DEAR ABBY: I had to write after reading the letter from "Mom in Denver," who asked how to be a great mother. She wanted to avoid the mistakes her own mother had made with her and her siblings.
I have no children, but my life was enriched and greatly blessed by my own wonderful mother. She loved unconditionally, whether we were good or mischievous. She taught us humility and respect for our fellow beings by her altruistic example. She encouraged us to learn about the magnificent world in which we live, and gave us the freedom to learn about our place in it. She gave us the courage to explore our gifts and talents. When we failed, she never once said, "I told you it wouldn't work," or, "What a waste of time and money." Instead, she praised our efforts and, in so doing provided us with self-confidence and determination so we could persevere and achieve.
Our mother made mistakes, but when she did, she apologized with her heart and soul. When we made mistakes, she accepted our apologies. Conversations with Mother were never "adult talks and children listen." She taught us to express our emotions and thoughts on issues we faced. In short, we learned that we were valued for what we thought and how we felt, because she listened patiently and sincerely.
There was never a question of who was in charge; all it took was a stern look to know when we were on the outskirts of good standing. She knew what decisions a child could and should make and which were the responsibility of an adult, as well as age-appropriateness in relinquishing those decisions. By example we learned to nourish ourselves properly, value our health, and strive to lead full, balanced lives. We learned about God and were schooled in religion, but were also given the opportunity to question, ponder and disagree.
We shared in laughter and in tears. We told jokes and hilarious stories to each other. We had fun and learned to always have time for a friend. We shared stories and photographs from Mom's childhood and teens, so that we could know who she was before she became our mom. When one of us lost a friend struck by tragedy, she'd cry with us and share our grief.
This letter may be too long for your column, but if you print it, I hope it helps mothers like the one in Denver. Our beloved mom passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 48 almost 11 years ago. From her, each of her children learned to navigate in a world from which she is physically absent. We celebrate each other's lives because we see her within each of us. Now, after having completed my Ph.D. in neurobiology, I'm finishing my M.D. and pursuing a future in neurosurgery. I have wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember, but I wonder sometimes if such would be the case had I not had such an extraordinarily great mom. -- MELISSA Y. MACIAS, ORIGINALLY FROM EL PASO, TEXAS
DEAR MELISSA: Not only have you provided great insight in what it takes to be a terrific parent, you have written a loving and eloquent tribute to your own mother. Please accept my deepest sympathy for having lost her at such a young age.
I know she would be proud of raising a daughter who is pursuing her dream, and who is already so intellectually accomplished. I hope that someday you can pass on what your mother taught you to children of your own.
Readers: I have received more wonderful letters on this subject than I can print in one, or even several columns. Therefore, I will continue to print them in the coming weeks.
To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
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