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Berdine's Corner

Lessons for all Mothers
from a Matriarch

by Deborah E. Dennard

berdine dennard
Berdine Dillard Dennard

Life Lessons from a Matriarch

During the past 14 months, in this column, many people have written about the impact my mama made in their lives. However, at the eve of the second Mother's Day without her, I can think of many lessons she taught her children that would benefit every mother. Being a mother has to be the hardest job anyone will ever have. As an educator, I often see children who are in desperate need of a mother's touch. Children don't become responsible adults without it. Below are three important lessons I learned about motherhood from my mother, Berdine.

1. Concentrate on being the parent, not a friend. This means not spoiling children just to make them happy. You have to be the parent in the relationship; children have enough people in their lives who can be their friends. Sometimes being a mother can be unpopular. You have to make some tough decisions, and many will not be popular with your kids. For example, I can remember countless times we asked for permission to go to a friend's house to play. We even had to ask permission to go next door to our cousins' house to play. Sometimes we could go, but most of the times, she said no. She said we didn't need to be running in and out of people's houses all of the time. We didn't like it, but we knew who was in charge. Because there was a definite line drawn, we always stayed in our place as children. We had boundaries, and we knew how to stay out of "grown folks' business." We didn't dare interrupt adult conversations with our opinions. We also knew not to go word for word, arguing with our parents nor any other adults. We had been taught to respect all adults.

2. Use the rod wisely. It was the wise King Solomon, who said, "Spare the rod, spoil the child." This may be old fashioned, but it is not out of style. Kids that are not disciplined are headed for destruction. Many arrive to school in Pre-K and begin their educational careers by terrorizing classmates, teachers, and administrators. Oftentimes, calling the mother is no help to the school because the child also lacks respect or restraint with his or her own mother. Furthermore, in many cases, the mother will come to the school and blame everyone but the child. Because of this, the children are out of control. They talk back and are defiant. Many times, the child could be straightened out by a simple spanking. My mama could never being accused of not sparing the rod. After I was grown, I often teased her, telling her that some of our spankings were unjustified. If she didn't know who was at fault, my mama would get all three of us. While I still don't agree with those episodes, it did send a message to my brothers and me that we were responsible for each other. While those spankings hurt at that time, we would have been hurt much worse if she had not punished us. If you don’t spank your kids now, the cold, hard, uncaring world will later.

3. Be your child’s role model. It is no one's responsibility but yours to mentor your child. As a mother, you should live in such a way that your daughter wants to be just like you, and your son wants to marry someone just like you. Many young mothers make the mistake of living a bit too openly in front of their children, saying and doing anything and everything. Children are always watching you, even when you think they are not. As a child, I remember eavesdropping on my mama’s conversations and would try to imitate her. Thank God, she always carried herself with dignity. In fact, I was almost grown before I heard her ever say a bad word. Always live your life as if your children are watching because they are.

These are just three of the many lessons I learned by being Berdine's daughter. Motherhood is a gift, so enjoy the experience. When you do, you produce well-rounded adults who know they are loved. Thanks, mama. Happy Mother's Day!


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