I am the second of four children, first two boys and then two girls. I have always liked this combination, because then each of us gets at least one brother and one sister. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
Not too long ago, my brother, sisters, and I were thinking about what to give our mother for her 75th birthday. She has everything she needs for a comfortable life, so buying her a toaster oven didn’t fit the bill, at least not for this special birthday. We asked ourselves what she would like from us more than anything in the world, and came up with this simple answer: for us too tell her how much we have loved and appreciated her over the years, from childhood to today.
My wife Kate and I, who have experience creating guided journals, bought a blank journal and created prompts for each of the Marshall four kids to fill out. It covered our childhood, adolescent, and adult years with mom. In round robin fashion, Kate sent the book around to each of us four kids, and we then took turns expressing our appreciation based on the prompts that spoke to us most deeply. Kate made sure the book kept moving between sons and daughters so it would return to Mom in time for the big event.
When Mom first unwrapped the book on her special birthday, she didn’t know what it was. But as she began to read the passages, her eyes started to well up. This was not just another birthday card or Mother’s Day card with a page or two of appreciation. It was a bound book filled with appreciation. What mother wouldn’t like that? Mom now says that this is the best present she has every received from her kids. She proudly displays it on her coffee table at her home for all her guests to see.
Our own family experience with this book of maternal appreciation motivated Kate and me to write What I Love About You, Mom, to help other children express their feelings to their mothers (and even grandmothers) as well. When it was published recently, Mom and I spoke about what her copy of the book means to her.
David – Mom, do you still remember your response when you first figured out what we had given you?
Mom – Yes, I remember it well. I was amazed and deeply touched by the outpouring of love for events that I had either forgotten or never realized how much they meant to my children.
David - Why did this gift affect you more than others we have given you in the past?
Mom – Well, it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? This little book of appreciation showed your hearts, in your own handwritings, in ways that a blender or spa treatment never could. It also outlasts any other gift. It’s a family keepsake for me to read again and again.
David – Which passages did you especially appreciate?
Mom – Well, I’ll mention one from each of you. Your older brother Wayne said I helped him develop his love for music: “You bought me my first drum, a bongo and enduring my bad playing, and encouraged my piano playing, too. I am still drumming and playing piano all these years later.”
David – What answers from your daughters moved you?
Mom – Kathy knew she was different from the start. She thanked me for letting her be her true self: “When I was a child, you just let me be, let me be a tomboy, let me get dirty. You didn’t try to force things on me like clothes and toys, and I think that has been the case all along. You let me be and trusted that things would be alright.”
David – And what about your youngest, Teresa?
Mom – Sometimes it was the little things that you kids remembered that really choked me up. She wrote: “I remember the pot roast you used to make in the electric skillet. It felt like home. And I remember singing to all the relatives whenever we went to Texas and Oklahoma to visit.”
David – And what about from me?
Mom: You wrote how glad you are to still have me in your life, and to have been born into my family: “I still love and cherish having a healthy (mind, body, and spirit) mother at my age as I approach 50. Many people I know have already lost both parents. I am very lucky. And I never would have met and fallen in love with your parents, Mama Lou and Papa Daddy, the best grandparents a kid could ask for. They passed on so much of the goodness of their souls to you and your dear sisters.
David – Anything else you’d like to add?
Mom – I wish I had thought to make a book like this for my own mother before she died. Mama Lou, as we called her, was a powerful influence in my life. As we say in Texas—I loved her to pieces. I think this is a great way for mothers and children to communicate in ways they may not have beforehand. I told Mama Lou that I loved her often, but never expressed the various ways she helped nurture me into the strong woman I am today. I know she would have really cherished a book of appreciation from me like the one you kids gave me.
David – Just one more thing I want to say, Mom. I love YOU to pieces.
Mom – Come give me some sugar!
Causes David Marshall Supports
Kiva, Microplace, MercyCorps