Speech given at the American Mothers, Inc., convention at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, April 26, 2013.
I am humbled by this honor and I’m grateful for the topic of my speech: Inspired. Empowered. Raising the next generation.
For several years now I have had sitting on my nightstand two polished stones-one with the word inspire engraved on it, the other with the word courage. I put them there as reminders of one of my goals as a mother—I want to inspire courage in my children.
Before I became a mom, I thought the most important thing I could do as a mother would be to teach my children everything I knew. Then I had our first child—that always changes parenting philosophy, doesn’t it? Our son had a rare condition that required a liver transplant. I quickly realized he would need to know lots of different things I had yet to learn. I wanted to inspire him to learn what he would need to know to face his unique challenges and accomplish his life’s work. Most importantly, I wanted to help him discover his gifts and talents.
How does a mother inspire children to learn? I’ve found inspiration comes when it is invited, not when it is demanded. While my children have never asked me to inspire them, they have asked me things like, “Will you hold my hand?” or “Can I have a hug?” or usually after bedtime story and prayer, “Will you sing to me?” Each question has been an invitation to show love.
When I was in the hospital with my son after his transplant, I noticed a small boy always with the nurses. I asked the social worker about him and learned he was waiting for liver transplant but would likely never receive one. When I asked why, she explained his parents had dropped him off at the hospital and said something like, ‘call us when he’s better.’ She further explained that he was considered ‘high risk’ for transplant failure without a ‘dedicated caregiver.’
While I hold no judgment of those parents, and do not know what happened to that boy, his memory has served as a reminder for me that being there for my children is a sacred trust.
One day, after my toddler had played with the stones on my nightstand, I noticed they sat in a different order. The stone for courage was in front of the stone for inspire. In an instant I understood the message. It takes courage to inspire. Courage to make the necessary sacrifices. Courage to know myself, beyond the layers of comparison and guilt that can accumulate, and know what my talents are. And courage to share them.
Imagine a child who has been inspired to discover their unique gifts and talents. Imagine a child who does not doubt they are loved because their mother was there for them. That child is empowered to take their place in the next generation.
Not to say this is easy to do. I’m still learning and like all mothers, there are difficult days. Especially for young mothers and mothers of children with special needs.
But I have discovered a saving grace.
Something I heard years ago has stayed with me. “The soul is healed by being with children.” [Dostoevsky]
In my effort to be there for and with my children, they have given me this exceptional gift.
I think all children can—if we allow them to—inspire and empower each one of us.
Copyright © 2013 Tamara Passey