More than Words

By Diane Stark

More than Words

“Four tickets to Return of the Jedi, please,” Mom told the movie theatre clerk.

“It’s nearly sold out,” she said. “You probably won’t be able to sit together.”

“That’s OK. My son is going to see this movie even if I have to stand up in the back of the theatre.”

The clerk smiled. “You’re a good mom.”

The clerk was right, of course, but she didn’t know the full story. The year was 1983, and I was in third grade. My dad had spent the last year in Colombia, South America, for his job, leaving Mom at home with my siblings and me. At the time, we were 7, 9 and 11 years old. Mom had driven nearly 100 miles to take us to a special early release showing of the movie that night. My older brother loved Star Wars and was dying to see its sequel. The problem was, we were leaving the country the following morning to visit my dad. We were going to be gone for two months, and since this was in the days before Netflix – or even Blockbuster – this special showing was Mike’s only chance to see the movie.

There were a hundred reasons for Mom to say no. We had an early flight. The theatre was too far away. We still needed to pack.

But Mom saw how important it was to Mike, so it became important to her as well. I still remember the excitement on his face that night. It was one of the best nights of my childhood. Not because I liked Star Wars, but because I realized that night that my mom would do just about anything to prove her love for us. She told us she loved us, but she also showed us through her actions. Love was more than just words.

Many years later, I hesitantly showed my husband an essay I’d had published in Sasee. I was a new writer and unsure of myself. He read it and then, ever so gently, he tore the page from the rest of the magazine and put on the refrigerator alongside our children’s school work.

That one simple action said more to me than any words ever could have.

Just last night, as I tucked my five-year-old son into bed, we read his favorite book for the millionth time. It’s called, I Love My Mommy Because…, and each page includes something that mommies do for their children.

“I love my mommy because she reads to me,” I read.

Nathan’s eyes lit up and for the millionth time, he said, “You do that for me. Does that mean you love me?”

I nodded and kept reading. “I love my mommy because she plays hide and seek with me.”

“Oh, you do that too!” Nathan said, right on cue.

“I love my mommy because she feeds me when I’m hungry and rocks me when I’m sleepy,” I read.

“You do those things too,” Nathan said. “I guess that means you really, really love me.”

I nodded and snuggled him closer. “Yep, I really, really love you, Honey.”

Nathan and I have had that same conversation every night for the past six months. It is beyond sweet, but at the end of a long day, it is sometimes tempting to rush through it. I try to resist the urge because I know this phase won’t last forever, and I’ll miss it when it’s over.

Besides, I’ve learned a lot from it. Not only have I memorized every word of the story, I’ve discovered the key to my little boy’s heart. For some reason, this book has become a checklist of sorts. In Nathan’s young mind, good mommies do the things in his book. Doing those things means I love him.

Really, really love him.

As I write this, my 40th birthday is looming. Looming really isn’t the right word. It’s barreling toward me like a freight train. In just 12 short days, I will no longer be a 30-something.

I won’t lie. It’s bothering me. I’m seeing wrinkles on my forehead and cellulite on my…well, things just aren’t the same anymore.

The bad news is that things on the outside don’t look the same, but there’s good news too. Things on the inside are different as well.

I read a quote the other day that says, “There is no way to be a perfect mother, but there are a million little ways to be a good one.” Thank you, Jill Churchill, for quite possibly the wisest words any one has ever uttered.

With age, and the benefit of those words, I’m learning to let go of perfection. I am not a perfect mother, nor will I ever be. I’ll always have days when I’m not as patient as I should be, when I lose my cool over something insignificant. I’ll never be Super Mom, at least not for more than an hour at a time.

But motherhood isn’t a sprint. It’s a journey that lasts far longer than a child’s years at home.

Perfection isn’t the goal. If I make that my goal, I’ll fail every single day. My goal is speak love, not just with my words, but with my actions.

I want my family to feel my love for them through the things I do. So I make favorite dinners. I bake cookies. I read books until I can recite them. I help with homework and I drive carloads of kids to the mall and the movies.

In short, if it matters to them, it matters to me.

I’ll never be a perfect mom, and after all these years, I’ve finally accepted that. I’ve learned that being a good mom has to be good enough. And for me, that means that my love has to be tangible. It’s got to be more than just words.

If I can do that each day, I can go to bed a happy mommy.

But only after I read to Nathan.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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2 Responses to “More than Words”

  1. Diane, your story is poignant and takes me back to my children’s early years. I used to look at them sleeping and wonder if tomorrow I could make up for what I did or didn’t do today.

  2. Rose Ann says:

    Your children are lucky to have such an insightful, loving mom! Great essay.

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