Happy Mother’s Day!

“The ordinarily decent impulses the ordinary man learned at his mother’s knee are our last line of defense against the wickedness of overweening power at home and abroad.”  – John Dos Passos (novelist, 1896-1970)

Mother's day quotesThe importance of mothers is beautifully captured in the below excerpt from the book What Jackie Taught Us: Lessons from the Remarkable Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Tina Santi Flaherty (2004):

“The memory of our mother never leaves us – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  That Jackie Kennedy Onassis was an exceptionally good mother even her harshest detractors readily acknowledge. Motherhood was what mattered most to Jackie. She believed that absolutely nothing came before the welfare of her children. Indeed, she referred to her efforts in raising Caroline and John Jr. as the best thing she’d ever done, saying she wanted to be remembered for that achievement more than for any other. She once remarked, ‘If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.’”

A Mother’s Influence

In keeping with our celebration of Mother’s Day, ATG contributor Esven Carreño reflects on his mother’s influence, below.

“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” —Abraham Lincoln

The quote above speaks to me because every time I say goodbye to my mom, in person or on the phone, the last thing she always says to me is “que mi dios me lo bendiga,” a popular phrase for many Latin Americans who identify with the Catholic faith. I used to roll my eyes during our goodbyes or simply ignore it as a child, but I have come to appreciate it as a genuine reminder that she is always thinking about my younger brother and me.

As the son of parents who emigrated from Colombia to America, some of my fondest memories as a child are of our family gatherings – both big and small, in Colombia and the United States. Such visits allowed me not only to see where my parents grew up and what they had experienced in their childhood, but also how central of a role family played in both of their upbringings.

Each gathering with family in Colombia was truly special. The hospitality and warmth with which my family was received truly reflects the Colombian culture and brings to life the cliché saying, “mi casa es su casa.”

Multiple people I had never met before hosted huge parties (multiple times), inviting all their family members, just to celebrate having the opportunity to host us. We were greeted with smiles, hugs, and kisses on the cheek from everyone – something that took some getting used to. Our faces were then stuffed with empanadas, arepas, tostones, and pernil. Meals were followed with a night full of dancing to salsa, cumbia, and vallenato. My brother and I usually played soccer, marbles, sapo, or trompo outside with cousins and other kids in the neighborhood.

Whenever my mother speaks of her childhood, she frequently highlights family gatherings and all the trouble she would get into with her closest cousins. It was her special connection with our extended family that she seems to have carried with her to America, fostering a similar culture in our family despite being separated from her own.

Instilling the importance and value of family in my brother and me at a young age, she would always remind us that “family comes first and your family will always be there for you.”

Whether it was these words or the culture I come from, I always was – and proudly remain – a HUGE “mama’s boy.” Resting my head on her shoulder as a young child and pretending to read a book or play Gameboy, I would sneakily try to listen to her phone conversations, curious to know who she was talking to and what they were saying (shhh…don’t tell!).

In the kitchen, while watching her cook a countless number of times (my favorites being sancocho – or “hearty chicken stew – empanadas, beans, lentils and arepas), I awaited any opportunity I could find to show her that I could be of assistance. “Need more Sazón, mommy?” “I can get that!” (Thank you, mom, for inspiring me to actually enjoy cooking!)

And at nighttime – after requesting her to tuck me in due to my fear of the dark and perfectly logical paranoia that monsters would emerge from my closet – I would place my arm over her so that I would wake up if she tried to escape (a clever tactic, if I do say so myself).

Although I once feared being apart from my mother as a child, I now take comfort in knowing that she is with me wherever I go, because she is very much a part of who I am – just as her family is a very much a part of her.

While she may not see her extended family in Colombia as often as she would like to, each time we return for a visit, it is as if nothing has changed. The love and respect is as strong as ever – and that is a beautiful thing.

I am often reminded of my mother’s influence on me whenever people tell me that I resemble her in not only in appearance, but in character as well – and to me, that is the greatest compliment I can ever receive.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers out there!


Esven Carreño is currently an MBA candidate at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University working at United Technologies Aerospace Systems in the Military Programs division. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he loves New York City and exploring all it has to offer in terms of cuisine, museums, and the ad-hoc live musical performances in the subway. He has an insatiable appetite for travel, having traveled to Latin America, Europe, and Africa; he hopes to visit Asia in the near future. In his free time he enjoys playing soccer, going for a run, hiking, and trying new recipes in the kitchen.

Happy Mother’s Day!

In honor of all mothers and in celebration of Mother’s Day, All Things Good (ATG) shares below a sampling of words used to describe mothers and motherly advice or wisdom recalled by daughters and sons in their very own words.

Do you agree that mothers matter? Comment below or share this with your mom and tag us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #ATGmothers.

Laura O. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Patient
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Make it a great day!” My mother said this to us before we went to school every day growing up, and now she sends me a text in the mornings, “MIAGD!” for short.

Michelle O. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Resilient
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: My mom has given me lots of good advice, but one of my favorites is, “Go get a shower. You’ll feel better.” It’s so simple, but I’ve always found it to be true. Doesn’t even have to be a long shower – just 5 minutes under the water is enough to clear your head.

Jessica L. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Selfless
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Don’t give up just because it’s hard!”

Ida L. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Concerned
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “If you fail, always try again. Everything will always work itself out. ” 

Julia says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Tenacious
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: Speak up. Take some deep breaths if you have to. You’re not going to barf. You’re louder than you think you are.”

Brittany V. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Inspirational
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Tomorrow is always a new day.” Whenever things get a little clouded, or just aren’t going the way they should, she always reminds me to breath because tomorrow is a new day, and everything will be okay.

Glee C. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Nurturing (and entertaining)
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: If it’s homemade, it’s healthy.”

Garrett P. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Selfless
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “No matter who you are with or where you’re at in life, never be someone that you’re not…ALWAYS just be yourself.” 

Steph D. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Strong
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: I will never forget when she said this to me: “Anytime you do something wrong, God will tell me” (this is when I got busted for drinking beer in high school – and to this day, I still don’t know how she found out!)

Abby L. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Honest
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: My mom always taught me to be authentic and true. Being a genuine human being and speaking the truth is something she still makes sure we have ringing in our minds to this day!

Sarah F. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Selfless
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Listen to your body and trust your gut.” She would always tell me, “You know when something isn’t right.” And to this day, it is so true.

Kasey H. says:

  • The one word I think of when I think of my mother is: Proud
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “You should never need a man, but you can want one.” It’s a good lesson because, as a single mama, she has showed that she can do a lot without a man and can even take on male dominated parts of life, proving herself competent in them.

Mother's Words of WisdomSisters Madeline & Sarah M. say:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Strong
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Rise above it”, meaning that whatever comes your way that might be negative, always be the bigger person and rise above it. We like it because you shouldn’t carry a grudge or something negative around when you have so many new life journeys ahead of you.

Hannah H. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Grace
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Follow the Lord, learn to forgive and take an interest in others”

Katherine G. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Pioneer (which is funny because her idea of camping is going to a cabin in the woods with electricity and running water. But, she has certainly forged her way in a legal career that has opened doors for other women to do the same).
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “You come from a strong line of women” (and then she makes reference to my great-grandmother leaving her family and coming over from Ireland and my grandmother leaving the city, getting on a train to become a librarian in a small town and then raising 5 children. It often makes training for 100 mile mountain bike races seem trivial!)

Madeline H. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Independent
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: She has always emphasized how important it is to be able to take care of yourself and not rely on others, especially a man.

Emily S. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Hilarious
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Keep your options open by making sure you’re always at least vaguely interested in five guys (minimum) at once.” I hate to invoke a cliché, but my mom really is one of my best friends. We’re well past the turbulent teenage years, but she is still waiting for my rebellious phase to kick in because we just sort of always got along. Maybe because, as she often says, “I’m very sorry about it, but it turns out we’re the same person.”

Parker R. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Loving
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Your family is the most important part of your life.”

Christina K. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Energizer-bunny
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Those who are granted much are expected much.”

Kassidy T. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Perceptive
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: Her best advice, which was instilled in my brother and I through her example, is to treat all people with kindness and consideration (especially those who are the most challenging, because they may need it most). Also, “everything’s fine in moderation”— she’s an aerobics instructor so she preaches the importance of healthy habits, but health doesn’t mean completely sacrificing chocolate or cocktails!

Casey B. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Strong
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Loving someone means you take the good with the bad…but it’s also important to know when the bad is outweighing the good in someone.” I think this is the advice that I’ve come back to over and over again as an adult throughout relationship struggles…I’ve had to learn how to accept other people’s flaws as part of them and knowing that – that nobody’s perfect, but that I can love them anyways – is probably the best advice I’ve gotten as an adult. My mom is the person who’s been there helping me along every step of the way, learning forgiveness and acceptance, while at the same time being the first person to say “he’s not giving you the respect you deserve, it’s time to walk away from that.”

Chris S. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Tireless
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Always work hard”

Doug R. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Giver. My mom is the ultimate giver.

Kendell J. says:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Resilient. My mom is the strongest lady I know! (ATG note: Her strength has clearly been passed on to Kendell, who recently opened an immigration law firm in Boston, MA: Johnson & Fyten Law Offices, LLP).

Anonymous:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Giving (and supportive)
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “The more people you know, the better off you are in life.”

Anonymous:

  • The one word I would use to describe my mother is: Crazy
  • The one phrase that has left an impression: “Don’t sweat the small stuff!”

Be sure to also check out our delicious recipes for a Mother’s Day brunch and a reflection on why mothers are so important. See also one mother’s influence on her son.

Make Way For Mothers*

We’re celebrating Mother’s Day! See our delicious Mother’s Day brunch ideas and a thoughtful reflection on one mother’s influence on her son.

Make Way for Ducklings StoryIf you had to choose one word to describe your mother, what would it be? How about one piece of advice she has given you that has always stuck with you or influenced you in some way?

These are the questions I recently posed to a large group of family and friends, in anticipation of writing a piece commemorating the Mother’s Day holiday – a day dedicated to honoring and respecting all mothers, celebrating motherhood and expressing gratitude and appreciation for all the things, both big and small, our mothers did, have done or continue to do for us throughout our life.

While the responses to these questions were, as you might expect, all unique – some powerful and profound, others lighthearted and funny – they reveal an underlying truth that can sometimes be obscured by the modern day plight of the family: namely, that mothers matter. That the role a mother plays in our lives is important. That what our mothers do and say, to us and to others, affects us – influencing us and shaping us into the individuals we are today.

Given that we are easily influenced creatures by nature, this isn’t necessarily surprising. Indeed, some of our first impressions of the world, beliefs in life and behaviors we adopt are no doubt a result of the “first” words, beliefs and behaviors we are able to consciously observe and mentally process – many of which naturally come from our mother, the bearer of our life.

This is precisely why I believe the role of a mother is so important – and is an undertaking that, as far as I can tell, requires an immense amount of responsibility, not to mention incredible (and merciless) patience, selflessness, effort, maturity and strength.

Tasked with caring for our every need as helpless infants, managing our temper tantrums as young children, navigating our emotions and raging hormones as teenagers and reassuring us in times of difficulty as we grow older, a mother is more than just a term or “name” that we use to identify the person who brought us into this world. It really is a job in and of itself.

Similar to a boss who exerts his efforts managing others, and is required to lead his employees by setting a positive, honorable example for them to follow, a mother very much “leads” her children (Make Way For Ducklings*, anyone?), imparting attitudes and beliefs that her children are likely to embrace, albeit passively, and setting an example for how they should behave in certain situations.

When We Were Very Young BookWhile some of us may come to question or challenge these notions as we grow older – a healthy process in the formation of one’s self – it is difficult to dismiss the formidable impressions our mothers make on us in our early years, which serve as a foundation upon which we understand ourselves and others, and the role we play in the world around us.

As the daughter of a mother who has devoted her life to my two older brothers and me (a rather trying job!), I can confidently say that the impact she has had on me is truly immeasurable – and that the example she has set throughout my life has played a far greater role in forming who I am today than nearly anything else.

If the responses I received to my two questions are any indication of the love, respect and admiration people have for their mothers, then clearly I’m not the only one who agrees how profoundly important they are in our lives.

In fact, there is little else I can say to convey just how much my mother has mattered and continues to matter than to recall the words written by the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, which seem to find their way into my mind each Mother’s Day:

“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”

And so, I return to my two questions: what one word would you use to describe your mother? And what is the best advice or words of wisdom she has given you?

My responses? One word: Selfless. And the piece of advice she has not only spoken, but consistently lived by in her very own life: “No matter what someone does, says, doesn’t say or doesn’t do, be the bigger person and always treat others the way you would hope to be treated.”

Thank you, Mom, for being my guiding light, inspiration and source of comfort and strength.

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

To show all mothers just how important you are, read all the responses to the two aforementioned questions, here. Share this with your mom if you agree that mothers matter! #ATGmothers

This piece was also published on The Huffington Post.