The Young Mother Speech

May 2010
Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York City

What Legacy Will I Leave?
Sheri Carlstrom

One afternoon while eating lunch with my then three year old daughter, she said “Oh shoot, there’s a spider on the wall!” Except she used a much stronger “sh” word!

Not exactly a story you might expect to hear from a Young Mother of the Year nominee, but that moment became a turning point for me as mom. And it may be the moment that put me on a path that has allowed me the honor of standing before you today. For it was then that I realized that the very things that were coming out from my mouth were being planted within my child. And I intentionally turned in a new direction.

One thing I knew from the time I was little was that I wanted to be a good mom. Although I carry some very positive experiences from my upbringing, I also took with me some chaotic and unhealthy traits. When my first child arrived, I made a smooth and easy transition into motherhood, but when my second child arrived I was horrified by the level of frustration, and at moments even rage, that I experienced. I knew this was not the legacy I wanted to pass on, so I intentionally sought help.

For me, motherhood has been a journey of intention, and the evidence of the grace of God.

With that once 3 year old daughter preparing to leave for college in the fall, I’ve had the amazing gift of reading a few essays she has written for her composition class and scholarship applications.
I read not one word of vacations we have taken, sights we have seen, or the ten mile hike our family took out west….some of my favorite memories…she did write about the patience she sees in me as I navigate parenting our newly adopted son who tries out my every last nerve like it’s a game. She mentioned my “talks” with her, ones that I wasn’t sure she necessarily appreciated. She wrote about my mentoring other young moms, about my faith in the Lord, and about the kindness and dignity I showed to the residents of the nursing home my husband’s grandmother resided within during her years of dementia. She mentioned the meals I prepare and the balancing & running I do as our four children participate in extracurricular activities.

I believe the legacy I leave will be one that is made of everyday, ordinary moments. Which can be a daunting thought, some of my everyday moments are not very pretty, in fact, some are downright ugly. There are times, when I find myself in that place of “I just need to get through this list, this day, this week, this event, even, this season. There are times the cries of the urgent drown out the significance of the important.

When it comes to my legacy, the truth is, I don’t get to tell my children what to remember, I just get to deposit experiences and then they get to choose what to pull out later. But they cannot pull out what I do not put in. So I make efforts to be intentional about what makes it in. I have to know what I value and what our family values as I make decisions about what to say yes to…and what to say no to. It’s easy to get caught up in the sign your kids up for everything, you will miss out if you don’t attend, we need you to volunteer here, busy, break-neck speed in which our culture runs.

But if the legacy of my motherhood is a building, then I am laying the bricks and spreading the mortar every day. When it is complete, I hope it is a place where my children’s minds wander back to and find open, safe and warm.

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