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Mother To Son – Suck it Up and Move

Mother to Son by Langston Hughes www.janeanesworld.com

A great way to celebrate Black History Month is to check out the contributions African-Americans like the gift of words of Langston Hughes’  “Mother to Son.” This poem describing how hard life is and the fact the one must never give up is just as relevant today as it was when it was written so many years ago. The mother in me is touched by the words and reaches out to comfort her son as she recites the words. I share this poem often and each time, something new and special catches my attention.

Sometimes we have to tell our children to suck it up and keep moving because life is hard.

As parents, we often look for ways to help our children avoid some of the heartaches we have suffered. Often we think of the lessons we have learned and how we can help our children learn the necessary lessons without the accompanying heartache. We want to sugar coat the world so that our children can slide through with ease, smiles and grace. Those desires are natural and they are good. At the same time, our children must learn that even in adversity, they must continue forward on the path. It is important that we teach our children that life will be hard on occasion, but that does not mean they get to give up, quit or stop pushing forward.

Langston Hughes’ poem “Mother to Son” is full of metaphors about the hard part of life, the places where  the going gets tough. Sometimes our children will have to continue moving forward when they are hurt physically or emotionally. On occasion they will need to turn corners and move in directions they have never heard of or understood before. Still other times will arise when our children have to travel through darkness and blaze trails themselves. We must prepare our children for these things. We must teach them how to move forward when they are all alone.


Check out this video to see my interpretation of the poem.


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Check out the words of the poem. As you read them, imagine the staircase. Visualize the places with holes in the carpet. Imagine what it feels like – the torn up floor boards, the splinters you may get in your feet as you walk. How would you place your hands out in front of you in the darkness to feel your way forward. Once you have done that, think about how the words and situations in the poem apply to events in your life. Then think about how you push forward when life is hard and hope is almost gone.

Mother to Son by Langston Hughes      

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin‘ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So, boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps.
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin‘, honey,
I’se still climbin‘,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Stories of working through and overcoming struggle and pushing onward are important and relevant.


Continued on page 2. Click 2 below to continue. 

16 thoughts on “Mother To Son – Suck it Up and Move”
  1. I hate how early we have to start teaching this message. I sure wish it was still all sunshine and rainbows for my little one!

  2. I just had to tell my daughter this the other day when she didn’t want to go to school because people were being mean to her. This lesson is hard to learn, but a must!

  3. As parents it can be easy to try to shield and protect our children from hard times, decisions, and situations. Truly, as tempting as that is, it does not prepare them for the uncertainties and difficulties they will undoubtedly face in the world as an adult. I really like this poem.

  4. It’s definitley a good lesson to teach the kids. Life is amazing, but it definitely is not easy.

  5. I imagine life is tough for kids a lot these days. Having parents who love and encourage them is key. Great positivity here!

  6. That’s a lesson I currently teach my boys. Being from a military background they know that life isn’t easy and you got to suck it up at times.

  7. This is a good lesson to learn. Sometimes you have to do things that you don’t really want to, but you do them anyways.

  8. That is a great quote. I am teaching my oldest just that, he unfortunately has been bullied it’s important to teach kids to be strong and be themselves.

  9. Working through something like this with my son right now and it is extremely hard not to jump and help fix it for him. Oh, parenting. Tough stuff.

  10. I have a “man cub” that I am trying really hard to get him to understand that it’s important that he learns to take responsibility for his actions. It’s hard but so important! Life is not always easy and I want him to learn that NOW and not down the way.

  11. It’s a very important to learn that life doesn’t always work the way we think it should. I’ve been very lucky that all of the children in my life have looked at this optimistically. We talk about failure is not really failure it is feedback. What did we learn from the situation? We have had so many creative discussions about this and I’m so proud of them!!!!

  12. These are lessons my children have had a difficult time learning. The youngest 2 (of 5) are learning it a little earlier than the older three and I credit that almost entirely to working with horses. There are so many life lessons that are learned through caring with and for horses and they are priceless.

  13. My son is learning that life is hard. His band teacher loves to tell the kids when they start to whine about band practice to “suck it up buttercup” . The kids find this really funny and it gets them back int he game.

  14. That is a very important lesson to teach our kids. I am working on teaching this to my boys.

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