Monday, May 6, 2013

My Mother's Day Talk

As a young grad student years ago, I was assigned as the concluding speaker on Mother’s Day. We lived at the time in the ward where I was baptized as a child, and on many Sundays in that ward I felt like I was 16 instead of 26. My life experience wasn’t all that significant: I’d served a mission, married, graduated from BYU with a couple of kids and was in grad school and (I think, if I remember the year right) we were expecting our third son at the time. I was just young enough to have no idea how little I knew about things.

But there were several things I knew:
1. I had loved my own mother. I was her youngest child and she and I were great friends and had been as long as I could remember. Because of my father’s work, he was gone a lot and in those times, Mom was both mother and father, yet when he came home, she somehow allowed him to fill his role. (Looking back, I realize that she was probably so exhausted, she was thrilled to have him come home and fill his role.) My mom was faithful and active in church; she had served in many Relief Society callings, including twice as president. 
2. I loved my wife, including in her chosen role as a mother. From the time we married, my wife wanted to be a mom. She was the oldest in a large family and felt strongly that she also wanted to be a mother more than anything else. She completed her degree at BYU (after changing her major to a high-hour major in her senior year), but had no real desire to work outside the home. That said, during grad school, she did work to help support our family beyond what my work at the university provided. As our third son was on the way, we decided it would be more economical to borrow money rather than have her work just to pay for child care, and she was happy to be home.

3. I recognized that I, and my children, benefited from contributions of far more women than just our mothers. In my case, I thought of Primary teachers and Sunday School teachers – a few in particular that had been remarkable influences on me. In my children’s case I thought of my sister, then in her early 30’s and unmarried. She lived near us and was frankly instrumental in keeping our starving student family from starving during those years. But more importantly she also provided my little boys with love and attention.
As I thought about Mother’s Day, it made sense to me to honor all of those influences. As I prepared my talk, I read about Ardeth Kapp, who was then serving as the General Young Women’s President. Sister Kapp had no children of her own. I read where she had reported that she and her husband had prayed for children and even considered adoption but felt that they should not pursue that. Her biography in the Ensign records:

Although the Kapps never had the family of their own they longed for, they can say they have had children. Youth of all ages have flocked to their home. A drawer in the kitchen contains a constant supply of cookies. “And now,” Sister Kapp smiles, “after a quarter of a million prayers for children, I have responsibility for a quarter of a million young women. I never expected such results.”
Sister Kapp’s experience was meaningful to me as I considered my own sister, also unmarried at the time. I determined that my Mother’s Day address should also honor sisters who were not mothers themselves.

As I said above, I was young enough to have no idea the choppy seas I was entering. So I wrote a talk and I spoke from my heart. I praised my own mother, my lovely wife, and other women who helped to mother me and my children. I quoted Sister Kapp as I talked about the influence that women can have in the lives of children.

As it happens, the talk was well received. One sister thanked me for the first Mother’s Day talk in years that didn’t make her feel guilty. (It was hard for me to imagine how she could have felt guilty; she was the mom of a good friend of mine and by all observations was terrific. Since then, however, I’ve learned that it doesn’t take much for even good moms to feel guilty.)

I am grateful to honor moms. I miss my own mother who has been gone more than a decade now. I honor my lovely wife who is an awesome mom, even on days she doesn’t feel like she is. And I honor others who have mothered me and my children through the years.

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