A Mother’s Day perspective

They’re back. Just when I was getting used to my house as an oasis of order and calm, the teenagers have returned. University is done for the year, and we are in that lull between the end of school, and the beginning of the summer job! Not to say I haven’t missed my son. I have. But there is something about coming home from a long day at the office to a basement full of 19 year old boys in various stages of repose in front of the big screen TV.  Every mother’s dream.

As Mother’s Day looms around the corner, it does make me think, in true ‘A” type fashion, how I have performed in the rearing of my three children. With one off to University, another on the verge, and the youngest (thank God) with us for at least another five years I am starting to see the end result of all those years of car pools, homework, weekday suppers, ballet lessons, lost sleep, lost shoes and hours and hours on wet, cold soccer fields. 

So how did I do? Did I focus enough on the project at hand? Did I use the right strategy? How was the execution model? Did we team appropriately and did I have my target engaged? How was the communication, the collaboration, the mutual respect.

Well. No arrests yet.

The truth is, I made it up as I went along.  But I tried to be consistent and fair. My husband and I fell back on our values to help guide us. The basics were easy. No lying, cheating or criminal activity. After that, we got into a grey area.

Curfews? How late?

Friends over? How many at once.

X-Box in the house? Yes? No?  NO.

Trading off homework to make that critical soccer game? Hmmmm…

We tackled things as they came up. One at a time. And we tried to treat our children as the responsible individuals we expected them to be. We definitely talked “up” and not “down” to them. We listened to them. We might have ignored what they said…but we did listen.

We read them books, we showed them the world, we made our house the house that everyone could hang out at so we could know their friends.  We said “no” to the pet, yes to the make-up (in moderation) and made sure they went to the dentist.  I guess we did what every parent is supposed to do.  Open doors, help them discover their passion, keep them safe, and help them understand what true character really is.

I have discovered that confidence is a wonderful thing in a child. A confident child isn’t shackled by self doubt, jealousy or insecurity. A confident child will take risks, will reach out to others, will celebrate differences, and will handle criticism in the right way.

My son returned from his first year at Queen’s University this spring.

So – after all was said and done in this petri-dish of parenting, we sent off our first completed assignment to Queen’s University this fall. What came back in the door this spring was a young man turned on by his history professor, desperate to see his little brother, with new friends, and old friends,  six garbage bags of laundry, a wonderful summer internship, and a smile on his face. Over the year, we kept track of our work-in-progress by video every Sunday – or sometimes more often. I loved seeing him, seeing those smiling eyes, or making him laugh when he was stressed about exams.  Seeing was everything. Really BEING with him and knowing that, while we expected him to forge his own way, we could help him keep the road.

I am not a perfect mother. Far from it. I was gone a lot and sometimes work was priority #1 and kids #2.  I lost my temper and burned the toast. But what I did do was talk openly, honestly and try and get them to do the same. I have come to the conclusion that empathy, at home, and also in the work place, may just be the most important quality one can have. The ability to see things from another person’s point of view.

So how did I do with my assignment?  When I see my son, at home, at his desk, on the sport’s field, or on the other end of a video connection – I know that what I am getting back, is what I have given.

That’s my kind of Mother’s Day.

About Willa Black

As Vice-President, Corporate Affairs for Cisco Canada, Willa Black is responsible for strategies designed to promote Cisco's external brand awareness and relevance across key constituencies. She also leads programming in support of Cisco’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, reinforcing the company’s role as an organization committed to social advancement across governments, nongovernmental organizations, and communities of all kinds. Since joining Cisco in 1999, she has developed and led groundbreaking, award-winning programming including the Globe and Mail Business Incubator and most recently, the One Million Acts of Green campaign in partnership with the CBC. Black holds a bachelor of arts degree in English from Williams College in Massachusetts, USA.
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