My Mother’s Hands

When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by my mother’s hands. She has lovely hands. Her nails, never polished, are well shaped without much effort or maintenance. She never wore lots of jewelry, just a white gold wedding band and a simple diamond engagement ring. Her hands were sun tanned from working in the yard year round. They were capable of so many things.

I remember sitting next to my Mom in church when I was a small child. After doodling on the bulletin and flipping through the hymnal, I would often lean against her and pick up her hands from where they rested in her lap. I would study her hands. I wanted hands like hers when I grew up, attractive, strong, and capable of miraculous things like untangling delicate necklace chains. Sometimes those church sermons went long and I would release my Mom’s hands and my head would rest in her lap instead. And then her hands would do their most amazing feat, they would gently comb through my hair. There is no calm in the world that compares to being a child, resting on your mother while she gently runs her fingers through your hair. There are times in my adult life when I am in need of comfort and my mind takes me back to that church pew and the soothing rhythm of my Mom’s fingers gliding through my hair.

My Mother’s hands are gardener’s hands. She developed a love of plants from her parents, and she had an amazing garden. I remember stacks of Organic Gardening magazines around our house that she would consult. She was in that garden for hours every day. It wasn’t something she taught us or showed us, and to be honest, it is not anything I aspire to learn. It was her therapy. A way that she worshipped God. It provided food for our family for the year, and she froze, jarred, jellied and jammed everything in that garden. My mother’s hands can also cook!

My Mother’s hands can sew. Her Dad taught her to sew. She made many of our clothes growing up. We spent much time in fabric stores, pouring over McCalls, Butterick, and Vogue pattern books. My Mom doing the fabric math on her scratch pad before sending us loose in the store to pick out materials for our new clothes. She did tailoring for our neighbor. She made curtains, throw pillows, and even reupholstered a sofa and chairs for our first homes.

My Mother has beautiful handwriting. She would be the first to tell you what she does wrong technically according to her penmanship teacher from elementary school, but I always admired her signature on every document I had to take to school. And when the time came to learn cursive, I had no care for that the quick brown fox jumping over the lazy dog or that I was holding the pencil too tight against my ring finger. I wanted my signature to look exactly like my mother’s.

My Mother’s hands turn pages. She’s a reader. She loves to study the Bible for herself. The soft worn pages, highlighted and noted, bear witness to time spent with God. She loves Scripture the way that her father did. This is one way that my hands are like my Mother’s. When people ask me why and how I learned to study for myself, I can say, “This is what I watched my mother do.”

My Mother’s hands can hold cards. They can throw dice. They can spin a wheel. My Mom loves to play games. We played a lot of cards and games when we were growing up. She plays cards with her grandkids now. They all associate Nana’s house with games. Her hands are a legacy to her family to take time for play.

My Mother’s hands serve. Maybe because they have done so many things over the years like comforting, cultivating, sewing, creating, cooking, writing, and playing. These are the hands of someone who has lived and loved so well, and when a heart is that full, it directs the hands toward others.

My hands will never do all the things my Mother’s hands have done and I don’t wish it any different. She is uniquely gifted by God for the life He called her to and I am in awe of that calling. I’m simply grateful I was raised by the remarkable hands of my remarkable mother.

Middle School Romance: A Valentine Oxymoron

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought we’d revisit the purest of all the love stories- The Middle School Dating Scene. This timeless phenomenon has made millions of parents the world over wonder why they are not paying for single-gender private school through the ninth grade. I listen to the stories Lindsey tells me every single day about the boyfriends and girlfriends of the seventh grade, and I wonder anew, Were the romantic endeavors this ridiculous when I was in middle school? Well, of course they were, I’ve just invested a lot of time, life experience, and self-help books in an effort to mitigate the awkwardness of my middle school experience.

Lindsey does not have a boyfriend. We’ve been pretty clear with her that it’s completely unnecessary at her age, and she agrees. I periodically check her texts and she’s not on social media, so I’m pretty confident that there are no smoochie shenanigans going on that I am unaware of. Just because she is not engaged in these soap operas, does not mean that she isn’t privy to them playing out around her. I am blessed everyday by the tales of love and loss that occur among her peers.

Every story sounds something like this: 6 thirteen-year-old girls text Tyler because their friend Suzie likes him. Tyler just wants to be friends with Suzie because he actually likes Kylie, one of the 6 girls on the group chat. Tyler finds out that Kylie likes his best friend Jake so he decides to ask Suzie out via text (because any girlfriend is better than none). They agree to officially start dating the next morning (the Official Start Date is a real thing, it’s like establishing an anniversary before the relationship- please don’t spend a lot of time trying to understand this) only she gets to school and dumps him, via text, before first period.

As the mother of a 13-year-old girl, my job is to listen to this and take it somewhat seriously so she will trust and confide in me when the bigger deal stuff comes down the pike. My listening strategy is to be the Empathetic Mom Who Gives Relationship Advice. In reality and from the overflow of my heart, I want to say, “This is all bananas and you aren’t allowed to date until you are married,” but that doesn’t foster a strong Mother-Daughter bond in these turbulent teen years.

We recently had a talk about liking boys and as she talked her way around the whole scenario, she told me, “I think I like the idea of liking a boy, but I don’t want to be anyone’s girlfriend, does that sound crazy?” Nope. You sound like a sane teenage girl confirming what biology has long known, the frontal lobe of the brain is not formed until 25 years of age. Knowledge is power, so remember that when you enter the dating world TWELVE YEARS FROM NOW.

A lot of the power couples in middle school tend to be the same players recycled into new relationships. The boyfriends in this pool are a fascinating group. What 13-year-old boy is ready to meet the emotional needs of a thirteen-year-old girl? Or even throw his hat in the ring and WANT to give it a shot? Paul and I are the parents of a thirteen-year-old. We have a lot of education and relationship experience between us and we struggle to make sense of her emotional needs. Most days we just try and stay out of her way. Are these middle school Casanovas ahead of their time? Peaking early? Doing TED talks on relationships? WHO ARE THESE BOYS EXACTLY? I have a 15-year-old boy living in this house that I still have to remind to flush the toilet, so godpseed entrusting him with romance and emotional intelligence.

Speaking of my son, he is currently reading Romeo and Juliet in English. I am no fan of Shakespeare, but I think the bard captured one universal truth in his tale of the Capulets and Montagues that still rings true today: Adolescent romance will only end in tragedy, therefore avoid it until you are past the age of melodrama.

Or at least until you have your driver’s license.

Happy Valentine’s Day! May it be full of sweets and devoid of group chats.