Cherish is the Word
Jesse and Nick Faris celebrate homecoming and birthday with daughter, Rhet.
If you had to choose one word to describe what you've learned as a mother, what would it be? Courage, balance, grit? Like a tree shaped by wind and rain, motherhood grows us in unimaginable ways. We asked some local moms to claim one word that best captures their journey as a parent. We hope their stories will inspire you to consider your word, too. Happy Mother’s Day.
Tonya Love, a nurse at The Med, has found that raising her boys as a single mom has forced her to face her fears. “Raising my boys has taught me courage. Chasing toads, baiting hooks with worms, and sleeping in the wilderness would have never been on my bucket list. I have always been grossed out by it all. But after my divorce, I realized I would have to do things I had never done before, especially with my boys. It has taken a copious amount of courage to get over my fears and phobias so I could be present for the experience, which I now treasure deep within my heart.”
Motherhood requires us to recognize the unique needs of each of our children. Michele Price, a potter, has developed “the ability to see that one child needs more discipline in a certain area and the other needs more lenience in the same area. One child needs a big bear hug, the other a pat on the back.” Price, who sells her work at the Trolley Stop and Memphis Farmers Market, says, “I am always surprised by what a balancing act parenting can be. This past year each of my children made me so proud I could bust…but they balanced it for me. My daughter bought a house all by herself, on her terms, showing me just how strong she is. And my son opened up his heart to somebody and got married, showing me just how strong he is. Everything in balance.”
Ashley Harper, grants and initiatives officer at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, cites the ability to take the long view in parenting her two kids, both now in their teens. “Some of the best parenting advice I ever received was, ‘Everything is a phase. Good stuff. Bad stuff. Usually lasts two weeks.’ So when the kids were little this was very helpful for tantrums and gross habits. It was usually about true. Also, it was good to understand that my relationships with my children will change over time, and when there is a difficult phase, I know it won't necessarily last.”
Nikki Jones-Wallace, a facilitator with the Shelby County Schools, cites selflessness. “I had made tremendous sacrifices as a young person so that I would be able to arrange my future in a neat little package: good job, nice home, caring spouse. Then, the kids came. I no longer cared about how clean the house was or how many degrees I could earn. With every decision, I first consider how it will affect the children. Now, I jokingly say that I’m an adult so I can do what I want — when my kids grow up (and I’m not in any particular hurry for that to happen)."
Jesse Faris recently became a mother after waiting more than two years to adopt, a journey she chronicles in her blog, A Little and a Lot. “I took custody of our 16-month-old daughter in Ethiopia on the day after Independence Day. Becoming the first-time parent of an almost-toddler in a third-world country taught me one thing: there's no such thing as Super Mom.” Her word, dependence, quickly became apparent.
“I completely relied on the help of my Maker, my mother, and my mate. All preconceived notions of self-awesomeness were shed as I entered that intense season of mommy boot camp. It seems contradictory to say that I grew through motherhood by shrinking, but confidently asking for and accepting help has been my greatest lesson in motherhood.
Mom Kira Dault says motherhood has grown her, both physically and emotionally. A recent grocery trip with her two young children in tow drove the point home, “It was all I could to do get around corners without bumping into someone or something. Motherhood has made me bigger," she says. "Becoming a mother has stretched and bent me in the two years since I gave birth to my daughter. My body is bigger, which I have both loved and hated; my hips, thighs, and breasts are all expanded from two pregnancies in quick succession. Like this new and sometimes alien body, my spirit also is bigger, growing to encompass my two children in ways I had not imagined possible, every day expanding and growing more capable of love and patience, courage and resilience.”
“Parenting has given me grit," says Lurene Cachola Kelly, a journalism professor at the University of Memphis. "It's an attribute that really kicked in after the arrival of my second child. Working full-time and raising two young children makes you realize you can handle — a lot. I'm not saying I handle all things well. It's just that I know I can get through anything, sometimes with grace, other times, not so much. But now I know that whatever the challenges the day brings, my little family will, at some point, laugh and give each other kisses. That knowledge gives me strength.”
Cayce Dawson Pappas jokes that parenting has taught humor, but also to be present and an advocate for your children. “Sometimes you have to let the Christmas cookies be a little over baked when you're busy consoling a toddler who’s just bonked his head on the dining room table. Other times, you find yourself kneeling in a silk skirt and hose in a parking lot so you can see eye-to-eye with your child as he excitedly tells you about the worm he found on the playground earlier in the day. Both of these things would have been unimaginable to me before I met my sons."
“Parenting also means doing whatever it takes to be there for your children, even when one child's needs must come before another's. Like when your youngest child is diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor and you have to sit your oldest two sons down and explain to them what's going on. And no matter how unfair it may seem, their little brother gets to call the shots for however much time he has left.
And that they are welcome to vent to you and to your husband about how incredibly wrong this is, but they need to try to not say anything in front of their little brother that they might regret later. In the long run, this benefits them as well, but that's hard for them to see when they're 11. Finally, you learn that wisdom sometimes comes in small packages, as you watch your ill child willingly take his big brothers' feelings into account, even when he knows he doesn't have to. Silly me—I thought I had it all figured out but, boy, was I wrong!"