Someone once remarked, “You won’t remember what people said, but you will never forget how they made you feel.” My mom made me feel confident, unconditionally loved, a love for animals, special, lucky, a love for family, safe, and responsible.
Here’s an example of how she made me feel confident like a superhero. As a kid when I picked a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle or a complex model airplane to build, she never said, “That’s too advanced” or “you can’t do that”. She nurtured me with “Wow! You can do it.” And that enabled me to do it. She always made me feel confident.
My mom made me feel unconditionally loved. I used to wear dorky glasses as a kid – remember that kind? Of course the “four eyes” name calling soon followed. My grandpa in Cincinnati, who was a Golden Gloves boxing champion, taught me how to fight and my parents explained that ancient Chinese proverb about sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never harm you. I know it’s not really Chinese, but probably just as old. My parents said I should never get physical unless I needed to defend myself. I had a several defensive fights growing up, but there was one boy who always verbally bullied me for many years and I always ignored him. One time in 6th grade I was playing basketball at lunch and he slapped the ball from my hands so hard that it bounced up and hit my chin which caused quite a jolt. If they had NBA-style flagrant fouls in 6th grade, this would’ve been one. That was the final straw and I pummeled the guy until they pulled me off him and woke him up with smelling salts. I understandably got in trouble at school and of course my mom was called – that was an “Uh oh!” moment. You know that feeling of impending parental doom. When I got home and walked through the front door, she looked at me and then smiled knowing that the underdog had delivered justice against the bully. She hugged me hard and kissed me as an expression of her unconditional love.
My mom made me feel special through her generosity. When I was in college, my mom was in her 40s and she was yearning for memories of her childhood. Yup, you guessed it – it was a mid-life crisis. She asked me to help her buy a late 1950s Nash Metropolitan just like the one she drove as a teenager in Cincinnati, Ohio. I had some experience with old cars and I helped her get a 1958 black and white Metropolitan. I took the bus during my first year at UCLA. In the summer she said, “Brian, you really need to have car. Go ahead and take my Metropolitan.” That became my daily driver for the following 3 years of college thanks to her….and I still have it! She knew how to make me feel special.
She made me feel a love for family. She would do anything for her family. I can’t even try to count how many baseball games she schlepped her three sons to or how many times she took my brothers and me to Cincinnati to spend time with her family there. I also have a deep love of family in large part because of my mom.
She made me feel lucky as she seemed to always come swooping down to rescue me just at the right moment. In Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica for some reason I never wanted to use the school bathrooms and would “hold it” until I walked home. Well, one day I must’ve drank too much water. I was half-way home and then it started. You know that feeling of an ever expanding bladder. So there I a few blocks from home – held up at a red light. The balloon in my pelvis kept expanding. I bared down with all my might, but alas, it was in vain. My mini-pelvic floor muscles were no match against the liquid. I felt that unmistakable sensation of warmth streaming down my right leg that etched a dark vertical line all the way down the length of my brown Toughskins pants. My nightmare though wasn’t over. I looked down in horror to observe the concrete slowly darkening as a wet circle spread out from the epicenter of my right foot. I faced the most embarrassing moment of my life: walking home with obviously soiled clothes. Just then my mom pulled up to the street corner in her car and rolled down the window and saved me with, “Hi Brian, would you like a ride home?” That is one example of how she always made me feel lucky.
My mom made me feel responsible for my actions. My mom and dad subscribed to the parenting philosophy of “Natural Consequences” for children, largely taught from the book “Children: The Challenge” which Selina and I also use with our girls. Here’s an example of “Natural Consequences”: as young boy I would burst her bedroom door wide open while she was sleeping like a log and yell “Batman! Batman! Batman!” She was constantly sleep-deprived because of me. Despite all her scolding, I kept up my ritual. A good friend gave her the idea of how to deal with me and here’s what happened. Like clockwork the next morning I threw her door open with “Batman! Batman! Batman!” She acted out what happened next. She sleepily put on her nightgown and made her coffee and just sat at the breakfast table faking to be in a daze. I said, “Mommy, where’s my breakfast?” She said, “Brian, I didn’t get a full night sleep and I’m just too tired to make breakfast.” So I went without breakfast that day and guess what? I never again woke her up early. Through my childhood and early adulthood, she made me feel responsible and she prepared me for the path of life.
While I won’t remember many of her exact words, I will always remember how she made me feel. I would not be who I am today without my mom.