Like Mother…

Post Author: Kate Smanik-Moyes

Happy Mother’s Day! Last night, while Simon and I wandered through our local mall, I wondered what I would give you as a token of my thanks this year. On and off I have debated making you a pair of the fingerless gloves you asked for at Christmas, but I just couldn’t convince myself that fingerless gloves were a good gift idea in May. (For the record, I have the yarn, a perfect non-scratchy cotton and wool blend in a beautiful blue. The gloves are on their way, just not on this occasion.)

Each year on Mother’s Day, I do my best to thank you. Usually the thanksgiving is for all of the extraordinarily ordinary things you have done for your children. Considering that we are all, as Dad puts it, “successfully launched” as young adults with careers, homes, and bank accounts that are mostly independent of you, I think that you and he both have a right to be proud. Guiding three children in their journey through adolescence into young adulthood is no small feat. This year, though, I have a different thanksgiving to share.

Here’s the thing. I work with young adults day in and day out, and I know that we exist in a generation where parents have far more contact and daily control over our lives than ever before. Sometimes this parental involvement is a great thing and sometimes it’s the helicopter-parent-who-never-lets-little-Suzie-go bane of my existence. To be honest, I think there were moments when you were both, mostly because I needed someone breathing down my neck.

I know, that doesn’t sound thankful; I’m getting there…see, somewhere in my true young adulthood, those early young adult years between 22 and 25, we came to what I thought was an amazing mutual compromise. We agreed that I was an adult, and that as such, I would behave like one and you would treat me like one.

That agreement sounds easy, rational, logical, even normal. I now know that it wasn’t. Young adults don’t behave like adults. They behave like young adults. Young adults make ridiculous decisions, huge mistakes, wise choices, considerable blunders and work to change the world all in one breath. They are optimistic, crazy, fun, and very challenging. So at that time, I thought I was acting like an adult and living up to my side of the bargain, but I didn’t realize that I was in fact living like a young adult, making good choices and bad choices and a lot of bizarre choices. While I was being a young adult, you made the promise to treat me like an adult and then you followed through on it. Thank you. I love you for it.

But what I really love is the relationship that this “agreement” allowed us to develop. From the moment we started shopping for a shared apartment at the end of my first year at Yale Divinity School, our relationship changed. Suddenly we were not only parent and child, we were something new as well. Throughout the years that followed we shared experiences, traded stories, and ultimately became peers. This new relationship where you were as goofy and childlike as I was, and where I learned to be an adult from your day-to-day example, was a gift from God.

As I prepared for divinity school, I pictured myself commiserating over systematic theology papers, as well as sharing coffee, beer and “deep thoughts”, with new friends. What I didn’t expect was that you would be at the top of the list for those endeavors. My best memories from graduate school always include you; watching Law and Order with a glass of wine, studying furiously before an exam at “Koffee?” in downtown New Haven, or chatting in the common room over a shared lunch with friends. I learned as much from our conversations, and your experiential wisdom, as I did in the classroom. The best part? I can continue to revisit those conversations with you any time that I like.

Most people have mentors, wise counsel to whom they can turn in moments of struggle, to help them discern their future course. I have you, my mother, my mentor, my co-conspirator; the person who brought me into the world and then was gracious enough to share a journey into ordained ministry with me, including a joint graduation and a joint ordination. In your own wise words, “How cool is that?”

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I hope you had a great one.

Your eldest daughter, Kate

Image by: Courtney Hedger
Used with permission
3 replies
  1. Elsa
    Elsa says:

    Thank you for this heartfelt letter to your mom, Kate. It named something for me that I have never really thought about. As a motherless daughter, I’ve chartered these waters very differently — and yet, you wrote this in a way that even I was able to be grateful.

  2. Stacey
    Stacey says:

    This is such a great article. Also, your mom is apparently serving right around the corner from my house. Guess I’ll have to pop over and say hi sometime!

  3. Beth B.
    Beth B. says:

    This past December, on the day after Christmas, my mom and I got tattoos together (her first and my sixth). We often talk about the influences our parents have on us, but I guess you never know how your young adult-ness will rub off on your parents!
    Though are tattoos are different and in different places on our bodies, they are both of roses–theologically significant, I think. And whenever I look over my shoulder and see mine, I’ll think of my mom.
    Thank you for this piece.


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