When Sam finally got his PhD, we moved to Florida to become real people. Even though our income increased exponentially, we found that real world expenses increased almost as much as real world salaries. So the first few years when we had anticipated being absolutely swimming in cash were actually still quite financially challenging.
One day my best friend the same age in a very similar life phase and I sat out on my trampoline discussing the struggle of trying to make ends meet while living beyond the days of ramen and hot dogs.
Within only a few months, however, an opportunity came to my family that greatly relieved the stress and made life much more comfortable. When I got pregnant with our fourth daughter living in a 1,500 square foot home along with two companies that we ran from home (including one that stocked and stored inventory) the sardine factor took over and we decided to build a new home.
Once we found the right place and began the process, we didn’t tell anyone and the children were sworn to silence. First, because I didn’t want to be one of those people who just love gush about their good fortune, but also because I knew some people in my ward wouldn’t take the news very well.
We weren’t going to put the old house up for sale until much closer to the move. And because we were only moving a couple of miles away, we would be in the same ward, not much would change, so there was no need to inform anyone. We just wanted to keep a low profile.
The problem was that my kids’ best friends were my best friends’ kids, and were were always together. And eventually one of my children leaked a detail that revealed the move. Sigh.
My friend ran to me, utterly betrayed.
“Alison, I can’t believe you didn’t tell me you were moving?”
“Um, well ?”
“Where are you going?”
Pause. After all my big talk about simplistic lifestyles, the best house for our family turned out not only to be a big, new house, but one in a gated community the kind of place I swore I would never, ever live.
“Um ?Boca Falls.”
“Um ?well ?Boca Falls ?because, see, with the businesses and the nightmares about pools and you know how hard it is to find a house with lots of bedrooms in Boca and ?”
“Alison that is so amazing! I am so happy for you! When can I see it? Let’s go right now! I can’t believe you didn’t tell me, this is awesome!”
Now, I loved my friend to pieces. She is still one of the dearest people that I know. But even from her, I did not expect this. We drove to the construction site where she preceded to practically jump up and down with sheer joy ?at my good fortune.
All this while she was still struggling financially as she had been before. And as the construction went on, she brought it up daily. Asking questions about the progress and showing excitement. And it never stopped.
A had a similar incident recently with my daughter, Alana. She’s a performer. An amazing performer. (I know, I know, but this isn’t her mom talking. This is another singer talking. I swear I’ll post the videos on YouTube, just so you know I’m not just overwhelmed with motherly pride.) Recently, she did not get into a very select group she auditioned for one that she had wanted to be in for ages. The director even sat down to talk to her about it. She told her it was because Alana was only going to be a junior, not a senior. And she really wanted to give as many kids a chance as possible.
Yea, yea. I know that being in something cool in high school might be the highlight of someone’s life forever, but when it’s my kid that’s paying the price I don’t like the decision-making process much.
Of course there’s nothing I could do. I wasn’t going to march down to the school and give anyone a piece of my mind. Partly because I happen to adore the director and partly because that probably wouldn’t help Alana in the future anyway. But I couldn’t help making all sorts of comparisons silently in my mind.
Well, I know you’re ten times better at the 100-meter relay than anyone on the team, James, but since you’re only a junior, I’m going to put Billy on the team instead because it’s his last chance to run track.
Then I remembered the principles in a book I read last month called Outliers. It’s a fascinating look at the contributing factors in the lives of the very most successful people in the world.
One of the strongest influences on successful people is how much experience and encouragement they get in a particular area before they are adults. So I’m wondering if the teacher understands at all that by choosing people for the group based on some sense of social justice instead of on talent she is very likely discouraging some of those with the most potential to excel in the art.
To be sure, I didn’t say anything about this blathering to Alana, but I fumed about it internally after she went to bed.
What Alana did was different. She came home and cried her eyes out. She was devastated. She questioned her talents. She wondered if she should really bother to sing anymore.
Then she brushed herself off and told me how great all these kids were who got selected instead of her. She told me that the most important thing she could do was to support them and be happy for them. She congratulated everyone who was selected for the group. She told them how great it was and how much fun they’d have. She asked for all the details about how they learned the good news. She applauded them.
Next year there won’t be anyone in the audience cheering louder than Alana. And I promise you it won’t be an act.
What does any of this have to do with Mother’s Day?
I learned something from these two people in my life. Even in our difficulties and sadness, it doesn’t always have to be about our personal pain. It can be about the happiness, blessings, and good fortune that come to others.
If Mother’s Day usually stinks because you can’t have kids, your kids have all gone off the deep end, your own mother was crazy or if you children and/or husband just don’t get that you should be cherished and celebrated just one Sunday in May then change the focus from yourself to something better for the day.
Can you be happy for those who have the blessings of children? Can you feel blessed for the great kids you come in contact with and whom you influence in your callings or your work? Can you invite another uncelebrated, lonely mother for dinner not to commiserate, but to give her a Mother’s Day to remember? Can you be grateful that you have a Mother in Heaven who loves you?
Find someone worth celebrating and send your heart their way. And have a happy Mother’s Day.