My mother was right about so many things: You can love a person without loving their behavior. You should never criticize someone else’s kid. My old boyfriend who couldn’t make eye contact was hiding a lot.
Recently, though, I realized that I’ve never shared this information with my mom. So I wrote a lengthy list of the times when she was right, called her and read it aloud.
“I can be hard on myself,” she said, her voice cracking. “So I can’t tell you how good it feels to hear this.”
I was so moved by her reaction that I asked New York Times readers to share moments when their mothers were right. We received over 800 responses from around the world. I read every one several times; sometimes I was so overcome with emotion that I had to step away from my computer.
If you’re in need of a Mother’s Day gift, try making a list of everything your mom was right about and reading it to her or including it with a card. And if you’ve lost your mother, consider writing a list as a remembrance.
Here are a few reader responses to inspire you:
Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.
“When I wanted to get my first tattoo at 21, she subtly suggested I get it someplace where I did not have to see it every day. I followed her suggestion and now have a slightly embarrassing, poor-quality tattoo on my back instead of my forearm.” — Amanda Olson, Seattle
“My mother, a nurse, asserted that everyone should learn first aid. I followed her advice and ended up using the Heimlich maneuver on my then little boy.” — Karen Russ, Rockford, Ill.
“When I was in my 20s, I was absolutely miserable at a job and was looking to get out as fast as I could. My mom gently reminded me that I should always be running toward something, not away from something.” — Sheryl Magzamen, Fort Collins, Colo.
“Select friends with traits of the kind of person you want to be.” — Seun Sowemimo, Manalapan, N.J.
“Just after my first child was born, my mother put her hand on my arm and said, ‘Honey, you have breathed your last free breath.’ And she laughed — in a kind, not a bitter, way. Her words meant that I was now to know love so consuming that every second of the rest of my life would be spent in fear of loss. I feel connected to her knowing that we have shared this deep and meaningful terror.” — Shannon Kilgore, Santa Fe, N.M.
“Mejor estar solo que mal acompañado. Translation: Better to be alone than in bad company.” — Maria Espinosa, New York City
“You wouldn’t worry so much about what other people think about you if you knew how little they do.” — Lisa Horan, Somers, Conn.
“When I was 3 years old, I asked my mother whether or not a lady had to be a mommy. She said, ‘No, she does not have to.’ I clung to her response as to a life raft and remained child-free my entire life.” — Gretchen Williams, Santa Rosa, Calif.
“When faced with risky decisions or chance opportunities, my mother has always told me, ‘Just ask. The worst thing they can say is no.’ It didn’t mean the no would be painless, but only that I’d be in the same place I was before. It’s advice that empowered me to ask for dates, discounts and jobs.” — Leah Cheshier, Houston
“My mom suggested I was gay when I was 16, and I snapped at her. She saw through my repression, was brave enough to broach the subject and was right about my sexual orientation.” — Oren Livne, Tel Aviv
“I once asked my mom, ‘What am I ever going to do when you are gone?’ She said, ‘Exactly what you’re doing now.’ I was startled by the simplicity. In a few words, she let me know that life would go on and I would be fine. And while I miss her still after 20 years, I have told my own daughters the same thing.” — Mary Ellen Collins, Toronto
Heather Armstrong candidly shared her life online — inspiring others to do the same.
Armstrong, who died by suicide on May 9, wrote openly about the challenges of motherhood and postpartum depression on her popular blog, Dooce. Lisa Belkin, who profiled Armstrong in 2011 and 2019, looks back on her life and work.