We live in stratified times: politically, economically, socially and ideologically. But one thing we all have in common is a mother, and as complex as matriarchal relationships can be, I've always found that those who experience positive ones seem to have at least one foot set in the right direction. Can you imagine a world in which every person benefited from a loving relationship with mom? If so, you probably owe her more than a phone call today.
My ex-wife and I share 50/50 custody of our 9 year-old son, an arrangement we've maintained since our divorce, which occurred shortly after his second birthday. I recently learned that the average Florida marriage lasts just over 10 years. We managed only six, which were probably five more than either of us could have done without. Yet in the great irony of life, that union has given us both the best and worst experiences we've known. In the end, any regrets for the bad times are infinitely outweighed by the blessings conferred by having him in our world.
Sullivan's mother and I met in Colorado Springs, where she'd grown up and I had been stationed as a young military officer. She was the kind of beautiful that was very conducive to making not so well thought out decisions – at least for a kid from a tiny coal-region town in Pennsylvania. Anyone who can tell you why marriages work and why they don't is a smarter man than myself, but suffice it to say that we grew up to be very different people who wanted very different things out of life.
My son and his mother
photo credit: Tammy Parry
The one thing that remains in common, however, is a desire to raise a special young boy into a successful and decent man. I realized early that our competing values would often produce very different ideas as to what exactly that would entail. But as a student of politics I've always believed that no party has all of the answers and that the best governance – be it countries or kids – is born of compromise among people who may have different philosophies, yet still share a common goal of success.
After a divorce, there are many chances to allow and even encourage a child to play each side against the other, especially when you're on what seems like the winning end of the board. Hopefully, you come to understand that there is no such thing and avoid the temptation to do the same when your methods are the flavor of the moment with the kid. My son can be angry with his mother. My son can discuss his feelings. What my son cannot do is disrespect his mother, even if we share whatever frustration is plaguing him at the moment – and the same goes for me. This rule has always been guided by the very simple observation that little boys who disrespect their mothers never seem to grow up into fine young men. I believe that while the dynamics of boy/girl relationships are admittedly different, the same can be said of little girls.
I'm fortunate to have a big body of evidence from which to draw this conclusion. Three of my four sisters now have children of their own, including the newest edition to our family who arrived just last month. Each of them are wonderful mothers committed to raising the sort of children who will help make this world a better place once they set out on their own. The enduring love and respect they receive from their kids is a heartwarming portrait of this special bond. I can say the same about countless aunts and cousins throughout our enormous family.
Politics, religion, education and everything else aside, society still starts in the home and in the way we learn to form relationships and treat the people with whom we interact. Obviously, a mother's love is a quintessential ingredient when it comes to learning how to do those things in the sort of positive ways that make for a healthy and just society. Today, I'm grateful for having known the love of a wonderful mother, for knowing that my son enjoys the same privilege, and for being able to watch the other children in my life benefit from receiving it as well. To all of the equally loving mothers who help make this world a better place, I bid you a Happy Mothers Day.
Last year's Mothers Day column:
Dennis Maley's column appears every Thursday and Sunday in The Bradenton Times. He can be reached at email@example.com. Click here to visit his column archive. Click here to go to his bio page. You can also follow Dennis on Facebook.
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