Chicago mom on the hunt for a family motto

It is a bit embarrassing how often I find myself the last person to notice a trend, fashion movement or technological craze. I blame it on having a very short attention span and absolutely no eye for detail. Despite these shortcomings, I finally took note of all the “family motto” signs appearing everywhere.

In case you are also a misfit mommy, the family motto is typically an artsy emblem designed to remind one’s children of the principles and beliefs held most dear by a family.

Examples include:

Together we can do great things

Don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back

Dance. Love. Sing. Live.

As I returned from a friend’s house the other day, I could not forget her majestic stenciled creed. It stretched across 15 feet of dining and living room and read: Family: Where Life Begins and Love Never Ends. By the time I arrived home, I was desperately trying to identify the perfect inspirational doctrine my family needed to live a well-adjusted life.

As a mother, I felt I had dropped the ball.


“You want us to come up with a MISSION STATEMENT?” asked my husband incredulously when I explained what was desired. “What are we, Nike?”

I Googled images of other people’s family mottos. After hours of my online research, Joe walked over to kiss me tonight. He glanced down at the option I had up on the computer. It was a Celtic language sign that, when interpreted, meant, “Virtue will carry him to the sky” (Feret ad astra virtus).

“So you’re picking out some kind of spiritual reminder for the kids and you select one not even written in English?” Joe questioned.

Frustrated and angry that Joe had opted for the role of critic, I asked him what our family motto should be.

“It ought to be something we actually say,” Joe responded thoughtfully, “and it needs to reflect on how we live our lives.”

My mind drifted to a moment last month when my youngest son was struggling to open a juice box and asked his older brother to help him. Danny, without hesitating, repeated the phrase most oft heard in our house:

“Figure it out, Joey. Figure. It. Out.”

I roared with laughter at Danny’s spot-on delivery. While I certainly help the kids with tasks here and there, more often than not, I ask them to try a little harder and do it on their own.

It is part of my master plan to make sure they’re not living in our basement at 45.

Strangely enough, these same words have served as an aid to me throughout the years. Parenting has left me frustrated, perplexed and lost on an almost hourly basis. And in these moments? I tell myself to just “Figure it out, Marianne.”

I quickly deleted the Celtic words and altered the phraseology for our new family slogan.

I may not have it all figured out as a parent, and my boys may plead ignorance when it comes to changing the toilet paper rolls, but this new creed encourages us to reach first for our God-given abilities even when things are hard or not easy to do.

And the rest? Well, we can work on refilling the toilet paper rolls another day.

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