Mother’s Day Gift- My Mom’s Greatest Lesson How to Let Go

Nat's 1st day at school

Nat’s 1st day at school

Of all the lessons I learned from my soft-spoken, warmhearted, Norwegian-American mother, the greatest and hardest of all to teach was how to let go.

“A mother’s love for a child must always be greater than the child’s love for the mother,” she once told me, “otherwise the child would never leave home.”

By her example, my mom showed me early on that a mother’s love is unconditional. What a wise old bird – Mom gave me roots to grow strong and wings to fly away. When I pursued my dream to play professional basketball, Mom hid her heartache, smiled and waved until my Air France plane bound for Paris was out of sight. When I fell in love with a Frenchman, she embraced her new foreign son-in-law with open arms.

In turn, I, too, learned how to let go. My first step was leaving the safe confines of the hospital after my daughter, Nathalie, was born abroad. The next challenge was letting go of her two-year-old hand at the primary school gate, fighting an innate urge to pull her back into my protective arms. As a seven-year-old, Nat marched off on her first week-long field trip to a farm in Normandy; the days apart felt interminable. Yet each separation prepared her for the next one.

mom & daughter

mom & daughter

As a 16-year-old, she flew “solo” across the Atlantic to compete in the World Scholar Athlete Games. Then when my daughter left Switzerland for the opportunity to combine athletics and academics and play basketball at University of Wisconsin-SP, I did not scream, “Don’t go. You might get hurt!” Instead I rebounded her sweet jump shot until the last minute, and then helped her pack a bag. When Nat was accepted at University of Minnesota Medical School, I cried with joy, though I knew, inevitably, she would settle in the States to practice.

3 generations

3 generations

Due to the great space separating us, my mom could not be by my side during long hours of therapy after my car crashed in France. Nor was she with me during my miscarriages or my daughter’s birth. Yet, I heard her concern during phone calls and read her love in letters, as her long distance support sustained me during the tough times and rejoiced with me during triumphs. She was not physically present when her first grandchild was born in Paris, but as the proud grandma, she sewed affection into every article of children’s clothing and cross-stitched courage into every wall hanging she made for Nathalie.

The knowledge that she did all she could to make me strong, gave my mom the faith to know that she could trust my judgment.

I was not physically there when my daughter played in an NCAA Final Four, or when she took her Hippocratic Oath as a doctor, yet a spirit wearing high tops followed in her shadows every step of the way.

Though at times, I pine for my daughter, just as my mom misses me, we find comfort knowing that we are where we are supposed to be, doing what we were destined to do.

Grandma & graduate

Grandma & graduate

Mom knows that her footloose, misfit daughter with a soft spot for the underdog would one day grow into her skin. As if she sensed that I was destined to unite people in the international capital of the world, Mom was not surprised when I found a home in Geneva, Switzerland. Just as I understood that my daughter’s fate meant caring for inner city children and immigrant families in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

In his bestselling children’s book, I’ll Love You Forever about the cross-generational, everlasting link between a mother and child, Robert Munsch said it best.

“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”

No matter how many miles separate us, we are never more than heartbeat apart.

I’ll love you forever and always. Happy Mother’s Day!

 

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63 Comments

    • Rach, as you know motherhood is a bittersweet journey and our greatest joy.Love seeing photos of you and the girls on FB having fun exploring Australia.

  1. My Dear Pat, This is so poignant. It connects me to my own sweet mother and daughter and affirms the bittersweet nature of letting go. And I feel like I’ve met your mother and Natalie in person through your eloquent words and pictures. Thank you for sharing with your heart ..I am so touched by your stories . They always bring tears to my eyes, in a cleansing way. Beautiful!

  2. What a beautiful article, Pat. Sniff. Sniff. Absolutely marvelous. (Blowing nose hard now on Kleenex. Sorry.)

    What a wonderful gift your mother gave to you, and you took it and passed it down. Love knows no bounds, and the 3 generations of women will always be bound by the treasure of love.

    • Thanks, Cathy. I also turn to your blog at an empowered spirit and read your words for comfort and inspiration especially on my bad days.

  3. What a beautiful article, Pat. Sniff. Sniff. Absolutely marvelous. (Blowing nose hard now on Kleenex. Sorry.)

    What a wonderful gift your mother gave to you, and you took it and passed it down. Love knows no bounds, and the 3 generations of women will always be bound by the treasure of love.

  4. Oh Pat I loved reading this story about your wonderful Mom. I also got to learn from her gentle wisdom during the many hours I spent at your house growing up! That book is one of my favorites – if I can read it without crying!

    • Oh yes, Jean, how I remember those fun days with non stop action coming and in out of the revolving door to that house on E.19th St. I hope that I learned how to pass on mom’s “gentle wisdom.”

  5. Oh Pat I loved reading this story about your wonderful Mom. I also got to learn from her gentle wisdom during the many hours I spent at your house growing up! That book is one of my favorites – if I can read it without crying!

  6. Pat, this one brought tears to my eyes — what a lovely tribute to your mom’s wisdom, your learning how to grow roots and wings, and your passing the lesson to your own daughter! I remember reading Robert Munsch to my son when he was little. Reading those familiar words again calls forth so many special memories — thanks for starting my morning out right!

  7. Pat, what a lovely tribute to your mother and to motherhood. Although I never experienced this kind of love from my own mother, I have seen it in the moms I have mentored over the last seven years and in the moms of dear friends. It is a gift indeed! I love the stories you share here — so glad Kathy Pooler “introduced” us on her blog.

    • Thanks Sherrey. So glad that Kathy the Connector linked us through her writing so we can uplift, share and heal together one word at time.

  8. Pat, what a lovely tribute to your mother and to motherhood. Although I never experienced this kind of love from my own mother, I have seen it in the moms I have mentored over the last seven years and in the moms of dear friends. It is a gift indeed! I love the stories you share here — so glad Kathy Pooler “introduced” us on her blog.

  9. Pat, not only did Mom encourage our independence, but she also taught us how to be tolerant, compassionate and forgiving, as you well know. We have been so richly blessed. What a wonderful tribute it is to Mom knowing that we are paying those gifts forward- each in our own ways.

  10. Pat, not only did Mom encourage our independence, but she also taught us how to be tolerant, compassionate and forgiving, as you well know. We have been so richly blessed. What a wonderful tribute it is to Mom knowing that we are paying those gifts forward- each in our own ways.

  11. Sis,
    Yep, Our “Benore” is one special Mom! I am still learning from her! Hard to put into words a Mother’s love for a child but you capture it pretty darn close! thank you! I am super excited to bring our Hanners home for the summer! Happy Mother’s day to you and all other Mother’s around the world! 🙂

  12. Oh, I haven’t learned this yet. My kids are 11 and 15, and I am enjoying them very much. I already ache for them, knowing they will launch soon. I enjoyed your post. What a brave woman your mother is. Lovely pictures. What a great heritage.

    • Thanks, I think the awe and ache begin the moment we give birth. There are no bonds quite so strong as that between a mother and her child. Enjoy those precious moments at each stage of your children’s lives.

  13. Pat, I wrote about the same topic – letting go – but from a different perspective. I hope I will be more like your mother than my own in teaching this lesson to my children. Wonderful post!

  14. It’s only now that I’m an adult the I realize how lucky I was to be raised with unconditional love. I’m glad that you were too and that you passed that on to your own daughter as have I. Happy Mother’s Day

    • Connie, like you, only in adulthood could I really appreciate my fortune in being raised with unconditional love. Because of that strong love, I was able to reach out to others. I bought into the human race.

  15. Letting go is the hardest part of motherhood, yet the most important. I love your mother’s quote about the mother loving the child more . . . I’ve never thought of it that way, but it is so very true. Thank you for sharing her wisdom with us.

    • Yes, Donna, if in the end we fail to let go, our child will never have the courage to leave and fulfill his/her own destiny. At times so painful, yet so powerful, so profound, a mother’s love.

  16. Three generations of fabulous women in your family! My three children also live at a distance and although I would love if they were closer, I would never clip their wings. Great post, Pat.

    • Thanks, Helene. I totally agree. Though I would love to be within easy travel distance of my Big Kids, I would never ever want them to limit their dreams.

  17. Three generations of fabulous women in your family! My three children also live at a distance and although I would love if they were closer, I would never clip their wings. Great post, Pat.

  18. That children’s book always makes me cry a little.

    Sounds like you come from — and lead to — a long line of strong, independent, resilient athletic and intelligent women. What an enjoyable read!

  19. Oh, Pat, I so relate to your story … with me in the US, my daughter in Ireland and son in South Africa, where the rest of my family is, including my frail, 85-year old mother. Guilt has been a big issue for me as an expat; not being present at my children’s 21st birthdays, their weddings, my mom’s setbacks … enough said … life is about moving on, and despite the impact of distance, the connections and love stay strong.

  20. Oh, Pat, I so relate to your story … with me in the US, my daughter in Ireland and son in South Africa, where the rest of my family is, including my frail, 85-year old mother. Guilt has been a big issue for me as an expat; not being present at my children’s 21st birthdays, their weddings, my mom’s setbacks … enough said … life is about moving on, and despite the impact of distance, the connections and love stay strong.

    • Oh Belinda, I know you know. I feel forever guilty that I can’t be 2 places at one time. The most difficult times to be apart is during the celebrations and setbacks. Happy Mother’s Day!

  21. Pat, beautiful story. I love the three generation picture! You look so very, very happy, your mom is the doting playful grammie, already playing peek-a-boo! And baby Nat already looked like she wanted to jump out of your arms and conquer the world.
    My mom’s favorite saying was roots to grow and wings to fly, and I’m so glad to see that we share the love of that saying. Sending you Mother’s Day hugs across the Atlantic.

  22. Pat, beautiful story. I love the three generation picture! You look so very, very happy, your mom is the doting playful grammie, already playing peek-a-boo! And baby Nat already looked like she wanted to jump out of your arms and conquer the world.
    My mom’s favorite saying was roots to grow and wings to fly, and I’m so glad to see that we share the love of that saying. Sending you Mother’s Day hugs across the Atlantic.

    • It is not the day to day that is difficult, it’s being apart for the celebrations and setbacks that takes its toll, like our son’s college graduation in the states, which we watched on internet.

  23. What a lovely post about your mom and your daughter – the photos too are lovely. My daughter had a baby girl last Friday May 10th and we took a 3 generation picture too.
    My children did not see my mother often as she lived in Paris and we lived in Georgia. My mother was like yours – she loved me but never stopped me from coming to the US even though she knew how far it was and at the time phones were expensive and there was no internet. I wish she could have been able to see her baby great granddaughter.

    • Oh congratulations on your new granddaughter…what a special moment. As women I have often thought of how we bridge the generations and continents with our love.

  24. What a lovely post about your mom and your daughter – the photos too are lovely. My daughter had a baby girl last Friday May 10th and we took a 3 generation picture too.
    My children did not see my mother often as she lived in Paris and we lived in Georgia. My mother was like yours – she loved me but never stopped me from coming to the US even though she knew how far it was and at the time phones were expensive and there was no internet. I wish she could have been able to see her baby great granddaughter.

    • Oh congratulations on your new granddaughter…what a special moment. As women I have often thought of how we bridge the generations and continents with our love.

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