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INCREASE STORY: Because of My Mom - Benjamin Watson

Benjamin Watson was a 16-year NFL tight end who played for four different teams over his career after being a first-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2004. Below, in honor of Mother’s Day, Watson shares about the influence of his mother on him, and his wife on him and their seven children.

I’m the oldest of six kids. My mom, Diana Watson, was our primary caretaker. My dad was there as well, but Mom was home most of the day — unless she was driving us on the bus to school. You think you have to get up early for school as a kid, but the bus drivers have to get up early. I remember coming down really early in the morning and Mommy would have our cream of wheat piping hot, ready for us to eat. The steam would be coming off into the cold, crisp air while we walked onto the bus — tired — and rode with her. I was with her a lot.

My mom still is very active and smiles a lot. She is just a joy, and very relational. My mom also loves to quilt. She made quilts for all of her 11 grandkids now. I remember being 7 years old and women would come to the house for quilting parties and tupperware parties. She was very hospitable, thrived off of people and cared for them. We as kids saw the importance of that.

I think there is a unique bond between me and my mom since I am the first child. I don’t remember a lot of the time I spent just with my mom by ourselves, but my spirit remembers it. I see pictures of my first and second birthday parties and it was just us. When you look back and see that your parents were your age now or younger when they had you, you see a reflection of yourself and think, “Wow, the love and sacrifices she made for me, I should be doing the same things with my children.” There is great encouragement for me there.

My mom and dad are both believers, and they were when I was born. I saw great things demonstrated. I saw my mommy being involved in women’s Bible studies and mentoring other women. And we were always in church, she made sure of that. For me, faith was a big part. Not just faith but actually learning Scripture. Her reading to me, her singing hymns and spiritual songs, witnessing those sorts of things were so important. I really learned a lot about her faith through her talking about it and telling me her journey.

I think as parents it’s important to tell our stories to our kids and be able to articulate the things we struggled with and how we handled it to be where we are now. Hearing her tell me her journey really had an impact on me. As boys especially, our mothers are really our first template of what a woman is. I’m really so glad and blessed to say I had such a great model in my mom — somebody who was very ambitious, somebody who was intelligent, somebody who was loving and caring, somebody who disciplined me (you didn’t get smacked unless you got smacked by your mom), and somebody who was physically beautiful. You want to be with somebody who is like your mom if you had a mom who was worth honoring in that way.

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From birth, moms are life-giving. They sacrifice in ways that none of us can really understand. They are life-saving, because for a lot of us they are the ones who demonstrated and shared the Gospel. They also demonstrate unconditional love. We think about unconditional love as patient, kind, not boasting or envious — all those things in 1 Corinthians. So many of us would look at our moms and say, “Man, she is the embodiment of that.”

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Because of my own mother, I had a list for my own wife. I wanted someone who was driven, who was compassionate, and who I could see as the mother of my children. A lot of things are impressed upon us subconsciously from our parents. When we go out looking for a spouse, a lot of that benchmark is from our parents. When I saw Kirsten for the first time at the University of Georgia, it progressed because I wanted my kids to be like her. I wanted my kids to receive all that she has to offer.

There are so many qualities that Kirsten has. After each child you learn something new. Our oldest child is now 12 years old. I looked at Kirsten differently when she became a mom. I am always amazed when she brings life into the world because it’s such a special blessing and it shows her inner and outer strength and beauty. Especially with the twins, our youngest children, they challenged her in a special way, in every way. To watch her deliver two babies and then deal with the aftermath (they are just now turning 2 and she’s just now getting back to herself), I see how much mothers give. They will give until they have nothing left to give. They sacrifice themselves. That’s what my mom did. I didn’t see that then, but now as a husband and father, seeing what Kirsten is doing, I see what my mom did. It’s really a testament to the Holy Spirit’s work in her life.

Scripture talks a lot about marriage and the bride of Christ — how we men are to love our wives. I think specifically as men, our role is to put her in the best position to flourish, and that’s different at different times. Sometimes that’s being more intentional with time spent just the two of you — getting the babysitter, making those date nights. Make those sorts of things a priority, especially if she’s a stay-at-home mom and hasn’t had much adult interaction during the day. Those things are very life-giving for both of you because in parenting, parents can unintentionally lose themselves and, in doing so, lose their marriage. We are going on 16 years this summer and have a long way to go, but one thing I have received from those who are further along than we are is that we have to make this a priority.

Another thing is acknowledging her gifts and giving her the opportunity whenever I can to live in those, develop those and exhibit those. For Kirsten, she’s always been a good communicator. She has a marketing mind, she’s outgoing and loves people, she loves to promote things and develop strategy and ideas. She has a voice, but what Satan does a lot of times with mothers is tell them that their voice doesn’t matter or that they are ill-equipped. He may tell mothers that they don’t have a use outside of being a mother. So for me as a husband, it’s really important for me to identify places where I think she can flourish. So I have to ask myself, “What are her interests and desires?” Being a mom doesn’t mean you have to give up everything else, but the beauty of marriage is that I am able to step in where she left off so she can go speak, write or do something else.

I think this is it for us — seven kids. I’m not sure but we think the number seven is the number of completion. So as they grow older, how can I as Kirsten’s husband think about ways for her to get involved in the things that are on her heart that may have been on hold while she was nursing or pregnant?

On our first date we rode the bus to the dining hall and as we sat down to dinner, I told her, “You get whatever you want, it’s on me.” Our first dates were ministry-related, even in college while we were involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and a mentoring program locally. We always said that we wanted our marriage to be our ministry, which is a lot of pressure because a lot of times we weren’t even getting along. God would check me and say, “Man, you’ve got to get your stuff together if you’re going to be ministering to other people.” But those were times we were able to sharpen each other and use our complimentary gifts.

As we continue to do ministry together, we both get great joy from doing that together. As we put Christ at the center, our primary goal as individuals and as a couple is to ask, “How do we use the gifts God has given us to complement each other and further the Gospel?”

For all the moms out there, we appreciate you. We can’t say that enough. It’s always funny when you watch NFL games and you see the guys say, “Hey Mom!” They hardly ever say, “Hey Dad.” From birth, moms are life-giving. They sacrifice in ways that none of us can really understand. They are life-saving, because for a lot of us they are the ones who demonstrated and shared the Gospel. They also demonstrate unconditional love. We think about unconditional love as patient, kind, not boasting or envious — all those things in 1 Corinthians. So many of us would look at our moms and say, “Man, she is the embodiment of that.”

Happy Mother’s Day to all.

My prayer for mothers:

Lord God, we thank You for our mothers. We thank You for giving them the strength, the patience, the kindness, the love toward their offspring. It is a special gift and process in which You bring us into the world physically, but Lord, I also thank You for the sacrificial gift of Your Son that is demonstrated through so many mothers. We pray that You protect our mothers spiritually, physically and emotionally. We pray that You protect them from the evil one who will seek to diminish their role or accuse or silence them, to say that they don’t matter or are ill-equipped. I pray against those lies. Continue to bring up mothers who are strong, who proclaim Your Word, who love their children and husbands in ways that demonstrate Your love and goodness. 

So Lord, I pray for my mother, Diana Watson, and I thank You for her health. I pray for my wife, Kirsten Watson, for all she’s taught me and challenged me to be. I pray for all the mothers and future mothers who are reading, may they be like the women in Proverbs 31 — women whom we may honor and respect not only because of what they’ve done for us, but because of the place You’ve placed them in. 

— Benjamin Watson, former NFL tight end

Created and led by pro athletes, The Increase is a ministry on mission to see all athletes, coaches, fans and people everywhere have an Increase experience with Christ as found in John 3:30. For more stories, videos and resources to help you discover that the best life is found as we die to self and live for Jesus, visit TheIncrease.com.

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