19 Apr On-the-Scene Mothers
“I am totally convinced that once a woman has borne a child, she owes that child herself more than anything else in the first five years of his life…
I fear that raising emotion-starved and love-starved children can produce calloused, robotized adults—people who follow the group in straight lines and do exactly what everyone else is doing because someone has said it is time.
I fear for the working mother who is deluded to believe that some kind, patient woman will tend to her child’s emotional needs until she can take over, that someone else will see that her child discovers he is unique, until she can pick him up at the end of the day—when she is perhaps so tired that the best he can hope to hear
is, ‘It’s time to go to bed.’
I fear for the future of the child whose hunger for love and recognition must be satisfied in large groups. I beg mothers to wake up, to experience the precious dawning of their child’s life with him. Evening comes quickly—but the evening may be too late.” Rita Chapman of Dallas, Texas, as quoted in Blueprints for Living.
As I read these words my first thoughts were, “Wow! That’s strong medicine!” But observing the disintegration that is taking place in homes and among family members today, I think that we all may need a dose of strong medicine. We may not like it, but if it helps to undo some of the damage, we should do all that we can to make a course correction.
I believe that having a mother at home during the teenage-age years is just as vital, and my personal experiences have underscored that belief. My own seventeen-year-old son had a good friend who turned on him and purposefully did everything that he could to make his life miserable. This young man even rallied “followers” to assist him. This mistreatment was unmitigated and lasted for weeks. Every lunch period my son came home from school, alone and down hearted. We ate together, and then I counseled and encouraged him. I did my best to give him the emotional
strength that he needed to face the onslaught that awaited him when he returned that afternoon. With time, the situation gradually improved as new and better friends entered the picture, but I will always be grateful that I was available, both physically and emotionally, to help my son through a very difficult time in his life.
I have so many illustrative experiences, but I’d like to share just one more. My boys came home from high school one afternoon, dropped off their backpacks and were heading out the door when I stopped them to ask where they were going. I learned that there was going to be a fight at the neighborhood park, and they were going to watch. The first thing that went through my mind was, “What if this were my child involved in the fight?” Of course, I had to do something — and I did. The fight was stopped before it got started, and the crowd of fifty or sixty young
spectators was dispersed. I was the only mother at the scene, and I kept my distance so that my sons were not implicated, but I was there, nevertheless, to make sure that there would be no altercation.
I must repeat myself, “A mother’s presence is vital.” The age of the child is irrelevant. We need to be actively involved; we must be tuned in, focused on their safety, their growth and their learning, especially during their teenage years. We must be available to correct the outside influences that can undo our work if we are not vigilant.
I have another quote that supports Ms. Chapman’s and my views:
“Throughout history, nations have been able to survive a multiplicity of disasters—invasions, famines, earthquakes, epidemics, and depressions, but they have never been able to survive the disintegration of the family. The family is the seedbed of economic skills, money habits, attitude toward work, and the art of financial independence. It is a stronger agency of education than the school and a stronger training ground for religion than any church. What strengthens the family strengthens the society. If things go well with the family, life is worth living. When the family falters, life falls apart.”
-Michael Novak, “Family Out of Favor,” Harper’s Vol. 252 (April, 1976), pp. 37-40.