I was sitting in my home office on Mother’s Day contemplating what – if any - wonderful words of wisdom I could offer to link the nation’s celebration of moms to the message of Nice Guys. It should have come easily to me, but I admit that I was having trouble conjuring up the creative juices on this particular day. Maybe it was a case of writer’s block, or maybe it was just an off day. Or perhaps it was because my Mother’s Day started off with a warped creative twist in the morning.
Despite my best intentions of allowing ample lead time to get Mother’s Day cards for my mom and my wife, I once again procrastinated to the point of finding myself in the unenviable position early Sunday morning of having nothing at the ready to honor the countless moments of sacrifice by these two amazing women. The only available options were to hit the Hallmark section of the drugstore with all of the other last-minute Louies, or offer up the traditional breakfast in bed. But I honestly didn’t think I could take the humiliation of standing in the cash register line with 10 other delinquent dads, each holding one of the last remaining corny Mother’s Day cards that everybody else had obviously passed over. Of course, since my mother lives two hours away in Connecticut, neither a last minute card purchase nor a breakfast in bed (at least not served hot) were possibilities anyway. Given this predicament, I made the executive decision to rely on modern technology for a way out. And after a brief search of the Internet, I found the last-minute shopper’s dream; unlimited “e-cards” for only $3! Perfect!
After reviewing dozens of card choices, I settled on the “make-your-own talking card” which allows you to create talking images that seem to be actually speaking any message you type in. For my mom’s card, I was actually able to lift a mug shot of myself and use that as the talking image. How cool is that? Although I have to admit, once I loaded the image, typed the message and gave it a test run, I found myself looking at a very strange end product, to say the least. Seeing my own picture with eyes blinking, eyebrows moving up and down and words coming out of a very warped-looking mouth (how do they DO that, anyway?) was quite disturbing. I wasn’t sure if my mom would laugh, or be freaked out of her mind and have nightmares for weeks. Fortunately, within minutes of my sending this weird creation, she called me and was laughing hysterically. The bizarre e-card was a hit after all! (Whew!)
I was glad to bring a smile to Mom on this Mother’s Day. She certainly deserves it. She has given so much to her children for so many years. Of course, on this Mother’s Day she once again actually gave something else; a topic to write about. In the middle of my writer’s block I decided to simply publish one of my mother’s favorite poems. During my childhood, my mom and dad had tacked a copy of the poem up on our kitchen bulletin board. It remained there for years and I read it often.
The title of the poem was displayed in bold letters at the top of the page. And it read,
Children Learn What They Live
Beneath the bold title were the following verses:
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient.
If children live with praise, they learn to appreciate.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and others.
If children live with friendliness, they learn that the world is a nice place in which to live.
I never knew the context or author of those words and only recently, some four decades later, did I discover that these were the words from a poem written in 1954 by a family counselor named Dorothy Law Nolte, PhD. Dr. Nolte had been writing a weekly advice column for a local newspaper at the time and simply scratched the poem out in her kitchen one day in order to make a publishing deadline. For years thereafter she was unaware that the poem had been picked up by news wire services and reprinted over and over again, becoming an emblem for positive parenting, and ending up on refrigerators and bulletin boards in kitchens all over America and even the world; including mine.
These words are wonderful words to live by, and my mom and dad tried to do just that. I’m glad that I was reminded of these words by thinking of my own mom on Mother’s Day. Thanks, Mom. Again.