Thursday, May 6, 2010
I LOVE Mother's Day. There, I've said it, and I hope the moms-who-absolutely-do-not-love-or-even-remotely-enjoy-mother's-day crowd will look upon me with as much tolerance as possible. Why? Because I can't help myself. Mother's Day makes me smile...every sentimental-bordering-on-saccharine piece of it. In fact, I actually look forward to the entire spectacle. Even when I don't have a missionary in the field whose voice I am longing to hear, I look forward to it. Even when I trade the deluxe breakfast-in-bed package for a poached egg on dry toast with grapefruit, I look forward to it. Even when we get uplifting pamphlets in lieu of chocolates after sacrament meeting, I look forward to it.
I just look forward to it. Despite the reality that many of my friends do not, I look forward to it. And I'm happy to tell you the reason: Mothers, because of and despite the fact that we come in all shapes, shades, sizes, temperaments, psyches, skill-sets, skill-levels and degrees of spiritual evolution, deserve a day that celebrates us. Each one of us. Every flavor. And fathers deserve their day, too.
After all, raising children is a hard job––and too often, a thankless one. It's good to have a day when sons and daughters are reminded to take time out from their busy lives and pay a little tribute to their parents, beginning (as they began) with the proud owners of those wombs that accommodated them for nine months. Sheesh! Those nine months alone make a person deserving, don't they? To say nothing of the whole nursing thing. And for those moms who bottle fed and/or did not carry their children in utero, the first year of living with a newborn deserves all the flowers and cards and compliments imaginable, and then some! Add to that the terrible twos (paired with their frequent recurrence in adolescence), and a badge of honor seems more than fitting.
As for the pundits and speakers, when they start rolling out Lincoln-esque remembrances of their own (or other people's) "angel mothers," instead of taking these as gospel and feeling sure we can never measure up, why not chalk their flowery words up as happy evidence that mothers are often given the benefit of the doubt in the memories of their adult children? Because no one is perfect. Not even Mrs. Lincoln, aka the Mominator. And no one is an angel, either. Which is as it should be in the land of human beings.
Having established that, the truth is simple: We are the best mothers our children will ever have. That, in itself, makes us special. We become special to our children because we are theirs. We belong to them with a deep kind of belonging that only years of relationship can develop. Remember "The Little Prince," by Antoine de Saint-Exupery? A single rose becomes his because he cares for it. Over time, he realizes that no other rose can or ever will be quite as lovely as the valued and valuable one that is his by virtue of gifts exchanged and experience shared. He looks out over a field of roses and addresses them poignantly: "You are beautiful, but you are empty. One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose––the rose that belongs to me––looked just like you. But in herself, alone, she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses; because it is she that I have watered." Our children have watered us with their love (we belong to them), and we have watered them with ours (they belong to us). We need not be intimidated by images of angel mothers or stories of perfect womanhood, nor should we beat ourselves up with them. Rather, let us choose to be lifted up and inspired by their beauty. As we begin to see within ourselves the seeds of divine destiny and motherhood that exist inside each one of us, our hearts and minds open wide to becoming all that we truly are. "A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind" (Saint-Exupery). If Mother's Day and all its trappings leave you feeling like a rock, try looking at yourself and seeing the cathedral. It's a choice, and every one of us can make it.
In other words, Mother's Day should have nothing to do with comparing ourselves and everything to do with repairing ourselves. Rather than reminding ourselves of what we are not, we should be honoring ourselves for what we are. Mothers. Bearers of life. Co-creators with God. Whether we are called upon to exercise the full extent of these gifts in this life or to delay actual childbearing until the next, that is our divine role. And yes, it is a gift.
Should we detest the 4th of July because we aren't "good enough" patriots? Do we feel guilty or shamed when we hear inspiring accounts of patriotism, or do we feel inspired and motivated to be better citizens? I'd be willing to bet that most of us feel inspired and motivated. Why should Mother's Day be any different? It shouldn't be; and if it is, we have attached a lot of invalid baggage to it, baggage that needs dumping. Rather than feeling shamed, threatened, or deficient when faced with the usual Mother's Day message of magnificent motherhood, why not decide to soak up all those lofty ideals and beautiful stories, mix them into a soothing salve of heights and possibilities, and apply the result liberally as healing balm to whatever mothering wounds we've sustained in the year gone by? If we can replace beating ourselves up with lifting ourselves up, we can become as beautiful to ourselves as the rose was to The Little Prince. We are already beautiful to our children, and maybe those roses we so often receive on Mother's Day can remind us of that!
Enough said. Even if the greeting card companies started it, I love Mother's Day. Even if we have to listen to "Love at Home" year after year (testifying to the fact that there actually is NOT joy in every sound), I love Mother's Day. It's good for my soul, because it makes me feel appreciated. And it makes me feel appreciative, too...of my mother in particular and of all mothers in general.
I know that some women find Mother's Day especially difficult because their homes are not yet and may never be blessed with children in this life. Many of these women, who frequently act as wonderful surrogate mothers to a number of God's children, feel bereft as Mother's Day rolls around. I suspect that the basic principles for healing woundedness are the same in this instance as set out above, but I imagine they are infinitely harder to apply. That's why I won't even bother to mouth platitudes but will conclude with these words from President Brigham Young, comforting those childless women who had been faithful to their temple covenants: "Many of the sisters grieve because they are not blessed with offspring. You will see the time when you will have millions of children around you. If you are faithful to your covenants, you will be the mothers of nations. ... Be faithful, and if you are not blest with children in this time, you will be hereafter" (Deseret News [Weekly], 28 Nov. 1860, 306).
The waiting cannot be easy, and I pray for the day when your arms will be as full as your mother hearts already are.
Happy Mother''s Day to all of us.