December 20, 2016

A friend of mine said to me the other day, “When you see your mom at Christmas, ask her again if she’ll adopt me.” I laughed, of course, but honestly I think my friend was only about 40% joking. My mom is the type of person that other people wish they could adopt as a parent. This is because somehow, every year, she becomes an even better role model.

My mom turns 70 today, and I wish she could adopt the world.

Thirty years ago this week, my family moved from Maine to Michigan, a transition that was ultimately good for all of us, but difficult in the short run, especially for my parents. Over the next twelve years or so, my mom faced many challenges from the past and present, including a contract dispute, divorce, dating, my adolescence, my sister’s adolescence, her return to school, money problems, work problems, moving me across country, welcoming me back nine months later, car issues, horse issues, dog issues, cat issues—you name it. During this period, I think my mom was focused on simply keeping her head above water, on surviving. And survive she did. How she managed to hold herself together while also holding her family and finances together, rising higher and higher in her profession, and—amazingly—starting to really find herself in the process, is beyond me.

Since that time, my mom has switched from survival mode to evolving mode. She met the second love of her life and remarried. She set out to re-find spirituality and met it on her own terms. She crafted a welcoming home in Ann Arbor, Michigan where I and all my friends could drop in any time. Then she moved to Harrisville, New Hampshire, where she did it again. She helped take care of her parents as they entered their nineties and then helped them die filled with love and pride. She switched gears in her career, moving from high-pressure health care administration to fundraising for a small non-profit. She read and wrote. She hiked and explored. She reconnected with her childhood and blazed new trails in the community. And she adopted two dogs from a thousand miles away.

There it is again: adoption. If my mom can provide a loving home to two big, barky, rambunctious dogs, I’m assuming she could adopt the whole world….

Okay, maybe my mom doesn’t have the energy left at 70, especially with a new granddaughter keeping her busy, to adopt 7 billion people—or even a handful of my middle-aged friends. But then again … she did just pack up last year and move down to North Carolina in an RV. She did just spend months last summer and fall training to become a yoga instructor. A few weeks ago, she did just stay at my sister’s side for 30 hours while she was in labor. Well, even if my mom did have the energy to adopt one or two or a few billion new children, I won’t ask her to. After all, she’s retired.

But here’s an alternative: if my mom can’t adopt the world, maybe the world can adopt my mom—or at least adopt the traits that make her such an amazing role model. My mom is resilient. Could the world use a little resilience? Uh, yeah. My mom treats everyone—family, friends, random passersby, cats, dogs, communities, organizations—with respect, and the world could definitely use some more of that. My mom is balanced, between inner and outer, physical and mental, material and spiritual, creative and analytical, appreciation of the now and passion for the new. My mom has so much grace, the way she handles conflict and trauma, surprises and change. My mom is generous, forgiving, practical, and deep. She is open and honest and wise. The world is much in need of all of these things.

So, world, my mom turns 70 today, and it’s time for us to all adopt the character traits she brings to every relationship and every moment. It might be hard, but if we pause on a regular basis to consider the incredible role models like my mom who have so much to offer us, maybe we can indeed adopt a little bit of that resilience, respect, balance, grace, generosity, forgiveness, practicality, depth, openness, honesty, and wisdom.

I’m 44 and a half, and I never had to wish my mom could adopt me. She’s just my mom. And I’m so, so lucky.

Happy birthday, mom. I love you.