Watch Out for Mom


Based on a talk given in the Las Vegas 3rd and 15th wards, Las Vegas Nevada Stake

At every Mother’s Day program, I hear lots of poems and stories about how nice mothers are. But I keep thinking, “That doesn’t sound like my mother.” My mom is nice most of the time, but the rest of the time, watch out!

Like the other night, for example. She let me stay up late to watch a movie I really wanted to see. But the next morning, there she was, bright and early, waking me up so that I’d get my work done.

Or look at what happens when I clean up my room. I have it all fixed up in a hurry, and then she ruins it all by looking under the bed! Then she’ll want to know why I didn’t clean off my dresser, and I have to start cleaning the room all over again.

We were out in the garden planting seeds and working on my gardening merit badge for Scouting when I started to sneeze and itch and get a runny nose. Do you think she let me quit? No! I had to stick it out and get my part done. Now I have to water the garden all the time. She says she won’t do it for me, because then I wouldn’t be earning the merit badge, she would.

Mom has a sign on her bulletin board that says, “A mother is not a person to lean on, but rather a person to make leaning unnecessary.” That means I have to do things for myself so that when I grow up I’ll know how. She makes me help with housework, vacuuming, dishes, washing clothes, even cooking! When it’s my turn to cook, she gives me the recipe—that’s all. I have to find the ingredients and do the rest myself. (But I am a pretty good cook, and when I get to be a missionary, everyone is going to want to be my companion because I’ll know how to cook.)

Every once in a while mom and I will go somewhere together by ourselves, to a movie or a ball game. The part she likes the best is the drive to wherever we are going and back. It’s my first year in junior high right now, and mom and I talk about why kids think it’s cool to be bad. Lots of kids think it’s cool to get high on marijuana or to cheat or to goof off in class. That makes it hard for Mormon kids who have such high standards to live by. The hardest part is when other LDS kids start going bad and tease and pressure the ones who are trying to stay straight. I told mom I don’t want people to think I’m stuck up or unfriendly. So how can I make them respect me and let me do things my own way?

For example, my full name is Clarence Weldon Tom Collins III, but I go by Tom. Every once in a while, especially at the beginning of school while teachers are still figuring out their rolls, someone will laugh and say, “Ha! Your name is Clarence!”

Now I could get upset about it, but that wouldn’t stop the teasing. So I just say, “Clarence means bright. What does your name mean?” They find out it’s something I’m not ashamed of and won’t be teased about, and they end up respecting me.

When someone tries to get me to cheat on a test, I look at them like they’re crazy and say out loud, “You weren’t really trying to get me to cheat, were you?” That usually stops them from trying it again.

And if someone calls me chicken for not smoking or drinking, I say, “Me chicken? It seems to me like you’re the one who’s afraid. You’re going to go along with everyone else because you’re afraid to say no. You’ll ruin your health and your body. I’d rather be strong.”

Mom helped me figure out things like that. She also helped me see that it’s good to have a sense of humor and laugh and be friendly. You can’t ever act sorry for who you are and what you stand for—you should be happy about it.

I know that as teenagers we are making decisions that affect our lives now and through eternity. You decide what you are going to be, who your friends are, whether you’ll be active in the Church, if you’ll live the Word of Wisdom, how much education you’ll have, when and who you’ll marry, and where. Wrong decisions might take a lifetime to overcome. Satan knows this and he hits teenagers with everything all at once—peer pressure, drugs, pornography, bad music and movies, immorality, everything. You have to be ready to fight to win the battle, and you have to know ahead of time how you are going to react.

Maybe that’s why mom is asking me questions all the time. How was my day? What did I do in school? Why did I get a low grade in penmanship? Didn’t I get my schoolwork done? Will I work harder to get a better grade next time? How can she and dad help? She even knows my teachers’ phone numbers and goes to conferences with them to ask them to help me do my best.

Mom makes me sew on my own Scout patches. She made me memorize the Articles of Faith and other scriptures and explain to her and dad what they mean. Mom goes to my ball games and keeps score most of the time. She knows a lot of my friends from school and Church and sports. They all like her, even when she forgets to mark down all the RBI’s. But they don’t know how hard she is on me. She won’t even let me watch some of the TV shows all the other kids watch!

The reason my mom does all these things is because she loves me. It would be a lot easier for her to sit back and let me do anything I wanted to. But she doesn’t. She works hard at helping me be the best I can be so I can become the best man I can be. I’m thankful for her and I wouldn’t trade her for any other mom in the whole world, even if I do think she’s a little bit mean sometimes. Watch out for her! She’ll probably try to help you to be better, too!

[illustration] Illustrated by Preston Heiselt