The Making of a Man
Part 1

Discouraged about your mothering accomplishments?
Feeling inadequate with what you have to give?
Wondering how to make a man out of the child you’ve been given?
Consider this mom.
Her mother was shunned when she was born, a baby out of wedlock.
She was raised by an aunt and uncle.
She had no schooling. Her “X” marked her name on any signed deed.
She lived deep in the wood, knowing few people, having no friends.
She married a drifter, who worked only when hunger drove him.
While she held her ragged dress together with wild thorns, her husband bought silk suspenders on credit and paid three dollars for a sword.
After attempting several town jobs, each failing, her husband took her deeper into the woods.
He purchased land on “the barrens.” Land the Indians burned for buffalo pastures.
Few people had the poor judgment to settle there.
On these lonely barrens, in the winter of 1809, this woman bore a son.
Snow blew through the cracks of their hunter’s hut, covering both mother and baby.
In 1816 when the boy was seven, her husband bartered the farm for four hundred gallons of corn whisky and moved his family farther west to the wild, desolate forests of Indiana.
When they arrived, the first snow of the season was falling.
He built a three-sided shed. (Today’s Indiana farmer wouldn’t even winter his cattle in such a shelter, but her husband felt it was good enough for his family.)
That winter, 1816-1817, was the severest, most violent in Indiana’s history.
This mom slept with her son and daughter like dogs, curled up in a heap of leaves and bearskins dumped on a damp, dirt floor huddled in a shed.
She had no butter, milk, eggs, fruit, vegetables, or bread to feed her children.
They ate only wild game and nuts.
When her husband tried to raise hogs, bears ate them.
Her husband finally built a cabin for his family in 1818.
It had four sides, no floor, no windows, no door.
A dirty bearskin hung over the doorway.
Inside was dark and foul.
She fell ill after nursing a neighbor a mile and half away with a malady known as “milk sick.”*
Her head swam, sharp pains in her abdomen brought severe vomiting.
Her hands and feet were cold.
Her vitals burned as if on fire.
She couldn’t drink enough water.
After two days, her husband, hearing a dog howl outside the cabin, said she’d die.
Calling her son and daughter to her, she begged them “to be good to each other, to live as she taught them, and to worship God.”
Those were her last words. She died seven days later, on October 5, 1818.
But these two motherless children remembered her words and cared for each other.
The girl cooked.
Having no knives or forks, they ate with their fingers.
The boy kept the fire going and carried water from the spring a mile away.
Since water was so scarce, they neither bathed nor washed their clothes.
Their beds were made of leaves and flea-infested skins.
The only light inside their dark home came from the fireplace or burning hog fat.

Did this mother live in vain?
No one remembers what she looked like. Not even the color of her hair or eyes.
Yet her son remembered her instruction. He honored truth. And was kind to all.
Who was this mother who instilled integrity in her son even at the cost of his own happiness?
Who, not only taught but lived, good will to all, regardless of how she was treated?
No one would remember even her name, except her son became our nation’s 16th president.
This mother’s name was Nancy Hanks Lincoln.

*Now known to be caused by livestock eating white snakeroot. The poison transfers to humans in milk.

Carnegie, Dale. 1932, 1959. Lincoln the Unknown. Garden City, NY: Dale Carnegie and Associates, Inc.

Klein, Christopher. 2014. "The Two Mothers Who Molded Lincoln." May 9. Accessed April 24, 2018. The Two Mothers Who Molded Lincoln.

What struggles do you face as you train your children to be men and women?

I knew enough about these two women to know the story was leading to Abraham Lincoln, but had no idea the terrible conditions that Nancy Hanks Lincoln lived with. Had not realized either that Lincoln's dad was rather a worthless bum. What incredible influences these women were on Abraham growing up, thank God for their love and training. A good lesson for us mothers, not only of the influence we have on our children, but also that we don't have to be perfect to turn them the right way. Thanks, Sonya, very good articles.

Beautiful essay above. Reading something like this is beyond humbling. And one knows, while reading, that the end will be stunning, as this was. Thank you.

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I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras