Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

My Mother’s Day Ode to aunt Ria

“Happy Mother’s Day! Thank you for all you do to help me as a mother, guide and support Maya and Kiran through life.”

I feel touched. Even a bit teary. I’m grateful for her appreciation of my role in her children’s life and of my dedication to help them grow into happy, healthy, self-connected adults.

Foto (1)I never gave birth to a child. I carry sadness and a sense of loss around that. I once thought I would have at least five kids. I imagined us sitting at the dinner table, laughing, talking, playing around. A bit chaotic and noisy, and super fun. An adult household version of Pippi Longstocking.

After I realized this would not happen (and even before that) I decided to direct all my motherly energy and love to the children in my life that I do have: my nieces and nephew, kids of friends, my Dutch foster child, my step daughter. If I can’t be a mom, I can be an aunt, a foster-mom, a nurturing adult in the lives of the children around me. I can reinforce their self-worth, remind them that they matter, and coach their autonomy.

Ria van Wijlen jeugdfoto img878This Mother’s Day I thought of my aunt, tante Ria. She had such love for children. She didn’t give birth to her own children either.

She is my inspiration for how I want to show up for the children around me: respectful, accepting, tolerant, lots of fun, supportive, interested, and engaged in the relationship.

There are many children who don’t get the love, support and acceptance they need. A social worker once told me how difficult it is to address these issues with the parents. The best you can do is to offer the children an alternative relationship. A relationship that conveys that you care about them, respect their experience, and value their needs.  Your actions and respect acknowledge them as autonomous human beings, who are entitled to their own dreams and goals.

I know from experience how valuable such an aunt can be.  I grew up struggling to find support for my sense of emotional safety, acceptance, understanding, support, and belonging.

So this is my ode to my tante Ria.

Thank you for supporting me on my path to self-worth and mattering. You did this over and over againfrom the day I was born to today, and even beyond the bounds of your death.

Safe travels David. Thanks for editing!