Every so often (really, practically daily), I see little gift-store books or internet memes sharing “mother’s words of wisdom” or something to that effect.
These are deep, insightful sentiments intended to guide the offspring through the obstacles of life. They are philosophical paradoxes:
“It’s not about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself,” or
“The future does not lie in front of you, it lies inside of you.”
Go ahead, do a quick internet search and you’ll see that Pinterest has 269 “Best Mommy Words of Wisdom,” and that’s just for starters. There’s Mother’s Words of Wisdom to Sons, Mother’s Words of Wisdom to Daughters, to children about to marry, to children raising children, to children adopting pets, raising plants, cleaning out basements, changing tires…Mothers have Words of Wisdom for every possible person and situation imaginable.
These Words are illustrated with waterfalls, winding roads, or mountain vistas, all intended to underscore the fact that the phrases are dripping with sagacity. Even Harriet Beecher Stowe proclaimed decades ago that “mothers are the most instinctive philosophers.”
I hate to let Harriet down, but I often see these “things my mother told me” Yoda-isms and a get a little pang of guilt, racking my brain to see if I can recall any pearls of wisdom that I shared with my own children.
What did I tell them?
“Don’t sleep with wet hair.”
“Floss your teeth.”
“Stand up straight.”
I don’t remember doling out wisdom while I was trying to get them to school on time. I was mainly calling out orders and frantic interrogations while playing Beat the Clock:
“Turn off the lights!”
“Do you have your homework?”
“Where are your shoes?”
Now that they’re all grown up, and with no grandchildren anywhere on the horizon, my opportunity for imparting life lessons in pithy nuggets has practically passed. Yet still, my words of wisdom are purely pragmatic:
“Remember your power cord.”
“Don’t walk alone at night.”
“Get enough sleep.”
It seems as if the world around us has been boiled down to sound-bites and taglines, Insta-phrases and 30-character bios. But that’s not how we live our daily lives. We live in episodes. We live in mini-series. We live in full-fledged stories.
My words to my children were simply fragments of a whole, spoken to them as I tried to nurture them through childhood to adulthood. I’m not sure if I uttered wisdom, but I did try to voice encouragement.
I wish I could report that I had sent my kids off to school with some kind of Zen-like phrase:
“The road that lies before you may be rocky, but there is beauty in the journey.”
But I didn’t.
What was it that I did say? What words will my children remember of those I told them if they were to write their own book?
“God bless you.”
“I’m praying for you.”
“I love you.”
Maybe that was enough.