Motherhood

The Best Thing My Mom Did as a Parent

Jean Goddard

The boys and I visited my mom in Florida this weekend, and while making guacamole, I suddenly remembered something she used to say…

When we were kids, she used to regularly tell us (at bedtime, in the car, whenever, really): “There’s nothing you could ever do or say that would make me not love you.” She would bring it up in conversation, or just say it out of the blue.

Sometimes she would elaborate and add, “I would never be grossed out by anything” (I’m guessing she brought this up around first-period time), or “Even if you robbed a bank, you could always come to me, and we would figure it out.” It’s funny because she was pretty strict about everyday things — table manners, grades, curfews — but when it came to revealing our larger fears/worries/dreams, she was always a safe place.

She said it so often that my sister and I would roll our eyes. We were like, duh, Mom, WE KNOW.

But now that I’m an adult with children of my own, I realize how lucky we were to feel that sentiment so deeply, and what an incredible parenting gesture it was on her part. We ended up feeling comfortable telling or asking her about anything — first kisses, school anxieties, birth control, the list goes on.

I’d love to start saying this to my boys, so hopefully they’ll see me as an ally as they get older and their lives and worries get more complicated. It’s funny how even a single sentence can sometimes be so powerful, don’t you think?

Do you ever say things like this to your children? Do you remember any sayings or advice you parents told you? I’d love to hear…

P.S. Trying out slow parenting, and home as a haven.

  1. Emily says...

    This has been at the back of my mind since you originally posted, and so a few weeks ago when my three-year-old was upset about something, I told him something like, “Did you know that I will always love you, no matter what you do?”

    It seems he’s been thinking it over, because yesterday he came to me and told me, “Mommy I always love you. And I always love playing with you. And I always love TV shows.”

    It was almost a heartwarming moment there!

  2. Emily Rodden says...

    I love this post! I can relate to this so much because my mom did the same thing with my sisters and I growing up. I think it really helped our relationship and made us feel comfortable going to her about anything. Even to this day, she is one of the first people I go to in any situation that may come up!

  3. Hi,
    I’ll let you in on a ‘big boys’ secret… See the tough guy down the alley, beefy arms with tattoos and always having a scowl on a face… Guess who he runs off to when the skies cloud over and he feels a bit down?
    Yup. Mommies are the best!

  4. The love of a mother…….it’s overwhelming really. Despite the strictness or uncompromising facade a mother puts on, deep within her is a fountain overflowing with love – especially for her kids. Also the power of words can not be overemphasized; words of encouragement, assurance and love can lift a person from the lowest depths to the highest heights. No matter how a child may be, words of encouragement, assurance and love will bring out the best in that child in the long run.

  5. Rebekah says...

    It probably sounds awful and they weren’t encouraging us to do anything like it but it was always something that was said in jest but you knew it was fact. That they would always help bury the body’s. That as sisters you always had someone to help bury the body. I understand now it sounds out there. But we always took it as you are there no matter what! Maybe it’s an English thing, a morbid sentiment. But it’s true, I’d do anything for my sister, I’d encourage her to go to police haha but I’d definitely help her!

  6. alyssa says...

    My mom always said “people are more important than things” whenever we would fight over toys or get greedy about presents when our siblings wanted to play with us….if somebody broke something etc. Still love this quote, and I try to remember it all the time when “things” can be annoyances, anger, etc. :)

  7. Nicole Brant says...

    My mother passed away in July. This post reminds me of her. She was the same way in that I knew she always had my back no matter what, and I could never disappoint her. She always loved me “no matter what”.

  8. katie says...

    I spent my sophomore year in college studying abroad. There were 40 of us American kids living in a small dorm in Salzburg & we were kinda homesick one night and got to talking about dorky stuff our parents said that we missed. One of my classmates shared something I’ve never forgotten. She said every morning her Dad would ask her and her siblings, “Are you ready for today and all of its possibilities?” What a great way to start the day; to live your life.

  9. Taylor says...

    What a powerful statement. Our family’s favorite book is “No Matter What” by Debi Gliori. Similar message – I’ll always love you no matter what. ❤️

  10. Nadia says...

    It took almost my whole life and years of resentment on my mother to finally realise how much she loved me. And how much I love my mother. The truth is I never understood her, who she was and I might never know who she was as a person. But that doesn’t matter now. All I believe in is that our connection and love is endless because the power that she gave me will be with me forever. That is the power of unconditional love.

  11. This is so beautiful, and I can totally relate because both of parents always say this to us! I used to roll my eyes too, but growing up I’d come to realize how lucky I am, and how powerful those simple words are.
    Also, is that Toby in the bottom picture??! haha

  12. Wow, this is SO beautiful and powerful. I know that I really needed this from my parents growing up, but they didn’t understand that level of support. How special that you can recognize it now and appreciate what she was doing for you. My parents did not nurture individualism, and they also were very strict. While there was a lot of love in many ways, there was not the support I needed in knowing that I was capable, and that they would be there for me if I really screwed up. I hope that if I have children, I will be able to support them and who they are. It’s a good thing, what your mother did.

  13. Annie says...

    How lucky you were! Beautiful. It’s so important to say these things to our kids. My son is 4 and for the past year, when we’re in bed snuggling and he’s getting tired I say to him “ you are loved and safe” about 5 Times. Sometimes he says, “ I know mom!” And a lot of times he repeats me. The other day when we were taking a walk, he randomly just said, “I’m loved and safe and you’re loved and safe.”
    I hope he always feels that way deeply the rest of his life.

  14. Bridget says...

    Joanna, I love this. I say this to my kids all the time too! My motivation for doing it though comes from doing the opposite of what my father did to bring us up, where we knew that his love was conditional (needless to say, no longer have a relationship with him!) I always want my kids to know that my love for them is 100% unconditional and without bounds and this is actually very healing for me.

  15. Love this story. I always tell my boys I will love them no matter what, that they can always come to me. I may not like it, but I will always be there to support them, no matter what it is. I always wonder if it will do exactly what you say it has done for you. It’s comforting to know that I am laying the seeds of trust.

  16. A Martin says...

    I love all of these! Thank you for sharing! I tried a variation last night (I have to tell you something, I love you more than all the planets and suns in all of the universe! I am so lucky to be your mom) during our night routine. My 5 yr hugged me and said “I really appreciate that.” Made my heart swell.

    The phrase that I say daily to my 3 and 5 year old is “Brush the teeth you want to keep!”

  17. Ines says...

    Since I was very little, my mom would always say: no matter what you tell me, I am always going to believe you.

    Even if I came up with ludicrous scenarios (“what if I told you I was President?! What if I told you I heard the dog talk!?”) she’d go along with whatever I was saying. It didn’t have to be an elaborate game (She’d reply: well done you!, or “what did he say?”), but she always made me feel like I could trust her. That no other adult, kid, or authority figure would ever override my own words. That made me 1) never want to lie to her, because I knew I could get away with it, which made it seem unfair and also, lame. There was no thrill. And, 2) Reassure me that she was ALWAYS, always on my side. No matter how crazy, and no matter agaisnt who.

    At the time it felt like just a mom thing, but as I have gotten older I’ve realized what a radical concept she was instilling in me: that my words mattered and deserved to be believed, that I knew what I saw/felt/did and that I had an eternal ally. So powerful, especially today with the #metoo movement.

  18. Frances Smith says...

    Whenever I was worried about something my mom would say “Is there anything you can do to ease the worry? If so, act. If there isn’t anything you can do, there’s no use worrying.”

  19. Chand says...

    My mother told me I could do anything I put my mind to. I believed her so I would put my mind to many things. I still do and I’m 60! There is nothing more important than arming our children with confidence. She definitely was my safe place!

  20. KR says...

    Growing up the only girl in a family of six, I was held to a different standard. My mom was unfair, distrusting, and mean. Still is. In high school she started saying to me “watch your reputation” which was more of a threat than actual guidance.

    I now have two girls and I never want them to feel guilt or less-than because of me. The mantra I repeat to them is “you are smart and you are brave”. And I tell them I love them a hundred times a day!

  21. justme says...

    my mother was not like that. both my parents were the opposite. it was way to easy for them to say they didn’t liked me because I didn’t behave the way they wanted (because i was shy) or because I didn’t have the looks they were hoping for in a girl.. yes they were bad parents.

    on the other hand I am the opposite of my parents. every single day I have to tell my kid how much I love him no matter what. home is a safe place were we share our happiness and unhappiness, and family is our safety net.

    I am so glad to read this post, because I was felling that I might be exaggerating lol in fact I am not :) thanks!!!

  22. Beckxoxo says...

    We always say “Put your hand up if you’ve got the best (Mummy/Daddy/Sister/Nanna etc) in the World” It normally brings absolute squeals of delight and little hands shooting up to declare their love and affection for family members. My toddler daughter will often say “put your hand up if you have the best mummy” when I’m doing something routine (to me) like making her a snack. She’ll then raise her own hand and smile so broadly. Its been our families little way of showing we appreciate each other and has been an easy way to introduce gratitude. Our girls know that, to us, they really are the best.

    • Olivia says...

      This is the sweetest thing ever and breaks my heart. Will absolutely do this when we become parents.

  23. LeeKC says...

    For as long as I can remember my father would whisper to me at bedtime “I love you, no matter what. I’ll always be in your heart. I’ll be in your heart forever” while gently pressing his hand on my chest. He continued to say versions of these words throughout my life and in all situations. He died 10 years ago, but I can still hear him saying this to me often. And if I press my hand on my chest, I know he’s right.

    • Lisa S. says...

      Teary eyed. <3

  24. Marcela says...

    My mom is quite a character and a hardcore feminist, the woman has many catchphrases. She and my dad also have many friends who are in same sex relationships, as a child I never even realized same-sex marriages were any different than heterosexual marriages. When I was about 7 or 8 I remember hearing a friend use the word gay as if it was something negative for the first time, I was just shocked! I went home that day and asked my mom about her best friend and his partner, “what were they” and she said they were “a family just like us, but they both decided to replace the little girls for cats”. I’m 28 years old and I wonder how the world would be today if everyone else had been raised in an environment where equality and inclusion are norm, just like I did.

    • Lizzy Smith says...

      Marcela I love this! My children are being raised in the same sort of environment. Their father and I were married for 13 years, separated two years ago and now my partner is a woman. My kids think it is absolutely normal and are inclusive, open minded little beings as a result. So proud of them, and of me, my partner, their father and his new partner for being able to model this sort of inclusion to them.

  25. Grace says...

    Really loving reading these! In my twenties, I’ve definitely come to realize the impact of the things my parents said to me over the years. Every time I’d go anywhere, my dad would always say “Do smart things.” I think it’s really clever…he didn’t say “don’t be stupid” or “don’t get into trouble,” as if he expected me to do that type of thing, but instead framed it as a positive.

    I also remember laughing when my dad answered the phone “Hello beautiful” (which he said a lot at home) one time–he couldn’t see me! But obviously that wasn’t really the point.

  26. Whitney says...

    One thing my mom always said (that her mom used to tell her) is that we could always use her as an excuse to get out of something we felt uncomfortable with. My mom was a stickler for telling the truth, but she said we could tell a lie in her name if it helped us get away from bad influences or situations. I remember feeling so comforted that I could say “my mom needs me home for such and such” or “my mom needs me to do such and such tonight” as a way out of those tricky situations. I remember vividly telling a kid that my mom made me practice piano right after school so I couldn’t go over to their house…and my mom backed me up when the friend asked her about it – even though I had never played a day of piano in my life! She had/has my back and it was/is so comforting.

    • Jessica says...

      My mom always said this too! I definitely plan to use this with my own kids.

  27. Betseykerr says...

    We tell our boys (all the time), “we will always love you, no matter what…you can tell us anything…we will always be there for you!” My 3 yr old will get frustrated and will say “you aren’t my friend,” to us… and we say “really, because I love you, I will always love you.” I told my 5 yr old just how much he was wanted, how much I always wanted a boy like him, he snuggled into me when I first told him the story. Days and weeks that followed he would say to me “I was your first baby, you always wanted me.” Other times he wants to hear the story again and again.

  28. Zara says...

    I am a worrier and have been since I was young. Worry gave me stomachaches and made it feel impossible to cope when bad things (or things I perceived as bad) happened. My mum had some perspective-giving words that I still use to balance myself today. When the going got tough, she asked me, “will this matter in a month? Will this matter in a year? Will this matter in 10 years?” If the answer was no (and it almost always was), it became much easier to let the worry go.

  29. Emily says...

    Every day when my mom would drop me off at school, she would say, “call me if you need anything,” before I’d close the car door behind me. It seems really obvious now, but this was the early nineties: kids with cell phones was not a thing, and “calling your mom” from school was a BIG DEAL because you’d have to use a pay phone (remember calling collect?) or (gasp) ask to use the phone in the principal’s office. But she said it so casually, always, like she would be happy to drop everything and drive back to the school for any reason. Of course, even though I never called her from school – looking back, it always made me feel special and cared for.

  30. Katy says...

    My mother always said (and actually still says) the same thing to me, and whenever I was worried about something, whether it was an upcoming test or a difficult decision or health problem, she would remind me “no matter what happens, at the end of it, you will still be you, and I will still be me, and we will still love each other.” Because of those wonderful sentiments, I have always felt like I have a safety net. When you feel so completely safe and loved, how bad can anything be?

    Now I tell my 5 year old every night before bed (and pretty much whenever I look at him) “I love you with all my heart, forever and ever, no matter what.” And he likes to think of silly situations like “even if I turned into a monkey?” or “even if I stole the moon?”

    What could possibly be better than being someone’s safety net? I relish it so completely.

  31. Aya says...

    Growing up when I’d ask my dad if he liked my new dress etc. he’d always reply, “I like the girl IN the dress.” To which I’d always roll my eyes and say “yeah yeah but what do you think of this dress?!?” But now I think it’s the perfect answer–he didn’t really care what I wore, he just liked me.

    • Laura says...

      I LOVE this.

  32. Lane Hackemack says...

    My husband started telling my daughter “I will always love you and I will always be here for you, no matter what”. It has become our nightly ritual complete with a musical and a rap adaptation. It’s all very silly and fun at night time, but when my daughter is starting to let that shame cloud settle in or is nervous about getting in trouble, we can simply say, “remember our words?” and she’ll say “no matter what”. It feels like such a safety blanket. My husband and I love it so much that after date night and a bottle of wine we found ourselves at a tattoo parlor getting it inked on permanently. We plan to take each of our kids when they are 18 to do the same.

    • Emily says...

      I love this so much! You have me crying over my breakfast. The tattoos especially. What a lovely tradition.

  33. Aya says...

    Oh man–this made me well up and want to give my daughter this same feeling of a rock-steady foundation. Your mom always sounds like the best!

  34. I had a mini freak out when my oldest started school, because she was no longer within my bubble of protection during the day and I worried about her dealing with unkind words, bullying, loneliness, confusion and everything that I wish she would never have to deal with. MY mum reminded ME that I am not able to protect my kids from everything (and nor should I). They need to experience things just like I did. But what I CAN do, as a mother, is make sure that our home is always filled with love – that it’s a safe shelter from the horrible things that they will learn about the world as they grow. I can’t stop other kids from bullying, or shield her from every hurt and heartache, but I can provide her with a fiercely protected fortress that she can retreat to whenever she needs.

    • A Martin says...

      Oh this is wonderful! I needed to read this!! Next month, we are moving to a new city and our 5 year old will go to a new school. It will be much different than the school she is in now. I find myself worrying but this really helped me. Thank you :)

  35. Barbara says...

    This made big fat tears well up in my eyes. What a beautiful, loving mom.

  36. Jayne says...

    I remember knowing so deeply that I was loved and would always be welcome home, no matter what. I’m not a parent, but I have started making a point to tell my nieces and nephews how much I love them, and the other day I asked my 3yo nephew, “I sure do love you, you know that?” and his sweet little response “Yeah” just about melted my heart! I hope that one day they are as sure of my love for them and can come to me with anything.

  37. Sue says...

    My grandmother used to always say that I could call her any time, in the middle of the night, for any reason, and she would be there to help me. It was a very sweet thing to say, but she was a very judgmental person and would have no doubt spent the rest of her life shaming me over it. I’d hope to not only say those words to my kids but be the kind of person who could be believed by them. That’s the trick. I hope that they will be able to trust me.

  38. Janie says...

    The best comment I’ve ever heard was from a friend’s mom. She said, “You can never be sorry for anything done out of love.”

  39. Lily says...

    Can we get your mom a regular parenting advice column? Her words are always spot on!

  40. This is such a powerful statement, especially to be verbalized over and over and over again. I’m 32 on Monday and still have anxiety about how I spend the holidays (how I allocate my time between my family and my in-laws) and would love that refrain in my head. I know it’s absolutely true, but I still really really worry about letting my parents down or disappointing them. And that’s not really fair.

  41. Olivia B says...

    What a lovely sentence to say! I’m going to say it to my daughter tonight. It also reminds me of one of her favourite books, I love you stinky face. It’s sort of similar in that the mum promises to love her child even if he turns into all sorts of monster’s :).

  42. Kate says...

    I vote for an post about the struggles of parenting. Because yes, we all love our kids and try our very best but sometimes it I seem hard, or the days seem never ending.
    That isn’t bad parenting but sometimes, reading only posts about loving your kids etc. I feel worse because yes I love my kids most in this world, but I feel like I’m the only parent who sometimes yells or is cranky or just plane fed up with yet another discussion about why we use toiletpaper.
    Please, I vote for more ‘real’ posts on parenting.

    • Kate, I’m not even a parent yet and I know that what you’re saying is absolutely not true (I say this in the kindest way possible). I see/hear people getting frustrated all the time about their kids. Remember, especially on social media, all we see is the highlight reel. You are not alone in getting frustrated, losing your cool, wanting time alone, just needing a freaking break already. Give yourself a break mama, and instead of noticing the times you feel less than, notice all the times in the day you ARE loving and caring and giving. I’m sure it’s much more than it feels like. And, if it makes you feel any better, my mom used to YELL allllll the time. All the time. And she was/is a great mom.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, i’m ALWAYS frustrated with my kids! :) i’ve mentioned this here and there on the site and on Instagram, and am happy to do so more hah. please know that everyone (definitely including us) definitely yell, get cranky, get fed up, and cannot have one more conversation about toilet papers’ various merits. you’re not alone!

    • Heidi says...

      Oh heavens. Thank you for this! I personally find parenting my 2yo and 5yo to be 5% rewarding and 95% wtf-was-I-thinking. I carry the weight of not enjoying it, and wondering if this is just what the rest of life looks like. But then a friend will encourage me, or my therapist will say “you’re just not a great mom of little ones, you’ll be a kick-ass mom to teenagers, and you’ll revel in it” and I can ever-so-slightly pull myself up by my bootstraps.

    • Definitely not alone. My 2.5 year old son drives my husband and I up the wall. We joke about it as a coping mechanism, but when things are really bad the conversation usually starts with: Well honey, another successful day without slapping the crap out of our child. (Hopefully my comment isn’t a huge trigger and I never would hit my child but those feelings are real). A pact we made to each other is that we refuse to let our frustrations with our child come between us. I can easily see how and why couples fight as a response to their child’s behavior. It’s an outlet. So instead, we give each other time outs. When I see my husband getting really frustrated or vise versa, the frustrated parent is either excused or the child and less frustrated parent leave the room (or house for that matter). Good luck to us all!

    • Kate says...

      You should check out “cat and nat” from Toronto on instagram / instastories! They are hilarious and keep it real on parenting. Also their “mom truths” on you tube! Soooo funny!!

  43. Stephanie says...

    How wonderful. I agree with other comments- I really enjoy hearing bits from/about your mom. What an incredible lady she seems to be.

  44. Willa O says...

    My dad would always say, “I’m so grateful that I get to be your dad!” We never doubted that he loved us, but he had a lot of personal struggles that quite negatively impacted our family and ultimately ended my parent’s marriage. He’s worked really hard over the last decade to rebuild relationships with me and my brothers. He’s still telling us how grateful and lucky he is to be our dad and it just means so much to me now. It is so sincere and now that I’m a parent I can really relate to the sentiment. We truly are the lucky ones to get the chance to parent these beautiful little humans.

  45. Sheri says...

    I’m going to start saying that’s sentiment regularly. I LOVE it. . Thank you for sharing that motherhood gem

  46. Kali says...

    I read this yesterday and went straight home to tell my 6yo. We say I love you SO much and are very outwardly affectionate and I KNOW my girls know our love, but when I said, “Did you know there’s nothing you could ever do that would make me not love you?” My daughter replied, “No. Really? Nothing?” Ugh. Stomach punch that reached my soul. Thank you, Joanna. That one add’al sentiment is priceless parenting advice.

  47. I 100% agree…we think our kids will just know this because we clean up after them, and feed them, and bring them to the doctor, and do everything they need. But I believe they need to hear it to truly understand. And not only do we need to say it, but we need to practice it. When our kids come to us with hard things or weird things or terrible things we need to be prepared not to lecture, to overstep our role, etc. We need to listen, to problem solve, to love. Thanks so much for sharing; this is one of my ultimate parenting goals: to help my children know they are TRULY loved unconditionally!

  48. Jessica says...

    I love this soooo much. There was no one thing my mom said all the time, but she DID tuck my brother and me and bed every night and brought us a glass of water (until we went off to college!). It was our time to talk about the day, about random things that popped into our heads, whatever. She was (and is) one of my best friends.

    With my own kids, I started randomly saying “Guess what? I love you!” when they were teeny toddlers…it always made them laugh as I would do it at weird times (in the car, while watching a show, in the middle of dinner). Now the minute I start any sentence with “guess” they immediately yell out “you love us!” They are in the pre-teen years now and I am getting misty eyed just thinking about how fast those early years went…I hope I have done enough to let them know I will always be a safe person to come to and that I will ALWAYS be their biggest champion.

  49. Amy says...

    When my 3yo son curled up next to me on the couch and whispered to me, “You’re my favorite little boy,” I realized he listens to what I say to him. ♥️

    • Christina says...

      Awesome!

  50. Audrey says...

    Growing up my mom always used to say “I just can’t believe how lucky I am to have such amazing children. You all are so talented and kind and beautiful”. While it always came off as very sincere…I sort of brushed it off as something that all mom’s say and told myself she would probably be telling me how smart and talented and beautiful I was even if it were all a lie :) Now that I have three kids of my own…I get it. I look at my 3 kids and am floored by how amazing they are. And even though they are only 6, 4 and 6 months old…I know that they will always be the three most beautiful, talented, amazing humans in my eyes. I can say with 100% confidence now that my mom was never just saying those things because that’s what mom’s say. She meant every word of it, every single time she told us. Moms are the best! (Dad’s are pretty awesome too)

  51. Kit says...

    About 6 years ago, my younger son (then 7) was sick with a stomach virus, and I was in the bathroom with him cleaning him up after yet another round of vomiting and diarrhea. He looked up at me and said, with such precocious sympathy, “Mommy, I’m so sorry you have to do this.” My heart surged with love, and I responded, without thinking, “Sweetheart, I really don’t mind, I would do ANYTHING for you.”

    The experience of saying that — realizing how much it affected me to know I could offer my kids a kind of security I never really had with my parents — was so powerful for me that I’ve periodically repeated some version of it. I can only hope that my kids remember these affirmations of my love for them as you remember those your mom shared with you.

  52. Lisa says...

    Whenever we would say “that’s not fair!” my mom would reply “ya well life’s not fair and the sooner you figure that out the better off you’ll be” it’s a bit pessimistic; however, it helped me realize that not everything in life works out equally or in your favour all the time.

  53. Gale says...

    As I think back on my mother’s best parenting, it actually pertains more to my sister. She was more academically driven than I was, and also more introverted. This meant that at the end of a week at our demanding prep school she sometimes found herself wanting to stay home in a bubble bath, but feeling pressured to go out with friends. And so my mom would tell her, “You’re grounded. You’re not allowed to go out.” And it gave her an out. She could tell her friends that she wasn’t allowed to go out that night, without having to confess that she’d prefer to spend the evening curled up at home with her parents.

    • Nina Nattiv says...

      Reading these comments has me in tears. How powerful it is, being a parent!?!? I know its important for our children to hear these things, but I think its important for our parent-hearts as well. These babies are extensions of ourselves and each kind word to them is sort of a love letter to ourselves, no?

    • As an introvert, I love this! My mom sort of did the opposite in that, I had more of a predilection towards playing by myself and she urged me to find kids to play with because she was afraid I wouldn’t have friends lol. But she was good about letting me have my alone time when I needed it, too.

    • Ashley H. says...

      My mom did this for me so many times and I am forever grateful to her for that.

  54. Celia says...

    So beautiful.
    My parents tell me that kind of things on repeat. I got used to it when I was younger but now I apreciate it so much more.

  55. L says...

    Growing up, every time my sister or I walked into a room, no matter the circumstances, my mother would say, “Oh, you look GORGEOUS!” Or, “My goodness, you are BEAUTIFUL.” My sister and I would always roll our eyes and say, “Mommm.” As teenagers, it was awkward and embarrassing. And, to me, not true. I felt frazzled and frizzled and clumsy.

    When I lived in New York in my twenties, my mother came to visit one summer, and my friend Hannah and I met her for coffee. As Hannah and I walked up to the coffee shop, she said, “I can’t wait to open the door because your mom is going to give me a big hug and say, ‘Hannah, you look GORGEOUS.'” I laughed, but that comment has stayed with me for years. I never thought that mothers didn’t say that to their children. I didn’t consider that maybe kids were criticized for their looks, or for what they were wearing, or made to feel less than wonderful about themselves. My mother still tells me that I’m beautiful every time I see her. Now I say thank you. And give her a big hug.

    • Kelly Libby says...

      yes!! I say these kind of things to my sister’s little girls, now age 3 and almost 10 years old. I always tell them how beautiful they are AND tell them how smart and kind and funny they are, too. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. My sister tells me not to spoil them with compliments but pshhh, I’m auntie. That’s my JOB! :) And, then it’s done. A quick reminder. A kind compliment . And, then we do things together like snuggle, talk, watch movies, draw, crafts, adventure, play, go for walks, dance, practice karate — nothing pertaining to their gender or sex. Both girls are kick ass ceiling breakers. I know this goes against so many people’s ideas of what we should be teaching our girls but this is what works for us.

      For me, I’m a 40 year old woman who just recently has realized my own beauty because I was never told i was beautiful. I felt like an ugly duckling. I’ve struggled and let men treat me less than I should be treated. It’s especially important that the girls know how beautiful they are inside AND out because those kinds of words weren’t said in my house until i was much much older. I could have used that kind of confidence from women i admired.

    • This is so sweet, what a kind, and loving thing to say. Thank you for sharing.

  56. Becca says...

    After reading this yesterday I went home and, lo and behold, an opportunity to say “I love you no matter what” presented itself almost as soon as I walked in the door. My 4.5 year old loved it, esp. since I borrowed another commenter’s trick and added very silly things like “I’d love you even if you wiped boogers on the silver car.” Such a timely read. Thank you CoJ and community!

  57. Molly Braswell says...

    I am sitting here reading this post and comments while I nurse my 2 month old son, tears rolling down my face at everyone’s lovely memories. Now I’m wondering what I can say to him everyday so that he knows how incredibly loved he is. I’m also remembering how my Mom (usually smelling like Mary Kay night cream) would hold my sister and me close and say “You’re a sweet girl, and your mother loves you.”

    And then in high school, with an arched brow, she would holler “Remember to act as pretty as you look!” as I bounded out of the house with friends :) Always a good reminder that your actions are what matter most.

  58. Julie says...

    I have three boys and have always told them they can ask me or tell me anything, ANYTHING! But the *key* is to never react no matter what they ask or tell me. We talk through it, explanations if necessary, and I’m telling you they keep coming back! The older they get it gets harder not to be shocked by the words they ask me about, or the situations they witness at school, but I see it all as learning experiences.

  59. melissa says...

    My mother used to tell me what her mother said: “always work. Never depend on a man for anything.” She reiterated that to me all her life, as if it were her life’s trophy.

    She also told me: “You will wear brown eyeliner. Only the hookers wear black eyeliner.”
    Haha!

    • Shannon says...

      Dying!

  60. The best thing my mother ever did was listen to us as if what we said was totally worthy of listening to. At a dinner party, at someone else’s house, etc., she never acted like we were kids to be brushed off. I never felt she was internally rolling her eyes. She’d lean in and listen, and I grew up feeling that what I had to say mattered. I think about this so often, when my kids begin to speak. Sometimes I think it’s silly, but I remember my mother and try to listen, to look and to give them the same respect my mother gave me.

  61. Dana Courtney says...

    My parents have said that and it has rang true countless times. There were times in my late teens and early twenties that I made decisions that were so awful, I wasn’t even sure if I loved myself. While I would get a lecture and maybe even be yelled at, it passed quickly and it immediately moved from disappointment to ways to remedy the situation. As a 33 year old, I still know my parents are a soft place to land. If I am disappointed in myself, ever, I know that they will listen, offer a hug, and do everything they can to make the situation better.

    With my two year old daughter, every night after singing her songs, when the lights are off, I kneel down and whisper in her ear, “You are smart. You are funny. You are hard working. You are determined. You are kind. You love and are so, so very loved. You are beautiful and you have REALLY. AWESOME. HAIR!” (She has a wild mess of curls). She has started asking for this and leans in to me as I say it. It is the most special part of our day and no matter how any day went (we are in the emotional roller coaster toddler stage) I want her to know that we just adore her and always will. She was made from love and that will never change.

    There is a certain confidence people have when they know that no matter what, their parents are in their corner and their home is a safe space. I want to instill that confidence in my girls (her baby sister is joining us in March!).

    • Sanaa Murray says...

      this was just beautiful to read, thank you

    • Christina says...

      That’s a beautiful phrase, ‘a soft place to land.’ I didn’t have that experience, but I’m always working to be that for my two sons.

  62. Kylie says...

    I’ll be honest, my husband always says that to me, as well as the kids. He was really adamant about it in our marriage, especially after moving past a 25-year relationship where he always felt the need to “perform.” It’s the most comforting thing to remember him saying when we get into disagreements or I need to be really candid with him about something. He still may be unhappy about what I’m saying/bringing up, but we always understand there’s a solid layer of love underneath that can’t be damaged. And I give him all the credit for adding it to our relationship discourse. And because I feel that way with him, and we feel that way with each other, it’s so easy to tell the kids that as well.

    • Kate M says...

      That is beautiful. Works for couples too!

  63. Mimi says...

    I implemented some advice from a book you recommended by Adele Faber. When my young children fight, I often don’t know who hit whom first, who actually had the toy first, etc., so I don’t feel capable of resolving the fight fairly. So, when a child comes to me crying because [insert sibling rivalry here], I follow this formula: “Oh my goodness, that must [hurt, feel frustrating, be annoying, etc.]! Why don’t you tell your sister how that makes you feel?”

    It sounds so silly, and my mom laughs at my new-agey nonsense, but it works! The child feels heard by the parent, the parent doesn’t inadvertently pick the wrong kid to punish or soothe, and they end up working it out by themselves. They really do.

    • Betseykerr says...

      Love this!!! I have done this sometimes, but need to do more. Thanks!

  64. Jen H says...

    My mom always tells me “this too shall pass”, and guess what, it does. Now with 5 little kids of my own I need her wisdom more than ever. I talk to her almost every day and she helps me through the maze of motherhood.

  65. Aileen Johnston says...

    My mum and dad were really strict with my upbringing. I always had the earliest curfew, I always had to be in for dinner, if I was late, I got grounded etc etc. However when it came to the big things I always knew that my parents would be the one to phone. My dad always told me that if somebody in my group did something stupid and got themselves into trouble (eg drink too much and need to go to hospital), I was to phone the ambulance first to get my friend sorted but if I didnt want to phone their parents, I could phone mine and they would sort it. Don’t get me wrong, I would have been grounded for life afterwards but I was always comfortable that my parents would be there for me no matter what. Now I’m a parent, I tell my daughter all the time that I love her and she can tell me anything. I hope when she is older she will feel as comfortable coming to me with anything as I did going to my parents (but especially my dad!)

  66. patricia blaettler says...

    I tell my daughter “Everything’s gonna be alright.” She’s in college now and if she’s worried about grades, or the future, we talk it through and she feels better after our conversation. Sometimes I sing-song it. I think she’ll hold onto this for her lifetime. I hope so.

  67. Courtney says...

    The best thing my mom ever did for me sounds sad but has been a source of strength for my entire life. I was 11 and my mom had just found out she had terminal cancer, although I didn’t know yet. We were laying on the couch when she started crying and holding me, whispering ‘my baby, my babies” over and and over again. I think she was simply experiencing her own grief at leaving us and not necessarily trying to impart anything, but I remember thinking that I hadn’t even begun to grasp the depth of her love for me and my brothers before that moment. Growing up without her, I’ve naturally wondered if she would have been proud of how I turned out or the decisions I’ve made, but that moment reminds me that really nothing could have made her love me any more or any less. It’s comforting to think that she would have loved me the same no matter what, like maybe the small mistakes and failures along the way aren’t such a big deal after all.

    • Golden Moon says...

      So powerful. Thank you for sharing this precious memory.

    • What a hard but ultimately wonderful memory. Thank you for sharing. It makes me think about what my own kids will remember, which will probably not be the moments I orchestrate but, rather, moments like that one: the most human ones.

    • Kate M says...

      Oh yes- we are always our mama’s babies and our babies will always be ours. Nothing they could do or say could touch the depth of our love for them. Thanks you for this.

    • Lisa says...

      I’m currently holding my 1 year old daughter as she naps (because it’s the only way she will nap…) with tears streaming down my face. I’m so sorry you lost your mom so young, but from what I’ve learned of motherhood this year, I know she would be proud of you.

    • Reading this made me remember some truly happy moments with my Mom when I was very little. Thank you for sharing, it really made me smile, and remember the joy.

    • S says...

      Just beautiful- holding back tears. What a gift from your mom… xo

    • TRAM PHAM says...

      beautiful in a heart-breaking way. thank you for sharing.

  68. We say silly things for my daughter like “I’d love you even if you…” and we try to make them as ridiculous as possible until she’s giggling knowing she’d “never” do something that crazy. Her favorite — “I’d love you even if you rode a horse on stage (during a school play) throwing glitter in the air…naked.” It makes us all realize that we love one another no matter what. Glitter and all ;)

  69. My own Mum passed away before I had kids so she didn’t get to meet them. It gives me a lovely feeling to pass on the words I always remember her saying to me and my siblings; “Pick yourself up, dust yourself down and just start all over again”. :-)

    • Such a great motto, I love that one. :)

  70. Karen says...

    I tell my girls (ages 4 and 5) frequently: “Tomorrow I’m going to love you even more than I do today”, as a way of showing my ever-growing love for them.

  71. Mary says...

    Thanks for this post. My mom taugh us so much by her example, hard work, kindness, gentleness, and the list could go on. I feel so grateful to still have her. If one thing she said, it’s that we all have our own priorities and we need to set them, live by them and respect others.

  72. Meera says...

    This is such a lovely post and I think what your mum said was so important! My mum always says little things like that, “Always go with your gut,”, “Failures are just lessons,”… and tbh I’m still at that rolling my eyes, I know mum, point. But I’m sure there will come a point when I look back and feel so grateful she said them. I do remember when I was younger my mum always used to sing songs from My Fair Lady (I know a weird choice) and the song Que Sera and now when I hear them they always make me feel happier.

  73. Emily says...

    What a wonderful phrase to pop into your brain as you were doing something as ordinary as making guac! We have this book which love to I read to my (4) kids, “I Love You Because You’re You” by Liza Baker. It’s for young ones maybe 2-5 yrs but emphasizes your mom’s beautiful message. One thing my mom did daily that seemed so simple at the time is she would come up to me every morning, mid-routine and say, “Morning hug!” She was usually in her bathrobe, or pjs and would pull me in to her warm, soft embrace. It was always a quick, intentional pause in the fluster of getting ready for school but started the day off with comfort, strength, kindness and stability. I now do this with my kids and hope they receive the same feelings.

  74. Neile says...

    This is more about things not said, but my mom was wonderful about never pressuring me in the slightest way to date, get married or have kids. I know she hoped for these things for me, and hoped to have a grandchild someday, but she gave me space to choose my own path on my own timeline. When I was single, she sent me heart shaped boxes of chocolate on Valentine’s Day, so I always felt like I had a Valentine.

  75. Rue says...

    This isn’t even my mom’s phrase, but it has stuck with me since I heard it, and I find it SO incredibly helpful. One of my closest friends once shared that her mom’s mantra with her kids was, “Who takes care of you? You take care of you.”

    When my friend mentioned this in conversation once, I was like, “How am I an adult and JUST hearing this for the first time?” And now a few years after that conversation I still repeat the phrase to myself when I need that reminder. *Especially* being single, it really helps keep me grounded that no matter what my relationship status is, the only person who can make me feel better is me.

    • Jennie says...

      I love this! What an amazing way to instill self reliance & self confidence. It reminds me of a meta (loving kindness) phrase that I often use : May I take care of myself happily. Thanks for sharing!

  76. Marcy says...

    My dad always told me growing up, “I will always love you, just not all of the things you do.” and that was so reassuring. As a parent, I tell my own two children that too. I love your mother’s words, I think I will borrow them. Is that you in the Grand Prix shirt? Toby looks like you as a child. I love when people can see themselves or their loved ones in their children. It feels so connecting and something that goes beyond the ages like perhaps these are your great great aunt’s eyes or so on. Like how one feature feels like a giant web that holds your family together in some way. Beautiful.

  77. Kendall says...

    Just saw Jimmy Fallon’s tribute comments about his mother, who he just lost. He said that his mother used the signal of squeezing his hand three times, for the three syllables of “I love you”. Sounded like she’d do that when she’d drop him off places, et … I thought that was so incredibly sweet! A little signal that no one else knows about to share with your babies <3

  78. Tanja says...

    How beautiful!! And so important! This is what I do with my daughter as well, she is only 16 months but I tell her all the time how much I love her and that we are always there for her. I grew up very differently and I hardly felt any love from my parents and I still don’t and all I talk to them about is just general stuff never about feelings. I don’t want my daughter to grow up like I did.
    Lots of love from Germany
    Tanja

  79. Laura says...

    When I was little my dad would put me to bed and each night he would ask:
    “No matter wherever you are in the world or whatever you do, what must you always remember?” and my practised reply… “Daddy always loves me.”
    It makes me feel super-emotional now as an adult and so lucky to know I am and have always been loved unconditionally.

  80. Casey says...

    It’s it amazing to reflect back on your parents as you become a parent? So many little (and big) things I do with my boys make me pause and reflect on how I understood that as a kid when my parents did the same to me. My dad would always tell us that if we were out and needed a ride, to call, no questions asked. The gravity and love in that statement is one only a parent can understand. And my mom and I would play a game “I love you more than all the (blank) in the world” and we would add to the list and it became a memory game, as we took turns and grew the list. Finally, as a parent, I realize how she was always able to beat me! So very grateful for my parents and my kids, the lessons they’ve all taught me, and the love they provide.

  81. Lisa says...

    That is really powerful, and it must be wonderful having that security as a child – it’s something that I want to have with my children.
    With my mom, it was the opposite – she has a very black and white view of the world and is quite judgmental, so my natural instinct was to just not talk to her about things I knew she didn’t approve of . The list includes – drinking alcohol, sex, most TV shows (watching TV at my parents’ house is REALLY stressful, there’s judgy comments about literally everything that happens on the show), women with careers (which includes me and my sister in law), cartoons, “the world today”, how children are raised, swearing, chewing gum … it’s a long list.
    There are so many things I hid from her and still can’t talk to her about – even though I’m a grown ass woman! I really don’t want to have the same with my children – I want them to know that they can talk to me about anything (though at the moment this is limited to “bus!”, “sheep” and “poopoo”, so it might be some time …)

  82. TillyMc says...

    Aww, this is such a lovely post.

    My dad always told us “You can only do your best”. And my mam would always reassure us that “Worse things happen at sea”..?! Now I’m thinking I should get them printed on T-shirts for them for Christmas…

    • Katie says...

      Your mom’s response is so dramatic! haha was she in the Navy?

    • Bonnie says...

      Too funny – I love the T-shirt idea!

  83. Elga says...

    I think this is great not only for the connection and confidence between you but to create a sense of self worth in the kids. One of the biggest reasons for insecurities and excessive perfectionism is that feeling that you need to prove yourself to deserve love and to deserve life. To have the feeling that you are loved and precious no matter what you do gives you a freedom to be yourself and not fear to be less than necessary. Good job, you Goddards!

  84. Klara says...

    My mom always did things that made me realize that we, her kids, are always number one. The thing that I remember the most is when she used to make a cake for her birthday for her coworkers. She always let me have a piece before taking it to work and said that no one is more important to her than us and she doesn’t care if the cake is not perfectly looking anymore. That little things are what mother love is made from.

  85. LORE says...

    I always say to my 3 years old .. “I will always be with you” … I used to say that even before my husband abandoned my 6 months baby boy, my 3years old girl and me, 5 months ago ….
    Maybe you can write about abandoned families by their ‘perfect husbands’ (high standard of living, businessman, educated, worship…) from one day to another. Today ” I love you, you are my priority, my family is the first …” and tomorrow ” I leave home with a twenty girl.

  86. Helena says...

    That’s so strange, I say the exact same thing your mom said to you to my own kids. I started it when I read about a campaign to protect children from sexual abuse. The campaign got me thinking about how I could help my children if they were ever abused. In an article I read about a woman who had been abused as a child and how the predator had told her that the abuse was their secret and she couldn’t tell anyone, and that her parents would be angry with her if she told them. I got so scared reading that and I immediately started telling my eldest daughter that “no matter what happens, no matter what you do: I will always love you. You can tell me ANYTHING, even if you’ve done something you’re ashamed of, I promise never to be angry. I promise only to help you sort it out”. I often add, just like your Mom Joanna, “even if you’ve hit someone, or stolen something, I promise not to be angry if you tell me. Nothing you do can ever make me not love you”.

    On another note, in the campaign to protect children from sexual abuse, there was this great tip on how to make children less prone to keep (bad) secrets from parents. The idea is to tell the child that there are two types of secrets: happy secrets and sad secrets. A happy secret is something that makes you feel good, like knowing what you gift you’re going to give your dad for Christmas. A sad secret is something that makes you feel bad or sad, like someone telling you that “your mother will be angry if you tell her that I touch you”. Such a great idea I think. I want my kids to be able to have secrets from me, but only ones that make them happy.

    • Helena says...

      I of course forgot to write that you also tell the child that they should always tell their sad secret to someone they trust. Mom/dad/a teacher they trust etc. That a sad secret should never remain a secret. Only happy secrets should.

    • Mimi says...

      As a child abuse prosecutor, I will say, this is such good advice, Helena. The shame and secrecy, not the sex act, is often the most traumatic part of child sex abuse. I love your advice and would go one step further. Mom’s often say you can tell me anything, and they give examples, like you did above, “even if you steal, even if you hit…” but they avoid the example of sex abuse. Parents should push themselves to say the thing they expect their child to be brave enough to say, because to an abused child, in their mind, they’ve done something far more shameful than hit or steal.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      great advice. thank you so much.

  87. Amy V says...

    Ha my mum kind of took the opposite stance. I vividly remember her once saying, “If you ever broke a law I wouldn’t cover for you, I would call you in if need be”. My mum isn’t a stern woman at all and it took me by surprise, and obviously stuck with me. I wasn’t a bad kid by any stretch but it definitely kept me on the straight and narrow!

  88. Lauren says...

    We had a saying we would use when ever I dropped my twin daughters off at school/anywhere: I would say, “what are [enter our last name] famous for?” And then we’d all say: “being smart, making friends, and getting out of scrapes!” It was meant to be fun, but had lots of truth to it in our family history! When they were little they would shout it out, and when they were teens they would say it with monotone hilarity. I still live by it!

    • anna_chronistic says...

      LOVE this! Ha!

  89. Tracey says...

    When I was 17 and it seemed as though all my peers had their futures figured out my Dad repeated over and over “it does not matter to me what job you choose, make honest money and don’t hurt anyone”.

    Many of my peers ended up crushed by their parents expectations for them so I am so very grateful for his pre-approval of my choices.

  90. When my son was little he sometimes struggled with telling me his feelings which he told me made him feel sad. I told him he could always press his thumb to my thumb if he ever wanted me to know he loved me or if he needed to feel extra love and I promised to always press back. This has become our secret handshake, of sorts. He’s now 21 and almost a foot taller than me and has no problem telling me he loves me, but he will randomly grab my hand to press his thumb to mine when he’s home. It makes my heart swell instantly ♥️

  91. Layne Dettor says...

    My mom always said this too! One of my favorites was, “Layne, even if you become a drug-dealer porn star I’ll still love you.” Mom!!

  92. Alina says...

    From the book “Love You Forever” which always makes me cry: ill love you forever, like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” My son is getting bigger (2 years old and almost 40 lbs) but I still hold him in my arms and rock him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth (also from the book). He has a new little sister so I think these words, hopefully, let him know that I still love him just as much as ever.

  93. Jen Volbrecht says...

    Hello from Michigan!
    I have a specific childhood memory of having an after school snack at your house with Lucy. I thought is was spectacular that when you two and little Nick came home there was some time at the table together with a little treat. Now, I remember it like it was such a European thing to do! Maybe we had some brie, who knows! But 25 years later It’s still a sweet little memory for me. You’re lucky to have such a wonderful family! And your mom is wise and obviously very supportive! I have no doubt that you’re the same way. ;)

  94. Mel says...

    We moved our 4 year old daughter into a new daycare shortly after I gave birth to her little sister. I wanted to make sure she was adjusting ok with all the changes, so at bedtime one night I said “ Honey, you know you can talk to me about anything, right?” And she replied, “Yes mommy! Let’s talk about all the kinds of fruit I like.”

  95. Marlena says...

    Growing up, especially during those that tricky teenage period, my father would say to us girls, ” Happiness is a choice, choose to be happy.” Which considering his teen years were spent in a Japanese prison camp during WW 2 was pretty humbling. He was the most loving and unjudgmental parent and I miss him every day! But he was a around long enough for my daughter to take that philosophy on board. One day we were discussing tattoos and I am not a huge fan, but it is her body….and she said if I get a tattoo it will be something really meaningful like, ” choose to be happy”. I was a little terry with that and also how can one oppose that???

  96. Lorac says...

    Whenever I part from my kids I touch their nose and say “remember who you are”. I don’t remember when I started but they are 25, 23, 21 and 19.

  97. Anna says...

    “question authority”
    it empowered my sister and I to be bold, brave and inquisitive.

  98. Kerri says...

    My mom always said (still says!) “I’m so proud of you, and all you have to do is stand there!” My heart believed her about 75% until I had my own babies and then the last 25% all of a sudden made sense ☺️

  99. Emmy says...

    When I was in high school my mom said, “As much as I love you, and you know I do, I will always love your Dad more; it has to be that way.”
    I undeniably knew she loved me, but I remember being slightly offended.
    It was, and still is, reassuring to know that my mom and dad are first and foremost a team. It is an undeserved gift that I can be as certain of their love for each other as I am of my mother’s love for me.

  100. Chelsey says...

    These comments SHOULD be a book!

    My mom used to say “do something kind for someone today” when she dropped us off at school. She also used to tell us that “sharing something sweet makes it taste better”.

    Love reading all the comments!

    • Ellen says...

      That is so lovely, an here you are continuing by sharing your own sweet comment after kindly praising others. (A reminder that a parent’s words become the fabric of who we are.)

  101. Haleigh says...

    My mom would always tell me that I could call her no matter what, she would come and pick me up or help me and promised that she would not be mad. Even if I snuck out of the house in high school or was getting into trouble. I was a good kid in high school, but looking back I realize how wise it was of her to reassure this to us. I think so many teenagers fear talking to their parents or calling if they are in trouble.

  102. Maren says...

    When I was younger, every day we started our family dinners with what the best part of our day was. My dad always went last and and he would always answer “being here with all of you.” It still makes me tear up thinking about it! Especially as I’m older I realize how rare it is to feel like spending time with each other is all of our favorite thing to do. I hope I can pass that gift on to my kids some day.

  103. Stephanie says...

    My dad would always recite “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, my babies you’ll be.” To my sister and I before bed. I’ll never forget it.

  104. Courtney M says...

    Anytime I left the house, my Dad would run over and say “be careful”. He probably said it everyday of my life unti l left home. When i graduated high school he gave me a beautiful letter he wrote – about how “be careful” really means “i love you”. I cherish this letter. I always knew that’s what he meant by saying it. Now that I have a child of my own I catch myself saying “be careful” all the time. It will always make me think of my Dad, and how much he cares for me. I feel the same feelings for my daughter and i just think it’s beautiful. Family can be so amazing.

  105. M says...

    Growing up I was self conscious about many things (like the freckle on my eye, my odd shaped thumb, etc). My dad would listen and then say, “it wouldn’t be fair to the other girls if you got to be perfect.” So, I learned to appreciate the things that make me unique and to view imperfections as purposeful. I say it to my friends to this day.

  106. Laura says...

    “Accidents happen!” is a constant refrain in our house these days. It started when our oldest was potty training and still rings true today. Accidents are inevitable, why not be kind to each other (and ourselves) about them.

    We also say “I love you more than ______” and fill in the blank with whatever silly or sentimental thing that comes to mind. It’s a huge complement to be told by our 3 year old that he loves us more than donuts. That kid loves donuts something fierce.

  107. linde says...

    I know my mom loved me a lot when I was a kid, but she wasn’t very expressive or comforting, verbally, and she was very demanding. Now that I’m an adult, she requires a lot of attention from me (and others), but doesn’t give it out very freely. The consequence of all of this for me is that I don’t feel very comfortable with intimacy – with the feeling of “being loved” (even though I want it badly), and I’m a perfectionist. As a result, as a mom myself, I work really hard to lavish love on my kids – verbally, physically, and otherwise. I never worry that I will love them “too much.” And I also work really hard to show them that love doesn’t depend on getting everything right – that it is not something they have to earn. I mostly do this by being really honest and apologizing to them whenever I screw up, but I also do it by reminding them, (with what has become a family mantra), that no matter what they do or how bad they think things are, there will always be a second chance, and there will always be forgiveness.

  108. Julie says...

    My mom and Dad said something similar “Thwre’s nothing The three of us (meaning them and me) can’t figure out together.” And you’re right; it always made me feel safe and like they were on my team. Even if the problem was hard or not concrete (like emotions), I felt like they would work with me. Now that i have two little gals, i find myself doing similar things too. My two favorite things to say to them are “I love being your mom so much. Everything about you is special to me.” I want to help them to feel big and important. And also, “I love you so much and I know we’ll always find a way to work through anything that scares or worries you.” I want them to feel my confidence in them and in our relationship.

  109. Katherina says...

    My mom would say to me all the time “your character will be your destiny” hard to figure it out as a kid but so relevant to me right now… she would also say “if you pay attention to a fool you make him relevant”

  110. This just made me remember my mom saying the same sort of thing. I felt just the same way too… if I messed up small, sure, I’D be in trouble, but if I messed up big WE’D figure it out. I love that so much about her now. I never have felt like I couldn’t go to mom with the deepest darkest things or brag about my biggest accomplishments. We’re taught (especially as women) to be humble and avoid bragging. Never with my mom. She was my place to let out all my greatest successes along with my worst failures—ethical, professional, relationship-wise… thank you for sharing, Joanna, and making me remember another reason to be grateful this thanksgiving.

    xx, Alexandra

  111. Aristea Gonzales says...

    Haha I always tell my children the same thing. I also tell them that they will be in less trouble if they tell me the truth regardless of what they did even if they robbed a bank than if they lie to me and I find out they lied to me and I will always find out.

  112. Sara says...

    “Sometimes you’re the windshield; and sometimes you’re the bug.”
    My Dad passed last year, but these words help me keep some perspective on days that feel tougher than usual.
    Love this post, thank you.

  113. Lucy says...

    This is beautiful. I am going to try remember it! My mum always said to me and my brother, “what’s the worst that can happen?” with regard to making a change in life, or experiencing a new situation. This confidence enabled both my brother and I, consecutively, to go on exchange and live in Sweden for a year. She also use to add when appropriate, “you can always come home”, I now always say that to any friends who are nervous about moving cities or going travelling.
    Another favourite life motto we had growing up was, “life’s not about fun”, I know this sounds a bit negative but it’s more tongue in cheek that my mum wasn’t our entertainment officer, she was there to ensure we grew up well and safe and loved. Fun was a bonus and we needed to learn to make our own fun! Lastly she also raised us with the concept of ‘Experiences over things’, this meant we never had the flashest tv, or a playstation, but we went to so many different shows and festivals. Name a type of dance and I have probably seen a show of it. So special.

  114. Lisa C Goldman says...

    Similar to your mom … I say to my kids “there is nothing you can do to make me love you any more … or any less.”

  115. Tracy says...

    Love reading all the comments. I’d love to hear more about how parents can be sure they are SHOWING this sentiment to their children, instead of just saying it! Sometimes I worry that my kids, esp my challenging 8yo, doesn’t really believe me…

    • Molly K says...

      I wonder if you could find the answer to this in Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages? Actually I think he might have one specific to kids too. I know “words of affirmation” is my primary love language, but some kids will feel your love more through other ways that you could show it, say gifts, or time spent with them, etc.

  116. Kate says...

    My grandmother always used to say “You do what you think is right at the time, and then you fix it.” I used to be paralyzed by making decisions, even as a child, and she would always say this to remind me to make the choice, take a chance, go out on a limb…and, if it turns out to be a mistake? Well, there are very few choices you can make that can’t be fixed…except, you know, having kids. But, personally, those are absolutely the best choices I made. First husband? Fixed. Wrong major? Fixed. Terrible Jobs #1-10? Fixed. Wrong hair cut? Wrong wine for Thanksgiving? Fixed. etc…

  117. Megan says...

    Such a great reminder. Sometimes you need to say it explicitly, not just depend on your kid feeling it. This inspired me to immediately say it to my 9 yo daughter who was in the shower ( she said “I know that” with a sigh. Ha!)

  118. Kim says...

    My Mom always used to say (and still does) – “we girls stick together.” She was just talking about the two of us, the only girls in our family, and it always made me feel like I eternally have someone on my side.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      aww i love that. these comments could be a book.

  119. Emma says...

    “whats one more?!’
    – my mom is one of 10 and always taught me that there’s room for everyone at the table. She includes the left-out and has created a warm home with wonderful chaos. ‘what’s one more?’ always meant that there’s enough. enough food. enough kindness. enough chairs. enough love.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, i love that, emma.

    • KKRvF says...

      This was my exact childhood. People would ask how many kids she had to feed for our hot lunches (she had five of her own), but she always said, “Depends on the day!” it didn’t matter who, the more the merrier. She could stretch a pot of spaghetti or a curry and no one was ever left unfed. We were a refuge for those without siblings, a second parent etc. We also had the cosy, chaotic home. It was great.

    • Nicole K. says...

      My mom was like this too! She was never allowed to have friends over when growing up, and for us she made sure we knew friends were always welcome and our home was always open. Our house was where everyone came over all the time, and where all my friends felt so at home they’d walk right in without ringing the doorbell! Now when we talk about childhood memories, everyone says how much they loved coming over and shares favorite memories of my house and my family (and my mom’s chocolate chip cookies). As a result, my brothers and I are so social, always hosting people (and each other) for various meals and events. I am expecting my first baby now and can’t wait to have the same kind of welcoming home I grew up with.

  120. Thao says...

    Your mom is a wonder – and so are you. I tell my daughter every day, “You’re mine forever, if you want to be, and I’m yours forever.” She’ll have many great love stories in her life (at least, I hope she does); I want her to know that I’ll be one of them. My mom and I love each other too, yet growing up I felt that she never truly belonged to me. She wasn’t present emotionally and sometimes physically, and I was always reaching for her, grabbing at an impression instead of the substance of her love. With my girl, I certainly have my moments of checking out (because, lordy, if I have to sing “Pop Goes the Weasel” again!), but I want her to know I’m a reality, a constant, the whole messy, tangible mess of me.

    I want to sift through farm animal-shaped magnets, and chase ants through sidewalk cracks, and pop precarious, floating bubbles, and dig into a bin of Cheerios, and contort my body into small corners for hide-and-seek. I want to be the one whose tears mingle with hers when she’s upset, the one who holds her secrets, the one who helps her release her fears. I’ll screw it up many times. She’ll screw up too. I guess what I mean is that belonging to someone forever means filling in all the gaps of the story. Not just the big gestures of parenthood, but the ones she’ll likely soon forget, because it’s about the arc of the story, the weight of history and heritage and togetherness.

    • This is such a beautiful couple of paragraphs, Thao. I just had to say.

    • Lisa says...

      This is just so beautiful, and describes exactly the kind of relationship I want with my children

    • Lily says...

      This is so very beautiful–made my heart swell <3

    • Taylor says...

      What a wonderful mom you are!

    • Amy J Douglas says...

      This is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    • Carolyn says...

      What a beautiful sentiment. I want to print and post this so I can be reminded to find my way into the “gaps” of my boys’ stories.
      Thank you!

  121. Natasha says...

    My mom died three years ago around this time. And today I was randomly reminded that the thing I never ever doubted about her was how much she loves us. There was never a question that we were her sun, moon, and stars. She used to sing ‘ain’t no mountain high enough.’ And she meant it. She’d call back at any time of day and frequently visited me and my sister when we moved and had terrible homesickness.

    As I look to start my own family, it’s the thing I know I’ll try to do the most. Make sure my kids know true love.

  122. Carolyn says...

    Love this post and really love all the wise, thoughtful comments it has provoked, like so many of your parenting posts. I agree that another post summarizing all the advice and wisdom would be awesome!
    Growing up, I was a perfectionist and a pleaser. I sought a lot of affirmation from my mother (which I didn’t receive). As an adult, I’ve worked so hard to challenge my perfectionism and to overcome my related anxieties. Now, as a mom, I want my boys to know that I love them unconditionally and that they don’t have to be perfect or to seek approval from those around them (especially from me). I try to encourage them to focus on the learning and experience of the process rather than nailing the final product and we have a motto in our household, “There is no such thing as perfect. It’s good enough”. Sometimes, I overhear my 5 year old telling his friends this and I’m hopeful that it really rings true for him and that it’s something he can carry forward in life.

    • Heather says...

      I so relate to everything that you are saying..I am trying so hard to be the parent I needed when I was young (and even now) for my boys and sometimes it’s hard to know if I’m doing the right thing because I’m paving a new path..
      I’m telling myself that humility and honesty will go a long way and that they will always know I love them no matter what…I tell them ‘there’s nothing you can do that would make me love you any less..’ Especially when they’ve had a rough day…

    • I taught gifted elementary students including, specifically, social-emotional education and since many struggled with perfectionism, we talked about this a lot both in class and, with families and other teachers. Having that as a family motto is so powerful! (I also really liked one teacher’s similar take. She had a sign in her class that said “Pobody’s Nerfect”)

  123. Mariah says...

    Growing up in a home where I didn’t hear/feel that from my mom (as wonderful as she is) I think you are so lucky!

  124. Maria says...

    I really love all of your posts that mention your mom! She seems like a wise soul and an incredible mother. I would devour a super long post all about her mothering advice to us newbies.

    • Carly says...

      Totally agree!! I want more xo