A mother’s legacy
by Sharon Simpson
Mothers of all ages can take themselves back to those days when they were caring for infants, toddlers and little children. It is amazing how quickly those memories can flood our minds as we reflect on when we became a mother.
There are days that seem like they will never end when you are in the middle of diapering, snuggling, feeding and playing with your small children. There is fighting, timeouts, temper tantrums and so much more that can make the day drag on. The exhaustion is real. There are many nights when young moms simply do not get the required hours of sleep that give the brain its ability to function at prime.
Those were the days… Seniors smile as they reflect on their days as a young mother. “Do you have any helpful advice for young moms?” I ask. “They shouldn’t forget to feed and diaper them,” she says with a laugh. Dementia has taken some of her memories, but she still remembers how to ensure a child will survive. Something else is going on in her mind – she is remembering with fondness a small child that looked to her for love, affection, care and tenderness. Her eyes light up, but she doesn’t add anything more to her advice.
“I taught my kids how to have fun”, says another senior. “We needed to kill gophers back in the prairies and sometimes we did that together. It was a competition. I remember that one time, I got 40 of them”, she laughs. “That won’t help young moms much, will it?”
The other women laugh and share their own stories of survival in the prairies during the depression. They all know how to kill gophers. It’s a skill that few urban young mothers will be teaching in this day and age.
“Being a mother is the best thing I ever did,” says another elderly woman. “It was so much fun for me – and the grandkids are even better.”
What is your advice to young moms? I ask. “Don’t let everyone tell you to do this or that or the other thing. Don’t listen to them all. You will know in your heart how to raise that baby. Sometimes you’ll feel lost, but you’ll know what it means to love them.”
“Sing to those little ones. You can put all of God’s love and care into a song and put that right into their heart. My favourite times were when I would snuggle my baby on the rocking chair and sing love songs from God and me to them. I did that for my grandchildren, too.”
“Feed them well! There is nothing more inviting than a lovely meal around a family table. People ask me all the time how I get my huge adult grandsons to come over to grandma’s place – it’s the food – and with the food is so much love. I always ask them what is going on in their life. I’ve talked openly with them since they were little, so they share easily – we aren’t starting over each time we get together.”
“I think the choices for young moms are really hard these days. I’m glad that I didn’t have to deal with all the technology. The world is more dangerous with all those phones and tablets. My kids ran around in the fields and played Anti-I-Over or played with jacks. They were slopping around in a creek instead of accidentally finding pornography on the internet. I pray for the next generation of moms. It’s harder even though they have so much more money and so much more stuff.”
“It doesn’t matter what kind of highchair or stroller you get. Your child will one day grow out of them and become a wonderful walking person. The young moms are so caught up in making sure they have exactly the right thing. I can’t imagine having to make those choices. We made-do with what we had. My youngest slept in a trundle box that we slid below the bunk beds. It’s probably why he has to go to the chiropractor so often,” she laughs.
“Enjoy your children as much as you can… it’s so hard to find time to play and laugh and enjoy them, but that’s the time that really matters. It’s that fondness that brings you together when you get old, too… at least that’s how it has been for me.”
“I guess you have to make a decision about diapers. We never did. All we had was cloth. Now, the young moms have to decide between cloth and disposable. We had to hand wash the diapers outside in the winter and hang them up to drip and freeze. I finished the drying over the wood stove in our kitchen – the same stove where I cooked! Can you believe that?! They hung right over the stove and dripped dry. I think I’d still choose cloth because the environment matters. Some of these young moms care a lot about the environment.”
“There is so much you can do to help a child get an education these days. Don’t be afraid of jobs that are way far away in the wilderness. After I got my teaching degree, I spent most of my life in rural British Columbia teaching in one-room classrooms. It was the best way to live. Even if you are a woman, you can survive in those parts of BC. I would do anything I could to educate my children and then send them off to do wonderful things for others.”
“Pray for them. That’s never stopped for me. I pray for all my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Sometimes I forget because there are so many – and they keep on coming!” she laughs. “I pray that they will find God’s heart and follow Him with all of their own heart, too.”
These senior women were eager to share their insights – and none of them were judgmental. I was expecting formulas and “to-do” lists. Instead, I heard kindness and concern for the next generations. I heard these women ache for how difficult it is to raise a child in this time of prosperity, affluence, choices and technology. They shared the importance of connection and most of all, the foundation of love.
“Love them,” they said. “Love them as much as you can.”
And so, we hear the voice of one generation of mothers to another. They are eager to fan into flame the energy and gifts of the next generations of women. Being a mother is a noble endeavour – and one that is full of adventure. They are hopeful and prayerful and grateful to be asked to share their thoughts, their experiences and their hearts.
Happy Mother’s Day to you all – young and old – as you celebrate all that it means to raise up the next generations – whether or not you teach them to kill gophers!
Sharon Simpson is the Director of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement at Menno Place, a senior’s campus-of-care located in Abbotsford, BC