Persons, places and things: the learning curve of motherhood


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

My son Colin’s preschool teacher gave me a piece of advice that I have reflected on often over the past 26 years. “What you want for your son may be different than what he wants.”


I am blessed to be the mother of two sons: Colin, now 30, and Patrick, 22. I had all sorts of dreams and goals for each of them. But both struggled as children to fit in with their peers, and my heart ached that they couldn’t have experienced a gentler ride through childhood. Colin’s autism may have kept him oblivious to what made him different. Patrick’s sensitivity made even small slights by peers bother him.

In the midst of my sons’ childhood challenges, the learning curve for motherhood seemed pretty steep! I remember one evening when Patrick was about 5 years old. He was sitting on the floor in his bedroom crying because of the yelling that was going on in the house. Through his sobs, he said he wished our family could be more like the family who lived in the house behind ours. “They don’t yell,” he said poignantly.


My husband Steve and I tried to set a good example for our sons. Prayer and weekly attendance at Mass strengthened our resolve and our efforts. When I learned I was pregnant with Patrick, another mother, Cheryl, presented me with a medal of St. Gerard, the patron saint of mothers. I wore that medal every day because it provided a sense of peace and well-being. Our faith community, in subtle and quiet ways, supported our family. Maybe it was a hug, a story shared in laughter, or words of reassurance when Colin, then an altar server, ran off with the processional cross during Mass.

The embarrassing moments, the trying days that seemed so long at the time, have faded into memories and, in what seems like the blink of an eye, my sons have grown into adults. I didn’t pray for that time of motherhood to pass swiftly. We had good times and laughter, too, during those earlier years. Patrick, as a second-grader, was having a conversation with me about penguins. He told me that some penguins lived in the Rain Forest. I said I didn’t think so because it would be too warm. He replied: “Some penguins can take the heat, some can’t!” As a teen-ager, Colin got up extra early one morning. Steve asked: “Why don’t you go back to bed?” Colin replied, “I’m too tired to go to bed.”

My two sons have grown gracefully into adulthood, and I couldn’t feel more blessed as we approach Mother’s Day. As I walked with Colin along the riverfront last Saturday night, I asked him what quality he would use to describe his mom. He replied, “Compassionate!”

Today, what I want for my sons is for each to be the very best person he can be, and to help make the world a better place in which to live. I know that is what Colin and Patrick want, too.

(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at

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