My mother

In consideration of Mother's Day this weekend, I interviewed Mom. I told her it was just for the newsletter – neither of us was all that prepared. I asked her random questions I thought might make good reading material for my subscribers.  We ended up talking for an hour.

A bit of context: my mom chose a career as an unpaid careworker when she had her first baby at 21. When I would ask for cash in high school, she would sometimes say with a smile, "Go ask your dad. I haven't gotten a paycheck since 1989."

She built and raised seven people with zero complaints. She is the most practical person walking around on this planet. (The woman does not own wrapping paper, "Why would I spend all that time wrapping something when the paper will just get thrown away? Save the trees." Birthday gifts were pulled, eyes closed, no peeking, from a bag one at a time. And relished just the same.)

I firmly believe Mom is the most beautiful woman in the world. She'll do puzzles and play-doh but not make-believe. She read out loud to us ages 0-18. She cuts everyone's hair.  She can sleep anywhere. She hates parties but loves having everyone over. She has never asked for credit for anything, except her fantastic costume collection. She was homecoming queen. She lives for practical jokes. She's never met a legume she didn't like. She saved my baby clothes and brought them to me when my babies were born. Efficiency is her boss. Prayer and scripture are her instruction manual. Sunscreen is her ritual. Reading is her dessert. Dessert is also her dessert. She is fearless and kind and unforgettable and magical. This is my mother.

Alex: What would you tell your 21-year-old self on the brink of motherhood?
Mom: "You're going to LOVE this. Even more than you already believe you will. It is the best."

What do you wish you had had as a young mom that I have now?
"The super warm clothing for infants and babies that can be worn while buckled in strollers and carseats. I had to get so creative and hope you kids didn't kick it off whatever I tucked around you." 

Anything else? 

"No, because i don't think kids lives are THAT enriched by electronics, for you kids or for myself. I know I would have read to you less. I'm glad I didn't have today's electronic distractions."

What do you wish you could tell every mom? 
"Keep it simple. The time flies. Focus on your kids. Have buckets of patience. Do not sweat the small stuff. Be at the crossroads. Put down your phone."

What do you wish you could tell every kid? 
"Trust your parents. Trust in the Lord. You are infinitely loved by both."

What do you have to say to folks who don't love Mother's Day? 
"Barbara Winder said, 'You do not give birth to all of those that you mother.' You can have a tremendous influence on kids. I just think about all the people who had a big influence on me, and on you kids."

Later, Mom came back to this question about Mother's Day:

"I was blessed with incredible mentors, from my mom, sister, grandmothers, to my mother- and sister-in-laws, to my Relief Society sisters, to my sister-in-laws' mothers – just so many amazing women" – [Mom was choked up here] – "none of whom have ever won a gold medal, or run a company, or been on the cover of Time, but they all had profound influences on my life and my Motherhood. Learn from other women, because there's PLENTY of them to look to and learn from. And I don't mean on social media."

What's your favorite thing you've bought this year? 

"Koeze peanut butter cups."

What's your best one-liner? 
"Ha! I don't know. Maybe, 'Hi how was your day, did you wash your hands?'" 

If you could buy one thing to give to everyone you'll ever meet, what would it be? 
"A really, really great paring knife." 

What soothed as young mom?  
"Reading. Definitely reading for fun." 

What drove you crazy?

"When you go into a store or someplace, and parents are dressed warmly, and their kids aren't and you can see that they're cold. Or when you hear a parent just screaming at their child in public. Parenting is hard, we can't expect perfection, but witnessing a child be emotionally neglected has always made me feel bad."

What do you think every mom should start doing now? 
"Reading to their child." 

Somehow we got on this, not sure what I asked here:
"One thing I wish I had done: I liked how Aunt Sloan and Uncle Chad always let their kids decide if they wanted to have a thing or an experience for their birthday. It would have been pretty cool to have just said in our family, for birthdays, we do experiences, rather than emphasizing "stuff." Experiences build relationships - they last forever. You never outgrow those and you don't have to return them, they're just superior to *things.*"

What was one of your favorite things about your childhood? 

"Traveling. We explored the state of Washington, we drove from Kent down to Utah to visit my grandparents in the summer. When I was in about third grade we took the train to Kentucky to see Grandpa's parents. That was super fun and I loved it. It was an epic, fun family vacation. Very memorable. I still want to do that with you kids."

Secrets to a great life you want to let us in on? 
"Keep an eternal perspective. It will help you focus on what is really worth you time, energy, and attention."

What's your goal for this year? 
"Well, this year is kind of odd. My goal for the next two years is" – here Mom started crying – "to soak up every last second of the next two years, this chapter of my life, having a child at home. In two years that chapter will be closed – it will never be this way again."  

What did we do as kids that made you proud? 

"Oh wow let me think about that. I was always really proud of you when you kids learned to do things independently. One of the best pieces of advice for motherhood I ever got, and it didn't really mean anything to me until you kids were bigger, but Grammy said, 'The whole point of motherhood is to work yourself out of a job.' At first that took my breath away! But as you got older, I could see how independent kids and youth and adults were the happiest, and most at peace, and could help others; they were the most productive. So I knew that was the way to go. It didn't mean I lost you, but it just meant you could stand on your own two feet and accomplish things!" 

What made you mad? 

"Children who needed to be asked muuulllllttttiple times to get their stuff done." 

Is that all you have to say about that? 

"Um... teens who didn't come in by curfew or call. And uncooperative photo subjects at family picture time!" 

Hardest thing about motherhood? 

"The sleep deprivation with infants. I would have preferred to be pregnant two months longer to avoid the sleep deprivation of those first two months. That was really no fun. But you guys were so dang cute it was worth it! But HARD. Pregnancy was way better." 

We started to move on and she went back and said:

"I definitely want to say that one thing I learned from Grandma was, she just aboslutely loved babies and children." [Mom began crying again here.] "Strangers' babies, nieces, nephews, Sloan and Shawn and me, didn't matter who, she just loved them ALL. So I learned to really love and enjoy babies and children. Just the value and preciousness of children. She has just always LOVED children."

Okay, let's do a "quick fire" round. One-word answers are fine. Favorite thing to do with a free hour? 

With a free day?

Travel! Anywhere! Go see something!

Happiest moments happen when? 

Our family is together, traveling, doing any new experience.

Title of your memoir? 

Say Your Prayers and Wash Your Hands

Most likely to get arrested for? 

Trying to avoid a line at a public event.

Secret super power? 

Finding a great parking spot.

Power you wish you had? 

To be Elastigirl! 

Last thing you did just for yourself? 

Bought the peanut butter things!

Last thing you ate? 

A dark chocolate covered almond

One thing you'd love to never have to do again? 

Listening to phone messages, having to call people back. [This took a very long time to answer. Mom is SO agreeable] Oh, I know: returning things. Standing in line at the post office. You ALL know that that is my nemesis. If they all just magically returned themselves...! 

Favorite memory? 

"Travel adventures as a family. Bike riding along the Rhine River in Germany with the Becks and three youngest kids. Bike riding around Martha's Vineyard with Mary and Daniel and the Becks. Visiting museums as a family. Paris as a family. The Coltons' chateau as a family - that was magical. Oh, when we went down to the book preservation lab on the lowest level of the Library of Congress, that was very cool. I loved our family visits to Washington DC. Let's see. Zip-lining anywhere as a family! Okay, I know. Hiking to the top of the dome of St. Peter's in Rome with my mom who has serious claustrophobia! We conquered that hike through tiny passages – that was a huge victory, to hear the church bells in the Sunday morning sunshine. Taking my mom to Rome, London and Paris was so much fun and such a great memory. We were listening to Rick Steve's podcast wherever we went, walking around attached to one pair of headphones with our arms around each other laughing and trying not to trip. When you were little, ferry rides to the San Juan Islands and the Puget Sound. Exploring Pike Place Market over and over with you kids. For Emily's senior year, when we drove up the coast to Hearst Castle, and stayed at the Madonna Inn in those crazy rooms! And we did Hearst Castle and Solvang! And we stopped at Morro Bay and Pismo Beach on that trip too. That was the time I left my bag sitting by the front door. I got every body else's stuff into the car, but left mine sitting by the front door. But I mean it was no big deal, I just borrowed a Sunday dress from Aunt Shannon when we got to their house and I think I bought a t shirt and some pants somewhere. Hawaii as a family was always special, everybody loved it. Staying at the Napili Kai. Oh, going to Boston as a family, getting up super early to go the reenactment on the Lexington Green. Watching that was so moving." 

Later came back to this:

"Some very fun memories are when Dad surprised me for my fortieth birthday with friends and family at the lake, that was such a total surprise and that was so much fun to share that really special place with our family. And then my fiftieth birthday at the lake, with ALL of us there for a whole day and night. That was SO awesome. It was the perfect day." 

Words of encouragement for the 274 people who get this newsletter? 

"Can't say this without crying, but your kids' childhood" – long pause – "has an expiration date. It's 6,570 days. That means you have 6,570 nights to say goodnight, that many times to say good morning, so don't take it for granted. Don't blow it. That number puts it in perspective: it really doesn't last forever. It really does fly by." 

When you became a mom in 1988, what scared you? 
"Anything that could have hurt my kids. Getting them snatched from me – I've always been cautious and careful and safety-oriented. I've always been a seat belt wearer and hand washer :)" 

What are you scared of now? 
"Probably the same thing, I'm still a careful person. One thing I notice as I get older is how constantly time is so precious. We have it in a finite amount, so using it the best and not squandering it. Using time to achieve lasting happiness of an eternal nature. Y'know, relationships."

She threw in a couple of things at the end as we were finishing:
"One thing you that will help if you figure it out sooner than later is that comparison really is the thief of joy. There's no perfect mom. You can't do or be it all, so don't try. Use what you learn from others to develop your own unique style." 

"Oh – I am the best gum mom. I am. But I hate that disgusting germy gum wall by Pike Place." 

"There's plenty of regrets because I'm not a perfect parent, but one is not having you kids learn a second language. I wish that you were all bilingual from the get-go. And I didn't have that to give you kids, but being lingual is a gift I wish I had been able to give to you."

"Oh, one thing you should put in there. Pick a good dad for your kids. That is paramount. Be thoughtful when you pick the father of your children. Your parenting partner. Remember, you have to do it together."

"Last thing: focus on people and relationships and experiences because those are irreplaceable – like Papa used to say, all knowledge is not of equal value. Figure out what's worth your time."

Mom at Carpinito Brothers Farm buying her favorite thing: fresh Washington produce.
Kent, WA. July 18, 2019. Leica M6, Portra 400.