“Watch Words for Being a Mother,” column for Oct. 28, 2014

It wasn’t the first word I ever spoke. (My mother swore that was “go.”) But the first word I learned to heed was “watch.”
“Watch what you’re doing.”
“Watch where you’re going.”
“Watch your manners.”
“Watch your mouth.”
“Watch your brothers.”
“Watch this, y’all.”
I’ve done a lot of watching. I’m good at it. It’s a handy skill for two reasons. One, I write about life and whatever comes along. If you stay alive and keep watching, things keep coming along. Good or bad, you’ve got something to write about.
Two, I’m a mother. Mothers watch. We do other things, too _ cook, clean, calm, soothe, teach, train, hope, pray. But watching is high on the list.
I thought of that recently as I watched my youngest teach his 4 year old how to tie his shoes.
Their heads bowed low, almost touching. Same hair, thick and curly, but different colors, copper red for the 4 year old, sandy brown for his dad.
Their hands were identical except in size, one pair small and delicate, the other big and strong, working together, trial and error, that’s it, you’ve got it, laughter and laces and loops.
I wish you could’ve seen them.
I don’t know who was prouder, my boy or his boy or me.
How long had it been since I watched my son sit on the floor with his dad learning to tie his shoes? More than 30 years? How was that possible?
That sobering thought brought a flood of memories from all the times I’ve spent watching that boy grow up to be a man.
When he was born, he didn’t cry. Instead, he blinked into the lights as if trying to decide what planet he was on. Then his eyes found mine and the look on his face seemed to say, “Oh, there you are, Mom. I was looking for you. What’s for dinner?”
That’s when I had the vision. Staring into his newborn soul, I saw the man he would grow up to be: Strong like his brother, smart like his sister, a dreamer like his mama, a hard worker like his dad. He looked good.
For years, I watched as he did lots of things. Ride a bike. Flip a skateboard. Shoot a jump shot. Play piano. Drive the neighbors crazy banging on his drums.
He was fun to watch, usually. But I also had to watch him struggle as a teenager in the years his dad battled cancer. To see the look in his eyes watching the strongest man he ever knew grow too weak to walk. To feel my heart break as I watched him sit with his dad the night he died whispering a last goodbye.
I didn’t want to see any of that. But to watch a child grow up, you can’t look away when things get hard. You have to see it all.
In the darkest of hours, when your heart is breaking, it helps to have a vision, a slim, stubborn hope for happier days ahead.
That’s what I had, a gift the boy gave me when he was born, one of the best gifts of my life.
He’s grown now, but I’m still watching. That’s what mothers do. Children grow up and we grow older, but we never really let them out of our sight.
These days, I watch him being a husband to his wife, a father to his two boys and a teacher, like his dad, to his third-graders.
Last week I watched him rip out a kitchen, feathering the nest for a baby girl on her way.
In everything he does, I see the realization of the vision he gave me when he was born. I hope somehow his dad sees it, too.
I told you all that to say this. If you are hurting for a child, my heart goes out to you. I wish I could tell you not to worry, that everything will be all right. But I can’t give you a vision for your child’s life. You have to see it for yourself and believe in it, come what may.
Years ago a friend sent me a card with these words: “Just when you think you will never smile again, life comes back.”
It does.
Take my word for it.
Keep watching.

Comments

  1. Sharon,

    What a beautiful reminder to simply keep watching. I will indeed.

    Blessings,

    Bruce

  2. Linda Kenney says:

    Sharon, I hope you write a Big book, containing all of your stories very soon…. I will race out to purchase several copies for my children and sisters as soon as it comes out….You are the most wonderful story teller I have ever know and I read everything…..Much Best wishes and Happiness to you and your family forever .

  3. Donavan says:

    My mom emailed your article to me that ran in a local paper, and I just wanted to say thank you. I’m still choking back tears while writing this! If you’ve not written a book you should do so. Thank you, again.

  4. Pat O'Leary says:

    Our local paper just had this column this morning and, as usual, Sharon made tears fall in my morning coffee. My 38 year old daughter had her first child last week, a boy. She lives 6 hours away so we haven’t met him yet. We will next week. I am sending her this column to add to her new mom brain trust. Keep up the great writing, Sharon. Why shouldn’t mornings start with a good cry?

  5. Kathleen Leveroni says:

    Randy is watching and approves of the son you both brought into this world. As is his Grandpa and Grandma Randall. I knew them well, and know that All would be proud of the son you two, together, produced! He sounds like a beautiful man….

  6. Jo Carter says:

    Thank you so much Sharon. You always write about the same things I’m going through. Your words have helped me in my life so many times. I hope the next time you are in the Central Texas area I will get to meet you.

  7. shashi says:

    Thanks for very useful advice . I read in your other column how unkind spoken words cannot be washed with any cleaner . Still it is very true that words have amazing power to avoid any future damage to our soul which is pure and vice versa. When others donot think before speaking we can ignore as we are not them and it solves so many other problems in relationship and our image in the society . We can stay quite and write what we think but speaking is worse than writing as spoken words do not go back in our mouth but we can delete written content with eraser and with one click if it is still a draft . I learnt from my husband . He stays quite like I said something to wall not him and in few seconds I realize my mistake . It cannot be applied in reality sometimes when things go wrong very far away from reality but we can wait to give advice later when time and situation arises .

  8. Marcia Domino says:

    This column brought tears. Sharon, you are such a special writer. I went through breast cancer treatment in 2006 and the hardest part was watching the looks of concern and worry on my three sons’ faces. My job is to worry about them, and it broke my heart knowing they were so worried about me. My friend is going through the same treatment now and she recently told me the hardest thing is knowing her adult children are worrying about her. Cancer doesn’t care that she lost her husband last November. He was a beloved teacher and coach like your late husband. She is brave, strong, etc. and is carrying on well. I’ll keep watching out for her and for better things that I know are coming! I just turned 60 this week and am so glad I’m still here, now driving my adult sons crazy! Thanks for a special column.

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