Making Time: The Little Things
How a single mom shaped me into the man I am

“Mommy, your hair looks so pretty.”

It was the first thing Brandon said when Sarah walked into the house after she got home from her haircut. I hadn’t told him to say it, or to say anything actually. I just let him know where she was going earlier in the day. But comments like that always make me smile just a bit extra. It not only shows the boys are paying attention to the little things, but I have an idea of exactly where it came from. 

My parents divorced when I was 2 years old, and my brother Jared was only 6 months old. For the next 7 years, a lot of my memories are centered around the 3 of us: my mother, my brother and myself. I don’t say that as a bad thing, just as a point of reference. And during those years I remember spending plenty of time at the hair salon or nail salon, because my mom had no option than to bring my brother and me along with her if she wanted to get anything done. We would find ways to entertain ourselves as best we could while Mom was getting her hair or nails done. Sometimes we didn’t have to go (much to my relief), but even those times, I remember she would always have us take notice when she came home and tell us that “people will like it if you pay attention to the little things.” 

The message was about more than hair and nails. It was about being present and paying attention to people other than ourselves (maybe I was rather oblivious to life around me, at times I think I might still be). She wanted us to act in ways that made the people we care about feel special about themselves. So we would make sure to notice when she would come back after getting her hair blown out or after getting a manicure or pedicure.

I had no idea just how much those years – when it was just the 3 of us – would influence the man I have become. But I know now.

That message from my mom also didn’t mean that compliments and attention were all we needed to do. She showed us the importance of sharing responsibilities, whatever they were. We had a rule that the person who made dinner didn’t have to do the dishes, so my brother and I would help set and clear the table. Now I often find myself clearing the table without a second thought when Sarah makes dinner, and I smile when I watch Brandon or Adam take their cup or plate to the sink after dinner is made for them. 

Jared and I also helped out while my mom was working, making sure clothes coming out of the laundry were folded. Granted, Sarah has a little more faith in me these days to help do the wash in addition to the folding, but at least it wasn’t anything new when I joined the laundry routine, because I had been a part of it as a little boy. 

We were also taught to value material things we got, because often we would pick them out, but then put them on layaway and make payments until we could actually bring them home. Yet we always felt like we had everything we wanted or needed, even if it meant our Mom was sacrificing something for herself. 

As a father now trying to raise 2 boys with lots of energy, together with the immense help of my wife, I often find myself telling my mom that I truly have no idea how she did it, raising both of us on her own. And I also realize more and more each day how lucky I am to have had such a strong example set for me. 

Right now, I continue to appreciate the job she did not only raising 2 boys, but helping me to become the man, father and husband I am today. I hope some of the things she taught me that I am trying to pass to the boys will stick with them, the same way it stuck with me. And as always, I make sure to notice, and appreciate, the little things.

Read More “Making Time” by Jason Springer

 

May 2023
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