Our mothers knew it

Today’s guest post is from my darling eighteen year-old son, Ben. He offered to write a post last Spring, and with the craziness of girls’ camp in my life this week, it seemed like the perfect time to cash in the favor. I’ve left it largely unedited; I love reading the fresh, raw opinions of my boy and his friends.  –Michelle Lehnardt, Segullah Blog Co-Editor

My boxes aren’t exactly packed, but I’ve been sorting through my clothes, searching for a sturdy bike lock and asking my mom a little more often than usual, “How do you cook _______?”

In two weeks I’ll be at BYU, away from home for the first time in my life. As you can imagine, my mom has been pretty emotional about my departure. It probably wasn’t very nice of me, but I took her to Toy Story 3 with full knowledge that she’d cry through the whole movie (I should have brought more Kleenex).

But her influence in my life isn’t over. As much as my mom dislikes driving, I’m pretty sure she’ll make the trek to Provo pretty often to bring me cookies, walk through the art museum with me and, hopefully, restock my fridge.

And as I prepare to go on a mission this winter I’ll also be depending on my mom to navigate all that suit shopping for me (I really, really despise the mall).

Mothers receive very little appreciation in our culture. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else—I just don’t remember to thank her for dinner and new pencils and life. And sadly, when I’m frustrated, it’s usually my mom who gets the brunt of my bad temper. Despite this, my undying gratitude for my mother endures.

You might be surprised, but last year, when my friends and I formed a pre-mission study group, one of our oft-repeated topics was our admiration for our mothers. I have a great group of friends—they do well in school, read their scriptures and try to keep the standards of the church—but they struggle with temptation just like anybody else. One week, when discussing the Army of Helaman, we made a list of what we wish every parent of teenagers (especially teenage boys) knew:

  1. Be there. It might sound babyish, but we all agreed that we like our moms to be home as much as possible—breakfast, after school, at midnight after a date. A lot of moms “check out” of parenting when their kids are in high school, but we still need them. This doesn’t necessarily mean not working or pursuing their own interests (because only Siths deal in absolutes), but every kid likes to feel like they are top priority in their mother’s life. To be honest, children aren’t proud of their parent’s accomplishments the way parents admire their children’s. People comment to me all the time about the amazing things my mom can do but I’m just glad that she’s an amazing mother to me.
  2. Don’t be afraid to set strict rules about movies, music and television. A lot of parents seem to be afraid of their teenagers, but honestly, we like limits. And besides, it’s really embarrassing to go to a trashy movie with a cute Mormon girl.
  3. Speaking of girls, talk to your kids early about the kind of person you’d like them to date. I thought it was strange that my mom talked to me about nice girls when I’d barely learned to tie my shoes, but when I got older I wasn’t blindsided by the trashy, fast girls. Mom taught me to look for kindness, quiet beauty, testimony.
  4. Be aware of porn. Yeah, this could be umbrellaed under number two, but pornography is such a huge issue that it needs it’s own bullet point. Don’t kid yourselves moms, no boy escapes the temptation of pornography. And I don’t care if you have a kid who reads the Book of Mormon every two weeks and helps old ladies across the street—he’s tempted too. Do your boys a favor and keep the computers out in the family room; change the passwords every week. Be wary of giving kids their own laptop or iPhone—the temptation is just too much. Talk to your boys about porn; tell them that you trust them. But make it easier to keep that trust.
  5. Live your testimony. A hundred family home evenings can’t match the decisions I see my parents make when attending church while on vacation, handing back the extra $20 the cashier mistakenly gave in change and shoveling the walks at the church.
  6. Love them. Teenagers aren’t much different from little kids. We might not want to sit on your lap, but we want to be told that you love us, we want you to be proud when we do something well and yeah, sometimes a hug and a kiss are OK too.

36 thoughts on “Our mothers knew it

  1. “Only Siths deal in absolutes.”

    You are going to fit in just fine at BYU. The next time I see a bunch of freshmen running around with light sabers, I’m going to wonder if it’s you. LOL

  2. Oh my. Where’s my 14-year-old son?! (Camping w/ Dad). This makes me want to run right out and HUG HIM ’til he begs for mercy! This is the sweetest (and most helpful) post ever! Thanks!!!

  3. Thank you so much for this, Ben. As the mother of a sometimes baffling 7 year old boy, and two girls approaching teenage, THANK YOU. I needed these insights.

    And to Ben’s mother, nice job. Your son is articulate, funny and aware. I have no doubt he’ll do well at BYU and on a mission.

  4. I loved this post! It made me laugh, it made me cry! It was full of practical, sage (are you sure you’re only 18?) advice and sweet, loving tribute to his mother. My kind of post.

  5. Thanks for all that advice! With four boys ranging from 10 to 2, I’ll keep this in my stores for help now and later on. I hope my sons turn out to be as smart and wise as you. Good luck at BYU and on your mission.

  6. Ben, you are the most amazing kid I have ever (not) met. You amaze me with your maturity, honesty, and intelligence. Give your mom a big pat on the back. She’s done well.

  7. What a very smart boy! I especially liked how he said 100 FHEs can’t match the decision you made to attend church while on vacation. My parents did that also and it has made an eternal impression on me.

  8. This is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing, Ben. As a mother of four sons, you have confirmed a lot of what I believe I need to be for them. I’ll bookmark this and read it once a week. :)

  9. Absolutely incredible. Honestly, as a parent of three darling boys and one darling girl, this is priceless. I am printing it out right now. Fine work, Ben. Very fine work.

  10. This is beautiful. I’ve been at BYU for 2 years now and I still call my mom every day. But our relationship has evolved; I don’t just rely on her now, we both rely on each other. How grateful I am for a mother who continues to be there for me even though I’ve left the house. I’m sure your mother will do the same for you, because she is pretty amazing :]

    Be sure to walk through the art museum often; it’s a beautiful place and I might be a docent there in the winter semester.

    Thanks for your insights!

  11. Thank you. This is wonderful. I sometimes wish my 5 year old could tell what he will be needing for the next 15 years. I know he can’t but thanks for telling me so eloquently what has helped you so I can be a better mother to him.

    Best of luck with college. You’ll be great.

  12. This may go down as one of my all-time favorite Segullah posts. I loved it. Thanks, Ben, for taking the time to write it.

    And have a blast at BYU.

  13. I only wish I were still young enough (or maybe I should say, “my KIDS were still young enough”) for me to take advantage of this.

    Great advice!

    =)

  14. Does Ben have an older brother that we could introduce to my daughter? :)
    Best wishes to all as this new adventure begins!!

  15. great advice that i was happy to share with my married kids now launching their own families.

    thank you for sharing and best wishes as you attend BYU. ccc

  16. Ben, thank you for taking the time to write this post… I am going to print it out and read it often! I have three boys; 10, 8, & 6… and am excited/ terrified for them to become teenagers… thank you for giving me hope:)

  17. Ben, you are a wonderful young man! This post was such a lovely tribute to your mother. It brought tears to my eyes: I, too, have a son who will be a freshman at BYU in two weeks (and you remind me of him—even down to the Sith comment!) and he’s working on his mission papers right now so he can leave on his mission in January. I know just how your mother is feeling.

    Everything you said rang true. You reminded me that nothing brings a mother more joy than watching her children grow into the amazing people they were destined to become. No doubt you’ve given your mother much joy today. =)

  18. What a sweet post! My oldest is just 11, and it’s good for me to look into the future a little and know what kinds of things he is going to need. I appreciate the honesty! I bet your mother is just bursting with pride!

  19. This makes me a lot more confident in my ability to parent a boy. Right now, with one boy and another boy coming in October, the thought of their teenage years is overwhelming. Especially since I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. While I may have to add a couple more helps once ten years goes by, this allows me to know where to start. Thank you for taking the time to write this out.

  20. Oh, Michelle…tell Ben ‘thank you’ a million times for his great perspective. I’m praying that the second coming happens before my 7-year-old turns into the ‘dreaded’ teenager, but reading Ben’s words gives me hope, in case my prayers aren’t answered in the way I hope! :)

  21. This is a very wise, insightful post. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I have four boys, my first of whom is turning 13 this fall, so your perspective means so much to me. Best wishes as you head off to BYU.

  22. I’m on the other end of this journey as a mom and reading this just gave me the inspiration to try to be that much better as a mother this week. I hope my kids write something like this someday. And I hope they know what a siths are :).

  23. Ben, kudos for this post — one I could have written when I was 18 because I felt about my mom the way you feel about yours (though at the time, I had only seen Episode 4 and didn’t have a clear vision of Siths yet).

    Ironic, comparing this post to the comment of a nephew to his mother before boarding the plane to the MTC when mom casually joked she’d be grateful to have 25% of her house back: “What? You haven’t done anything for me in years!” Sadly, he was serious (and wrong).

    Good for you for having your eyes open, Ben. Your life will be better for it.

  24. i am a regular at your mom’s blog … lurking mostly … in awe of the wonderful kids she is raising … she really does love all of you … i can tell and i don’t even know her except on the blogosphere. this advise comes to me in a timely fashion … i have an almost 10 year old daughter and i often wonder what i can do best for her … i also have 2 boys bringing up the rear (ages 6 and 4) and like you said, if i am stiving to be like your awesome mom, i need to start talking to my boys about nice girls and what kinds of movies are ok and the rules about the internet (since they just learned to tie their shoes). in short, thank you for this. i will really take it to heart … and i will pray someday that my boys will take the time to write down how much they appreciated me (even if i don’t get to read it!)

  25. As the mom of a 15-year-old boy, I read this making a mental checklist. Doing that. Could do better there. Don’t forget that one.

    THANKS for the great list–there’s nothing like hearing it from the source.

  26. Thanks Ben and thanks to your mom. You remind me of my oldest son Jacob. Hopefully he’s headed to BYU next year. We have tried to follow the items you mention, not sure sometimes if we were being too “absolute,” but I appreciate your reassuring perspective. The world and the church will be in good hands as this generation of stripping warriors comes of age. Best wishes for school and mission! (I have 9 children, 6 boys all of whom love Star Wars).

  27. Ben,

    Such a beautiful and wise post! Thank you for being observant and mindful enough to write this.

    It was wonderful to see into the heart of a young man.

    :)

  28. Great post, Ben.

    So true and also comforting. I have a 17 year old son and a 13 year old. son. I wish they had a group of friends like yours, but they are the only members in their school except one other. It’s a challenge.

    God bless you at school and on your mission!

  29. Loved this. As a mom who always wonders what’s really going on in her kids’ heads (oldest is 11yo boy), I really appreciate the first-hand advice.

  30. I absolutely love this! Thank you SO much for posting it, and give that kid a pat on the back for me, as well as for yourself, mom!
    Corine :D

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