Wives and girlfriends are likely to disagree, but as it has been said that behind every great man there is a great woman, that woman is probably his mother.
Nearly two decades back, feminist Gloria Steinem suggested Take Our Daughters to Work Day to give girls a broader exposure to the workplace — namely, their fathers’ workplace, to which they were entitled to be as well. It was later expanded to include boys.
It’s therefore worth praising Chick-fil-A restaurants, which on Friday held a “date night” for mothers and their sons, ages 3-13, at locations in the East Valley, throughout metro Phoenix and Casa Grande. The event was to feature tableside service – and conversation cards for shy boys to start to talk with their moms about, you know, life and stuff.
I’ve never eaten at a Chick-fil-A, and I can swear that my mother hasn’t, either, but for different reasons. She dislikes most restaurants, but not because the food isn’t good. Like her mother before her, she looks at menus, shakes her head and says things like, “They’re charging $13 for that? Do you know how little it costs for me to make that at home?”
But while popular culture likes to focus on fathers and daughters (there’s no movie called, “Mother of the Groom”), the mother-son relationship tends to have a lower societal profile.
Many tend to think of Dad sitting up late waiting for his teenage daughter to come home from a date. But those folks never met my mother, who was the one who waited up for either my brother or me and, by her own definition, turned from a sweet, sleepy woman to an upset, shouting parent one minute after curfew.
It was Mom who, after my father gave up in frustration after trying to teach me how to ride a two-wheel bicycle, took me out and did the one thing Dad wouldn’t do: Let go of the handlebars while running along side.
“Sure, you might fall,” she said. “But you’ll learn from that.”
Mom was a great woman and I somehow think that she knew it, because she insisted that Joe and I live up to that. It was tough to let her down, because as selflessly as she went through life, we couldn’t bring ourselves to disappoint her – well, not very often, anyway.
We were taught to share. We were taught equity, that while we were no better than anyone else, we certainly were no worse, and should never let anyone try to tell us that.
Daughters are often more talkative about their relationships with their mothers – even when they aren’t always the most tranquil – while sons can be quieter, trying to fulfill their mothers’ aspirations for them by simply trying to follow their advice.
And the great men? Look at many of our recent presidents. When Franklin Roosevelt went away to college, his mother went with him. Jimmy Carter wrote a whole book about his mother; Richard Nixon called his mother a saint, but lamented that no one would ever write a book about her (and sadly, no one did, not even he).
Bill Clinton talked to his mother every day, and sentimentally noted that it took him several weeks to break the habit of picking up a telephone and dialing her number before realizing she was no longer there.
It has become cliché to say on Mother’s Day that those of us fortunate enough to still have our mothers with us should cherish that more than we probably do. But it is worth repeating nonetheless.
A phrase that bears this out was uttered by actor Billy Crystal playing a legendary comedian named Buddy Young Jr. in the 1992 film, “Mr. Saturday Night.”
In one scene, Young was eulogizing his mother. He said, “She was 91, and she went too soon.”
And here’s another:
“All that I am, or hope to be,” Abraham Lincoln said, “I owe to my angel mother.”
Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, died when he was only 9 years old.
• Mark J. Scarp (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Tribune contributing columnist who writes on Sundays.