What did your mom say when you were a kid? You know, the things she said a lot. In my house, it was “How on earth does your room get THAT messy?” OK, that’s not exactly the kind of thing I mean.
Some might call them “mom-isms.” Tell me if any of these sound familiar…
- If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?
- Because I said so!
- When I was your age…
- Just wait until your father gets home!
- I’ll give you something to cry about!
- Who died and made you king?
- You’ll understand when you’re older.
If you just rolled your eyes at those, you’re in good company. And even if your mother’s “ism” of choice wasn’t on that list, you can probably spout off the one(s) she did use… and still hear them in her voice.
But it’s a new day, and I think it’s time to revisit the mom-isms that take up residence in our lives. As I looked up the familiar phrases online (as part of the extensive research process I do for every piece, and in no way because looking up mom-isms was more fun than folding laundry), I found some that were funny, some that were angry, some that were just plain boring. (One web site listed “no” under its mom-isms. Really? Didja think about that one real hard?) Some of them made a point, but many were just easy-to-utter phrases without any real meaning behind them.
Now I don’t want to make it sound like I’m above a good mom-ism. Who among us isn’t guilty of voicing the phrase, “No one ever said life is fair” to a surly child? Or an out-of-desperation, “Because… well… because I said so, that’s why!”? But here’s the thing… If my kids are going to have my key phrases engraved on their brains, if they are going to hear me speaking these words in their heads for the rest of their lives… I want my words to have weight. I want them to be intentional. I want my voice to hold the messages that will carry them through a tough day at school, the peer pressure of their teenage years, the murky waters of friendships and relationships, the joy of accomplishment and agony of defeat. Someday, when they are laughing at The Things Mom Always Said (because you know they will), I hope they also say, “Yeah, but they helped me, too.”
Friends, it’s time for some new mom-isms.
So here are mine–the phrases that I have put together over time and am carefully teaching to my children. Here are 5 things I want my kids to remember always:
Err on the side of kindness. I recently wrote an entire blog post on this idea, but here’s the main point: What is the kindest thing I can do in this situation? If you have a choice between a loving word and a joking/teasing one, choose the loving word. If a friend’s comment has you wondering, “What did she mean by that?”, give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she meant the best thing. If you have the opportunity to show kindness but you aren’t sure how it will be received, show kindness. When it comes to relationship, we can err on the side of pride and fear or on the side of kindness. Err on the side of kindness.
We are a team. This is what we call our family motto. I want our kids to remember that we work together and support each other. When someone at school runs up to you laughing and says, “Your brother just tripped and dropped his entire lunch!”, you do not laugh. You go help him clean it up, and then you share your own lunch. Friends will come and go. Your brother/sister/mother/father is your teammate, which means that they will be there to support and help you no matter what. They will back you up and protect you–and you are expected to do the same for them. And do you know what? When we work together as a team, we can accomplish just about anything.
Consider others more important than yourself. Humility is not a naturally-occurring gift for most of us. And to be honest, it is losing esteem in our society at large. Many today consider it foolish. But in our age of entitlement, I truly believe that humility is one of the greatest gifts I can give my children. And I have it on good authority, since this came straight from the Bible (Philippians 2:3).
If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. I struggle daily with kids who want to put in the least effort possible to get the job done well enough to not get in trouble. I do NOT want my children to grow up as people who merely do what needs to be done, but as people who work hard to do the best they possibly can.
Be kind. Be you. Love Jesus. I take no credit at all for coming up with this one. These are the wise words of Jen Hatmaker from For the Love. This is the message she wishes to teach her children, and I am stealing gleaning from her insight for my own family. So very much is summed up in these 6 words. Loving others, owning who you are (not comparing, not waiting for someone to tell you who you are), and loving God in both word and deed. It’s all there. The important stuff.
These may or may not be the five things you want to pass along to your kids. You may have other key values you want to impart—and honestly, as time goes by, mine may change too. That’s OK! So how do we create our own mottos for life?
Our mom-isms should be flexible, ready to adjust based on our kids and our needs. But they shouldn’t be haphazard. This new generation of mom-isms need to be intentional and rooted in the values we wish to pass along to our children. We need to think through what we want our children to take with them when they leave and craft our words into memorable and meaningful phrases.
Side note: A word about choosing Bible verses. This is a phenomenal idea, utilizing God’s wisdom to guide our children’s minds and hearts. But here is my one word of caution: If you are going to use a Bible verse, make sure you are using it as a tool to guide them, not a weapon to beat them. Children who feel like the Bible is constantly used against them are not likely to love God’s word or the God who spoke it into being.
Then, as we begin to apply them, we need to explain what they mean to us. The first several times I trotted out the phrases above, they were surrounded by conversation. I wanted to be sure the kids fully understood what I was trying to communicate. What do I mean when I say, “err on the side of kindness”? What does it look like to “consider <insert name, most likely a sibling> as more important than yourself” in this situation? What things get in the way of “doing the job right”? It’s important that we take the time to unpack what we really mean, and not just expect our kids to interpret everything that we wrap up into a few key words. After all, if my husband of 15 years and I can still manage to misunderstand each other, how can I expect my 8-year-old to delve into the deeps of my meaning if I don’t take the time to spell it out for him?
After a while, though, they start to get the idea… And the eye roll. (They actually master that second one rather quickly.) It doesn’t take long before they can see where a conversation is headed and begin to draw their own conclusions. At this point, the questions that I listed in the paragraph above are no longer the things that I am unpacking for them, they are questions I am posing to them, expecting them to answer for me. And eventually (and wow, do I love this moment), I just give them the look… and the child will say (with the eye roll, of course), “I know, Mom. Err on the side of kindness.” And I’ll say, “So………..” And the child will answer, “So I should help Matt find his cleats even though he was rude to me on the way home from school.” And it’s a beautiful thing.
But if I have learned one thing in my 36 years, it’s this: I never seem to fully learn anything. I have to keep getting lessons in the same thing over and over and over, and God is so faithful and patient in His reminders. It is only fair that I offer the same grace to my children. In other words, be patient and consistent in the lessons you are trying to teach them. They will get it more and more, but there will always be times they need reminders. Just like there will always be times I need reminders.
Someday my kids will be grown, and they will (I hope) get together and reminisce. And they will at some point talk about me. They will, quite likely, complain–like we all do about our mothers. They will laugh at the things that I said. But I hope that they will also, even if it is deep, deep down, remember them fondly and think of the times they heard my voice and made a better decision or got through a hard time or felt my love.
That is what a mom-ism should be.
What do you want your kids to know ALWAYS? Share your meaningful mom-isms with me in the comments!