The Hero Mom

Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, NY

One of the hundreds of gazebos along the trails 

She sat peacefully in a wooden gazebo by the water’s edge, half facing the water, head swiveled backward  keeping a watchful eye on her howling daughter standing on the rocks behind her about 10 feet away.

At Mohonk Mountain House, the breathtaking scenic vistas, rock climbs, miles of hiking trails, crystal clear mountain-top lake, can be best described as serene.

At least it was until the silence was broken by the little girl’s screaming tantrum.  

M . O . M . M . Y...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” The rest was unintelligible and unrelenting. Tears streaming, arms outstretched, begging Mommy to come and carry her to the gazebo.

And Mommy sat, not moving. But, gently repeating the same few words, over and over again. “You can do it. Just take one step at a time.”

It would have been so much easier to pick up her daughter, to comfort her, to coddle her, than to remain steadfast in the face of such despair. She could have worried what passersby thought of her, letting her daughter cry on like that. But she demonstrated a resolve to help her daughter overcome fear. One step at a time.

I wanted to go over to her and encourage Mommy and tell her what a great mom she was.  She probably didn’t feel like a great mom then. But I kept on walking. I rationalized that it would have spoiled the moment, but I still regret it. Maybe she’ll read this.

She was a hero that day. Not the kind we read about on the front page. But the kind that makes the tough choices in the trenches to stay the course, to teach her child, to allow her child to experience a victory that would be missed if she took the easy way. Or maybe a failure that would be a stepping stone for a future victory. It is just one moment that will build upon the next and the next, ultimately creating a life of character and courage.

When my daughter was little, she had lots of fears. So did I. And so when Lauren was afraid to order ice cream at the local snack bar, she’d ask her younger brother to order for her. I remembered being the oldest of 3 siblings, but the most afraid. And I remembered how bad I felt about myself when my younger siblings would easily do things that terrified me, like go on rides or speak up for themselves. So when I saw my daughter following my footsteps, I became a “mean mom.” With sorrow, I told Lauren that unless she ordered the ice cream herself, she couldn’t have it. Many times she did without her favorite snack because she was afraid to ask for it. 

I didn’t feel like a hero. I felt like a heel. 

But now 20 years later, Lauren not only orders her ice cream, she has traveled the world on mission trips and lived in Australia for 1½ years. She has a grand vision to build a unique powerful ministry. She dreams big dreams that we all know will come true. She has impacted the lives of students in her classes and young girls in youth groups. When she faced rejection and difficulties pursuing her studies and career in dance, I gently repeated the same words over and over again. “You can do it. Just take the next step.”

I was, and am, far from a perfect mom. But in this, I’m thankful that I was able to stand firm. And so is Lauren.

To all the moms being honored today, I salute you. Not just today, but for what you do each day that goes unnoticed or unappreciated. Making one seemingly small decision or action will build upon the next until a million small hard moments build a lasting legacy.

And you moms who experience fear, God tells us “You can do it. One step at a time.” He orchestrates opportunities for us to face and thus overcome our fears. Today is Part One of my series on Vanquishing Fear. In the weeks to come, I'll share some stories of my battles to overcome fear. 

What do you think?
Do you struggle with personal fears?
Is it hard to be the “mean mom?” If so, look for my friend Joanne Kraft’s book later this year. The Mean Mom’s Guide To Raising Great Kids


Lisa said...

Thanks for writing this! Have a great Moms Day! Love Lisa

Lauren said...

I absolutely love you. Thank you for being a mean mom!!!! You've single handily changed my life and I am forever grateful.

Mary said...

Hi Susan,

I agree with what you say. It is easier to give in then to be "the mean mom". I probably should have been a little meaner back in the day. :D

Have a wonderful Mother's Day!

P.S. We have been the the Mohonk Mountain House and it is a beautiful setting.

Robin said...


First of all Happy Mother's Day my dear friend. Secondly, thank you for the inspiration of this piece. Even though my sons are adults they have fear from time to time. I must remember to encourage and not 'do' even now.

Rhonda Schrock said...

I hope you had a great Mother's Day, Susan. And I'm sure you've been a wonderful mother for your children.

God bless you!