Happy birthday, Mom!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

My mom will celebrate her birthday this Sunday.

She was born on Valentine's Day, which means her boyfriend will be in twice the trouble if he forgets to send flowers. It also means she has had to share her birthday with a well-known holiday all her life. For as long as I can remember, Mom has shared her birthday with me. She has always given me a Valentine's Day present as if it isn't the one day I should be celebrating her.

Throughout elementary, middle and high school, she sent flowers to me on Valentine's Day. She usually had some kind of chocolate or candy waiting for me at home. I knew it was her birthday but was too young to realize what that meant, so I ate up that candy cluelessly.

Now that I'm an adult and betrothed, you'd think she wouldn't do that kind of thing anymore. Of course you'd be wrong. Instead of getting me a Valentine's Day gift, she's begun getting me and Gideon a gift. This year, she's sending us $100 for a fancy night out.

Clearly, my mom is amazingly giving and selfless. I've seen that firsthand as her daughter, but I'm definitely not the only one. When I was growing up, I'd often see Mom quietly loan money to friends and family who needed it. She'd shrug it off when I asked her about it.

"They needed it," she'd tell me.

We wouldn't speak of it again, and that's how she wanted it. Because she gives so discreetly, many people don't see that side of her. They see another side just as impressive: her toughness. Mom is the toughest person I know. She can be hard on others because of it.

When I was a kid, I thought she expected too much of me. She'd constantly challenge me to work harder and to be kinder, even when I thought I was doing the best I could. I'm so happy she did this, because it instilled this unshakeable drive in me. I'm motivated every day to be my very best. Sometimes this means admitting my faults and trying to learn from them.

Of course, Mom also raised me to stand strong in my beliefs while not exposing me to any religion or political belief. I began researching and developing views that differ from hers as a teenager, and she never told me I was wrong to feel that way. Because of that, I know why I believe what I believe. I also have immense respect for what others believe; I attribute this to my mom's respect for me and my views.

If you respect others, she told me, you should get that respect back. Even if the respect isn't returned, she insisted it would still be worth it. She was right. She's right about most things, actually. I've faced a bit of criticism working with and writing for the public, but my mom has given me enough confidence and reason to deal with it.

I remember the first time I experienced such harsh criticism last year. Somehow, Mom boiled the entire situation down into one sentence.

"Consider the source," she said.

She was telling me to determine if criticism is valid before getting upset over it. If it is valid, she told me to learn from it. If it isn't, she suggested that I simply ignore it. That really put things in perspective for me.

I'd say that's what Mom's best at. She can call you on your crap in a way that impels you to be better. If she thinks you're being unfairly criticized, she'll support you with unmatched loyalty. She really does want to help others. She always has.

Happy birthday, Mom! Thanks for letting me know when to be better and when to just move on. I'd be a lesser person without you.

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Samantha Jones is a reporter for the Carroll County News. Her email address is CCNNews@cox-internet.com.