Humble and kind

I walked away with tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t have been more thant six or seven years old. I turned around to try my case before the judge and jury one more time, but my mom had enough of my shenanigans and simply pointed to my room She was sending me there to think over what I had done wrong.

I was being punished for not telling the truth. When I was growing up, my two brothers and I got away with a lot of things, but the rules were pretty clear: help out with the chores around the house, talking back was a big no-no, and lying was out of the question. 

My memory is rough around the edges now, so I can’t tell with certainty what I did wrong, but I think it had something to do with trying to blame my brothers for the mess I had made in the kitchen. I vaguely recall spilling the milk on the kitchen table when no one was watching and trying lie my way out of it. Of course, it just as easily could have had to do with biting or kicking one of my brothers when they had me on the ground. You know what I’m talking about, run of the mill stuff when it comes to having three sons. 

The problem was that I talked back to my mom. Now this part I remember loud and clear. You didn’t talk back to either of my parents and live to talk about it.

Stay humble and kind

Country artist Tim McGraw’s 2016 hit song “Humble and Kind” came on my playlist recently and I was instantly taken back to the moment. My parents, but especially my mom, brought my brothers and I up to chase our dreams. She didn’t have a great education; she grew up Amish, had to stop full time schooling around the 7th or 8th grades and later left the church, when she was 17. With that background, it was important to her that we be happy.

There wasn’t a lot of talk about grades or college in our house. College was a foreign concept, but at the same time we knew that education and doing our best was expected if we wanted to succeed and have options. She encouraged us to be ourselves and made sure that we said “please” and “thank you” and treated others with respect. 

And if we messed up, she had no problems making sure that we knew who the boss was.

Strict rules

Besides basic manners, she brought us up to look after and take care of each other. As the youngest, there wasn’t much I could do to protect my older brothers, I’m sure they wanted nothing to do with me, but they knew all too well that they had better look after me, lest there be hell to pay.  

When we were really bad, she would threaten to tell our dad, when he got home from work. As we got older though, that was nothing compared to knowing that you had disappointed her. That was the absolute worst.

You never wanted to disappoint her. I suspect that even at a young age, we knew that we had it good with mom. When you disappointed her and had to look into her eyes, you wanted to shrivel up and stick your head in the ground. You felt like the worst kid alive. I’ve faced that look, that feeling, only a few times in my life. I never want to have that feeling again. I can say as an adult I would sign up to face a firing squad before facing that look. I’ve never wanted to hurt her or have her think less of me.

Celebrating another year

A key part of the McGraw song, written by Lori McKenna, goes, “I know you’ve got mountains to climb but always stay humble and kind.” My mother has spent her life putting others first and has been my brothers and my biggest fan. Mom, I hope we’ve lived up to the meaning of the song for you.

Happy Birthday Mom. Enjoy your special day. 

Tim McGraw song, written by Lori McKenna.

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