. So cellphones off! This says, “I want to be with you more than anything else in the world.” Taking time to really be close to a person is a gift to you both, and a treasure to carry you over the bumpy times.
– Affection – Some people like to be physically touched, and cuddled. They would like to hold hands, or will give you a pat on the back or arm. They’ll rumple your hair, and give hugs. Touching is reassuring to them that they are loved. These are the people you show love to with a big hug and kiss, and better yet, by an occasional shoulder rub or touch throughout the day.
– Affirmations of love – Poets wanted here! These people want to hear from you that you love them. And they’ll want to hear it more than once. American poetess Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a famous poem entitled, “How do I Love You, Let me Count the Ways.” You could use that as a title on a page, and then list what you love and appreciate about your mother. Add photos or illustrations of you two together.
– Acts of service – Some folks like it when you do things for them. When you do something, just for one person, it says, “I care enough about you to give up some of my time to take care of you, or do something for you.”
Make mom a cake, or better yet, clean the house, wash her car, fix dinner, or weed the garden. It may help to ask her specifically what she’d like you to do, because some people are very particular about how things are done. Get your siblings to help!
You may think that your mom wants to receive love the way you do, but it may not be so.
Dr. Chapman found that married couples had to “learn” each other’s love reception styles. I hope you’ve paid attention to how your mother figure gives love, because that will give you a clue as to how he or she will receive it.
I know plenty of moms who like gifts, but just as many who don’t because they have so much already, and are particular about things. But they love being told how much they mean to their kids, or how they do something particularly well. They’d love to be taken out to dinner or a movie and have quality time with you. Or they are so tired they just can’t clean the yard, and would love the help. Offer a neck, shoulder and foot massage. I remember receiving an amazing shoulder massage from a 9-year-old girl, so don’t underestimate your ability. If you have loving, caring thoughts for your mom, it will be received as that.
Have fun this Mother’s Day. It’s always good to learn how to express love.
Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org