Mother’s Day Lessons

I’m a bit haunted by Mother’s Day—a difficult day for me at times. Over the past decade or so, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am now motherless and am myself a child-free adult (that’s a fancy new term I just learned this week!). Both facts can be a source of some sadness, a reaction I’ve heard from other women as well. But I don’t stay sad for long when I go through my grateful heart inventory. There is so much for which I am grateful. And today, at the top of that list: mothers of all types and the lessons they teach us.

Encouragement: Laying claim to having the “best mother ever” is a bit overused. So instead, I’ll focus on a few things I’ve learned from my mother. The first is words of encouragement. My mother was the self-labeled president of my fan club. Yes, she signed her cards that way! Her encouragement was her mantra. I still hear her words of encouragement whispered in my ear on those tough days. I always knew a phone call to my mother would lift my spirits and refocus me on my task ahead with revived strength. She knew just what to say. And I knew she was always in my corner.

Exuberance: The other lesson is my mother’s exuberance for life. When I was accepted to the University of Virginia, she became an instant Wahoo and an expert at hosting tailgate parties with orange and blue napkins. No one else could wear that wig of orange exactly like she could! She sang and danced and twirled through life. She knew how to mark a milestone with a celebration or a kind word (that sometimes turned into excessive bragging to others about her children!) She was fearless when it came to being involved in her children’s lives and drinking in all that life would offer, no matter how short.

Time. My sister inherited our mother’s parenting genes in spades. She has relished her role as the mother of five children and a stepdaughter and four grandchildren. Our mother’s mothering skills and traditions live on in her and her adult daughter, who also carries on the traditions! Most important is her gift of time. The attention she gives to each child, the special bond she creates, the creative and spontaneous ways she shows up. And oh, how that investment is paying off in the future adults she is nurturing. So many special memories they will cherish well into the future. In fact, my sister is such a great mother that she was blessed to have her birthday often fall on Mother’s Day—like today.

Play/Priority. My aunt is another incredible example of motherhood—and grandmotherhood (is that a word?) With two children and six grandchildren, she actually rearranged her life and moved to be closer to them so she could be present in their lives. She makes the people in her life a priority. And she knows how to play—whether on the floor at a Gymboree or in a Princess Palace or on a horse in the field or in a chair with a book. Her playful heart wards off fear, anger, worry, and frustration like a burst of sunshine. Her investment is also playing out in the eyes of those children as they witness her example of grace in play.

Laughter. I had no idea when I got married fifteen years ago that I would get the benefit of the most generous and coolest Mother-in-Law ever. She loves traveling as much as I do. And she loves to laugh—with a witty son like hers that is a requirement. But she is also willing to laugh at herself. A special talent that smooths out the rough edges of daily life. And she loves the beach and makes a mean margarita! Add in a sunrise or a sunset and you have all the elements for a good day.

Vulnerability/Communication. My girlfriends have long been an inspiration to me in their roles as mothers and how they handle their work-life balance. But it’s how they communicate that has always amazed me. They lead with their values and are vulnerable enough to admit when something goes sideways with their children. They share these stories with each other, learn, and move on. The fruits of their labor are now shining brightly as their children enter adulthood. Such a satisfying feeling, I have to believe.

Beauty of Nature. And of course, Mother Nature for all she created for us to enjoy, admire, and learn.

With a list of life lessons like this, who has time to be sad for very long? I have a grateful heart for these (and so many other) amazing women! The mothers in my life have taught me how to live and to appreciate what matters most in life—each other.


  1. So many extraordinary women in your life! And you are loved by all of us. Thank you for being my daughter in law and my friend.

  2. Great focus, Denise. I am blessed to still have my mother still living close to me, but my dad died in 2012. Father’s Day is a bittersweet day for me, and I’m thinking I need to look at it through a similar lens.

    Oh, and agreed that you have a really cool mother-in-law. Love Marie!

  3. Yet another beautifully expressed writing. Thanks for sharing your talent with me. Love to you and Pete. Have a wonderful day. Elaine

  4. Dear Denise,
    This is beautiful! I am inspired. You’ve offered much to contemplate and reasons for gratitude.
    Love by the bushels to you, Pete and your families,
    Mary Ellen

  5. Wow !!! Your best entry yet 💜. But maybe it hits me at my core ! ( more so than history 😂) I have to admit it took me several attempts to read the whole thing….couldn’t see through the tears 😭 Your writing and YOU continue to amaze me ! These words will stay in my heart! Thanks for sharing 🥰

  6. Denise, I truly believe you are thinking in a parallel with me…I love Mother’s Day to celebrate my daughter, a single mother of 2. But you are making me appreciate what I have passed on and the importance of all those years of nurturing… Thank you for sharing and making me think. I can also understand the struggles and demons my mother experienced and the undying love and protection she provided as our biggest fan! God Bless you and your witty husband!

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