By Mariah Schultz
I know you love your mom.
I know how hard it can be to get along with her.
I know that sometimes she drives you crazy.
I know that it feels like she smothers you, or doesn’t pay enough attention.
I know she says things that embarrass you.
I know she does things that make you feel furious, and sometimes you can’t explain why.
I know because I’ve been there.
Let me tell you a story.
For two years, I worked for an organization called NET, which stands for the National Evangelization Teams. Their mission statement is: “challenging young Catholics to love Christ and embrace the life of the Church.” One way this is done is through retreats put on for Catholic middle and high school students all over the United States. One day, late in January of 2016, my NET team was in Iowa. The night before, we had done a retreat at a little, old Catholic church. The next morning Morgan (my team leader) and I had gone to the church to pray. A few minutes after we sat down, I heard a woman ask, “Excuse me, were you two ladies at the NET retreat last night?”
Morgan and I said, “Yes.”
This mother responded, “My name is Janice. My daughter, Olivia, was on your retreat last night.”
When I heard her, my first thought was: What could we have done that might have offended this mom so much that she wanted to come and confront us about it??
I couldn’t think of anything, but that didn’t mean there was nothing wrong.
“Girls,” Janice said, “I’d like to ask you for some advice.”
At this point, I took a breath of relief, and we responded, “Okay.”
Janice sat down and went on to tell us about how her daughter had recently become moody.
“Olivia argues with me about everything! I make her breakfast every morning, because if I didn’t, she wouldn’t eat before school. I make her toast and give it to her as she walks out the door. She used to love and appreciate that, but now she shouts at me for putting too much Nutella on it. I just don’t know what to do.”
As she spoke, my heart became heavy and my eyes started filling with tears. My thoughts went straight to: Wow. That’s exactly how I treat my mom sometimes. And: That argument sounds painfully familiar.
Morgan and I were at a loss for words, which was okay because Janice had a lot to say. She was a heartbroken mom. As she talked, we responded with quiet mhm’s and oh’s and gentle nods. We both knew what it was like to argue with our moms about things that didn’t matter. This problem… it was something we had only seen from the daughter’s perspective before.
In that moment, I was offered an opportunity to truly evaluate how I’ve treated my mom in the past. My heart broke because I realized that I had done to my mom what Olivia was doing to hers. And, probably like Olivia, I’m not sure why I shouted at my mom. I’m not sure why I gave her the cold shoulder time after time.
I remembered times that my mom asked me to empty the dishwasher, to clean my room, or to fold some laundry; and instead of doing those things, I did what I wanted. When my mom would come home and ask why those jobs weren’t done, I would shout from the other room, “I was too busy,” “I forgot,” or “I’ll do it later.” And honestly, my mind oftentimes asked, So what?
After talking to Janice, I knew I needed to call my mother. I knew I needed to apologize. I knew I needed my mom to know how much I love her.
So I did, and our conversation went a little bit like this:
“Hi, Mariah, how are you?”
“I’m okay… Hey, Mom, I was talking to this woman today, and she was telling me about how her teenage daughter treats her. It really broke my heart because I know that I’ve treated you badly before,” at this point I was tearing up. “And I’m really sorry. I’m sorry for every time I hurt you or fought with you. Can you forgive me?”
“Mariah,” my mom’s voice was full of love and compassion. “Of course I forgive you. You were already forgiven.”
“Thanks, Mom,” I said earnestly, “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
I think you and I both know your mom doesn’t do the things that she does to make you angry or to hurt you. We know she does it simply because she loves the living daylights out of you. You and I know that if she could, she would take away all your pain, remove any cause for tears, and replace those with reasons to laugh and dance. But maybe we have a hard time believing it. Maybe we think that our moms just like to be right. And sometimes, that might not be totally wrong. (She’s still a human, you know?)
But here’s something that shocked me: we don’t get our moms forever.
Right before Janice talked to me and Morgan, I had learned that my mom had a brain tumor for the second time. I didn’t know yet that it is grade four and that it will someday be the death of my mom. But now, I know that I probably don’t get my mom for very much longer. Science and doctors will tell you that she probably won’t be here to help me pick out a dress for my wedding or to see her future grandchildren. We hope against hope that they’re wrong. Either way, the greatest thing I can do today is to love her with everything I have and to let her love me. Oftentimes, that means apologizing for the ways I’ve messed up, forgiving her for the ways she has, and telling her I love her.
What I’m trying to say is this:
Take a minute to talk to your mom.
Tell her you’re sorry.
Tell her you love her.
Take an extra second to say, “Thank you for being my mom.”
You never know when you don’t get another tomorrow with her.
**Some names and locations were changed for the sake of anonymity.