I have had the good fortune to witness and feel the selfless, unconditional love of my mother.

Our mom is a tiny woman, but what she lacks in stature she commands in respect. To say the least, she is fierce. She understood immediately that each of her six children were different, and needed to be parented differently to ensure we became functional humans with character.

As she always says it, I was the shy kid. I clung to her leg when she dropped me off for preschool – and would probably still be clinging if she did not force me to find my voice. She was determined to give me every opportunity to find my confidence whether I liked it or not. If that meant every apology letter (to anyone) had to be read aloud in public, or going to soccer camp on a different week than my whole team, or 4H public speaking so be it – come hell or high water, I would have a voice. Besides my siblings, I can’t think of a better gift she has given me than that.

Our mother had a tough life before she became Mom. Life gave her a keen eye for seeing us for who we are, and what we are capable of – good, bad or ugly. She is not a parent I can ever imagine saying “not my child.” Instead, she called us to the carpet and forced us to take accountability for whatever we had done wrong. I am still in awe of the genius of some of her punishments – they were creative, strategic, and above all humbling.

Mom often said it takes a village, and certainly had no problem telling the village that her children were struggling or engaging in risky behavior and everyone should be on standby to support. The transparency of her approach was motivating, there was more on the line – not only are we going to disappoint her, but we would disappoint the village if we screwed up.

As my husband and I prepare to bring our first child into this world, I can hear her voice in our discussion, and somehow the terror of becoming a parent seems to fade.

I know she prepared me for motherhood, in so many ways I’ve yet to understand. She taught me that life can be hard, but you can always find the balance between fun and discipline. She taught me that if you teach your children nothing else, accountability and integrity are key. But above all else, she showed me that while you cannot protect your children from everything – the best way to protect, is to be honest, not to shield them from life in such a way that it paralyzes them in the future.

Our mom is incredible, and despite all she had been through, found a way to protect without projecting. She gives me hope, and I pray that I will be able to do the same for our child.

Here’s to you Mom and all of you Mom’s and Future Mom’s – Happy Mother’s Day!

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