Bob Hope once said, “Aren’t mothers wonderful? Everyone should have a spare.” I have thought a lot about mothers lately. We just celebrated Mother’s Day. I had to speak in church on a mother’s worth. And I recently saw the movie, Tully,[i] about a woman trying to cope with the demands of motherhood. The movie illustrates the saying, to the mother of young children, there’s a time and place for everything – except rest. Because of a few twists in the film, I won’t tell you more, but if you haven’t seen it, I recommend you do. It is a movie every mother should see, as well as every father. And talk about it afterward. Here is a short scene from the movie:
But back to Bob Hope. I have debated with myself whether I believe his statement to be true. Would I really want a spare mother? Mine was a very involved parent – often too involved for my liking. She wanted to know everything about my life. “How was school today?” “Tell me about your friends.” And so on. As a teenager, I had to be home by 11 pm. If I wasn’t home by then, Mom started calling my friends to see where I was, which didn’t go over well with them, or their sleeping parents. At dinnertime, our menu was like comedian’s Buddy Hackett’s. We had two choices, take it or leave it. Mom forced me to go to church every Sunday, even when I didn’t want to go and even though I argued that forcing me to go was destroying my free agency. And her frugality often embarrassed me. When we went to a nice restaurant, which wasn’t very often, we went to the same seafood restaurant where all of us had to have the same thing – fish and chips – which, of course, was the cheapest thing on the menu. And Halloween was never that much fun for me, as Mom would never buy me a costume like the parents of most of the kids at school. I always had to wear homemade costumes, which were often hand-me-downs of costumes worn by my older brothers or sister. When I finally graduated from law school, I had two job offers, one in Salt Lake City, and one in Denver. I took the job in Denver partly to put some space between me and Mom (although I admit the job in Denver paying me almost double what the job in Salt Lake would pay was a major factor in my decision).
My family growing up was mostly normal, although we had our share of quirks. We were not like most families depicted in movies, which are generally dysfunctional (which adds to the drama). But occasionally, I find a film that has a mom I wish I had. Here are four of those movie supermoms:
Mrs. Gump: Who wouldn’t love a mother like Forrest’s in Forrest Gump?[ii] In her folksy way (“Life is like a box of chocolates…”), she instilled in Forrest a self-confidence that led him to believe he could (and he did) accomplish anything he put his mind to, despite being born with some physical and mental challenges.
Rusty Dennis: Mask[iii] is the true story of Rusty Dennis, a biker and mother of Rocky, a teenager with a massive facial skull deformity. But despite his deformity, Rocky is warm, sensitive, and intelligent. And his mom, Rusty, will not put up with anyone who fails to give Rocky the same respect and opportunities as anyone else. With his mother’s help and her badass attitude, Rocky is able to overcome pain, pity, and prejudice to become a role model for all of us.
Leigh Anne Tuohy: In another true story, The Blind Side,[iv] Leigh Anne Tuohy welcomes Michael Oher into her family’s home. Michael is a homeless teenager who has been in and out of foster care. He has a learning disability, but a large, athletic body. With the help of Leigh Anne Tuohy, Michael overcomes his upbringing, his learning disability, and goes on to become an All-American football player and help the Baltimore Ravens win the Super Bowl in 2013. Although not her real son (at least until she later adopted him), she provides him with every opportunity to succeed, from telling the high school football coach how to best use his skills, to hiring a tutor to help him improve his grades. I especially like this scene where she places Michael ahead of her relationship with the local society wives.
Helen Parr (a/k/a Elastigirl): Who wouldn’t want a superhero for a mother? Helen Parr, from the movie, The Incredibles,[v] and her family are undercover superheroes. All she wants for her children is for them to live normal, happy lives. But when danger calls, this mom will stop at nothing to protect her children.
The more I think about, the more I realize that, like Mrs. Gump, my mom taught me some great life lessons and instilled in me a system of values and a self-image that led me to believe I could accomplish great things. Fortunately, I was not born with a deformity like Rocky Dennis, but no one was a better nurse or more caring when I was sick or hurt than my mom. Mom, like Rusty Dennis (although not quite so badass), would not let anyone push her around when it came to her family. We did not enjoy the same economic status as the Tuohy family, but like Leigh Anne Tuohy, regardless of background, social status, or the number of digits in your bank account, family always came first. And Mom did everything she could to make sure I had all the opportunities I would need to succeed. Admittedly, Mom was not a superhero, but just like Helen Parr, there is nothing my mom wouldn’t do to protect her family.
Maybe Mom was not so sorry after all. Robert Browning once said, “Motherhood: All love begins and ends there.” My mom had her share of quirks that often annoyed me, especially while growing up, but she was the perfect example of what Browning was talking about. When she asked me a million questions about my day, my friends and my thoughts and fears, she was telling me that she cared about me as a person. When Mom wanted me home by 11 pm and called my friends when I wasn’t, she was telling me that she cared about my safety – and taught me responsibility at the same time. Although my mom was not all that generous when it came to fancy restaurants and Halloween costumes, she never shortchanged me when it came to providing a roof over my head, home-cooked meals, visits to the doctor when needed, and educational opportunities.
As I graduated from high school, we went to our favorite seafood restaurant again. As the waitress worked her way around the table, all my family ordered fish and chips. When she came to me, I looked at my mom and asked, “Why do we always order fish and chips?” Mom replied, “You can order anything you want. You always could. I just happen to like fish and chips.” When she said it, I felt like she was being like what Tenneva Jordan said about mothers: “A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” I ordered shrimp creole anyway.
After that day, during my college days, Mom and I would often eat lunch together, and she let me pick the restaurant. Those were some of the most enjoyable times I spent with her – not because of the food, but because of the one-on-one time we shared together. And I began to realize, that, while only five feet tall, Mom was a giant of a woman because of the size of her heart.
None of our mothers are perfect, including mine. I agree with Sydney J. Harris, who said, “The commonest fallacy among women is that simply having children makes one a mother—which is as absurd as believing that having a piano makes one a musician.” Fortunately for me, Mom become a mother – and a good one at that.
I am grateful that I had a mother that loved me unconditionally. Looking back, everything Mom did that annoyed me growing up, she did because of her love for me. And we can never get too much of that. So perhaps Bob Hope was right. We could all use a double dose of a mother’s love.
William Ross Wallace said, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Thanks, Mom, for rocking my world. I am grateful for everything you did for me, but especially for your love. I only wish I had the chance to tell you that again.
- Production Company: Bron Studios, Right Way Productions, Denver and Delilah Productions
- Director: Jason Reitman
- Screenwriter: Diablo Cody
- Starring: Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass
- Release date: May 4, 2018
[ii] Forrest Gump
- Production Company: Paramount Pictures
- Director: Robert Zemeckis
- Screenwriter: Eric Roth (based on the novel by Winston Groom)
- Starring: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise
- Release date: July 6, 1994
- Production Company: Universal Pictures
- Director: Peter Bogdanovich
- Screenwriter: Anna Hamilton Phelan
- Starring: Cher, Eric Stoltz, Sam Elliott
- Release date: March 22, 1985
[iv] The Blind Side
- Production Company: Alcon Entertainment, Left Tackle Pictures, Netter Productions
- Director: John Lee Hancock
- Screenwriter: John Lee Hancock (based on the book by Michael Lewis)
- Starring: Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw
- Release date: November 20, 2009
[v] The Incredibles
- Production Company: Disney
- Director: Brad Bird
- Screenwriter: Brad Bird
- Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Samuel L. Jackson, Holly Hunter
- Release date: November 5, 2004