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A Mother’s Day bouquet: Ten quotes and comments on motherhood

bookBack in the days when I still believed in Santa Claus (well, actually I still believe, I just no longer feel comfortable sitting on his lap), Mother’s Day rolled around one year, and I asked my mom why there was no Children’s Day. “Because,” she replied firmly, “every day is Children’s Day.”

I bought into that explanation, though I now realize that getting up at 6:30 every morning to do chores and then go to school didn’t necessarily qualify as a Children’s Day. Overall, however, I do agree that we should honor mothers one day every year. “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” so the adage goes, and though I don’t remember a cradle, I do recollect a mom who became my best friend when I finally grew up.

So let me lift a glass to all you mothers out there. Let me also offer some thoughts on motherhood. The quotations I have snatched from The Snark Handbook: Parenting Edition. The comments belong to me.

“Mothers are all slightly insane.” 

— J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Well, of course mothers are “slightly insane,” J.D. (I would discard the adverb “slightly.”) The vital requirement for qualifying for motherhood is children. Children begin as helpless uncivilized creatures who need feeding every four hours and grow into hulking uncivilized creatures who not only need feeding every four hours, but who also wreck the family car, bring home obnoxious friends, answer questions with grunts, and turn family dinners into verbal debacles. From gestation to leaving home, such creatures require 22 years of care. The keeper of such a zoo is perforce insane.

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“My mother tried to kill me when I was a baby. She denied it. She said she thought the plastic bag would keep me fresh.” 

— Bob Monkhouse

When I look back at how I treated my mom as a child, I do wonder that she didn’t wrap me in a plastic bag. (Maybe they weren’t invented yet). The town in which I lived until I turned 12 regarded me as upstanding child, but that evaluation, as my mother knew, was nonsense. I was frequently in trouble, and it was my mom who bore the brunt of my peccadillos. She bandaged me up, forced me into the bath tub, repeated numerous instructions hundreds of times, and countered my complaints about boredom with that old maternal standby: “Well, if you can’t find something to do, I’ll find something for you.” When things got really rough, she would just step aside and say, “Wait till your father gets home,” which meant that doom would arrive along with a pot roast at the supper table.

“If you have children, the demands made upon you in the first hour of the morning can make the job of an air traffic controller seem like a walk in the park.” 

– Anonymous

My daughter has six children ages 10 and under. My oldest son has five children eight and under, with another on the way. Another son just had his first child. Every year I spend a week at the beach in a house with all of my children and grandchildren. Enough said.

“A suburban mother’s role is to deliver children obstetrically once, and by car for ever after.” 

— Peter De Vries

The students I tutor do most of their work at home, and their mothers are known as “home-school moms.” A more accurate title might be van-school moms. Many of these women spend hours every day delivering children to dance, piano lessons, Scouts, sports fields, clubs, choir, church activities, and heaven only knows what else. Whereas we once spoke of “mom and apple pie” as a treasured image of our way of life, I propose we now make it “mom and a Chevy Suburban.” To you moms who are driving all over creation seven days a week, my hope for you this Mother’s Day is that your loving fingers don’t touch the steering wheel of an automobile.

“A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces that she never did care for pie.” 

— Tenneva Jordan

The first word that comes to mind when I hear the word mother or motherhood is not love, but sacrifice. Every mom I know right now is sacrificing her time, looks, energy, and sanity to keep her kids on track. (Yes, I know there are wicked mothers in the world; I just don’t know any). In a way, motherhood is a saint-making machine. The mother spends half of her life trying to make saints of her children while unwittingly becoming a saint herself. 

“I found out why cats drink out of the toilet. My mother told me it’s because it’s cold in there. And I’m like: How did my mother know that?”  

— Wendy Liebman

Some mothers frequently give cryptic advice. Example: on a family vacation, after stopping at a service station, my mother told me not to hang out in or near the men’s room. I was nine at the time and not in the habit of hanging out in restrooms, but dutifully nodded. For years I turned her remark over in my mind. I thought she was referencing some disease. Such was the state of sex education in those more reticent times.

“Don’t ever tell the mother of a newborn that her baby’s smile is just gas.” 

— Jill Woodhull

To those of you who aren’t mothers, here are several other verbal no-nos: “When’s the baby due?” “Are those all yours?” “You really have your hands full,” and “If that was my kid, I’d (fill in the blank).” As my mom, along with a million others, used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” 

“My husband is not a romantic. For Mother’s Day, he gave me a George Foreman Grill. I gave it back to him for Father’s day, in a sort of forceful upward motion.” 

— Sandi Selvi

On Mother’s Day, children may safely present the traditional gifts: a badly cooked breakfast served to mom in bed at six in the morning; drawings of themselves; a box of candies from which all the cherry chocolate pieces have mysteriously disappeared. Husbands and significant others face more pressure. Men: DO NOT BRING THE MOTHER IN YOUR LIFE ANYTHING MADE OF METAL. No new vacuum cleaners, no exercise machines, no kitchen cookware. (Golf clubs are a possible exception). Instead, try any combination of the following: roses, chocolates, a trip to the spa, recordings of her favorite music, hugs and kisses, a personal letter of gratitude, a night out, more hugs and kisses, a weekend getaway sans children, a movie or a show, still more hugs and kisses. P.S. If you are one of those poor fools who think the mother of your children has an easier life than you, take a week of vacation, send her to the beach, and step into her shoes. 

“An ounce of mother is worth a ton of priest.”  

— Spanish proverb

When my wife and I told my mother that she was about to become a grandmother, she was delighted. She then said, “Well, a baby will change your lives quite a bit,” to which I replied, “Oh, I don’t think it will change all that much.” My mother’s hysterical laughter was probably the wisest rebuke I ever received in my life. 

“Few things are more satisfying than seeing your children have teenagers of their own.  

– Doug Larson

To fully appreciate parenthood, one must become a parent. (“It would seem that something which means poverty, disorder, and violence every day should be avoided entirely. But the desire to beget children is a natural urge,” according to comedian Phyllis Diller). This Mother’s Day, try looking at what your mother has done for you instead of brooding on what you believe she has done to you (This advice is aimed particularly at teenagers). Look for things to appreciate in her. Give her some love. And if your mama’s in heaven, I’m pretty sure she’s praying for you.

I know mine is.

(Jeff Minick is a writer and teacher. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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