Sunday, May 10, 2015

Reflections on Mother's Day

While garden centers, restaurants, and greeting card companies like it, Mother's Day is a mixed bag for many people. The concept is a nice one as there's little doubt that most mothers sacrifice for their children, nurture them, and deserve at least one day of appreciation. But for those that were unable to have children for many possible reasons, or that have lost their children, it could be a day of sadness or mourning.  Those mourning the loss of a mom, or people with bad moms dislike this day immensely because it is a reminder of what they don't have.

We attended a church in college that gave prizes for those that were somehow "winners" in the mom-game. They celebrated the one with the most children, the one with the most grandchildren, the one that had a child present that had traveled the most to be there, etc.  It seemed very inconsiderate. Of course the mom with the most kids was the winner each year... it'd be hard for people to catch up with her dozen or so kids. If you had one or two children, you knew you'd never be in the running for that one... and chances are, it'd be slim to have the most grandchildren too. One year two moms had children there from a long distance. One came from Chicago and the other Dallas, and someone started a debate about distance. Why not declare it a tie? But for that matter, if your child lived across the street, were you less worthy?  What if you couldn't even have children? What made any of these women any better than other women?

As a young mother with elementary and preschool aged children, I sat through the church service many years feeling like a failure. The pastor we had at the time always talked about the virtuous moms of the Bible and spoke in glowing terms of their steadfast love and dedication. He spoke of women that never raised their voices in anger and always supported their husbands.

Meanwhile, having just managed to get the family to church in time - and dressed at that - I was feeling less than worthy of honor. I recalled the cross words when I told a child for the third time to get out of bed. Then there was the fact that one of my sons had on his old tennis shoes because the other new one seemed lost that morning - even though he wore it the day before. No, they didn't have a great breakfast - they had whatever cereal they grabbed while I fed the baby. Speaking of the baby, it probably spit up on my dress so there was that to deal with as well. I was not only a working mom, I was a teacher, so spent far too many evenings dealing with schoolwork rather than playing board games with my kids. Every year I dreaded that service.

The advertisements that showed husbands and kids taking mom out to eat, showering her with praise and gifts, and showing their love just made things worse. That wasn't my reality. We left church and headed home to a meal that more likely than not, was one I cooked... and cleaned up after. In the afternoon, people did their own things and I wrote lessen plans.  Eventually, I convinced my husband that buying a plant was NOT stupid since that is what I wanted. After a few years of token gifts, the kids were older and no longer as cheerful about the effort. I figured out that the day was a bust and I might as well take matters into my own hands. I went shopping ALONE and picked out flowers for my porch or garden.  The first year, I did it as a minor temper tantrum (that probably went un-noticed) but I discovered that it was fantastic! They were relieved of the hassle. I got exactly what I wanted and had a break from childcare. Over the years, I expanded it and now look forward to my annual gardening trip.

But my motherhood experience has been one of the good ones. For the most part, things have gone smoothly overall. At least they all made it to adulthood, something I wasn't sure would happen at some points. Memories of hassles dim and it made me stronger. There are many more good memories than bad.

But while I disliked the Mother's Day moments I described, there are others that have it much worse. In reality, we should take a day to honor those that NURTURE us - an aunt, grandparent, dad, teacher, or a friend.  Not many moms are "Hallmark Moms" as we're human.   In later years, I had pastors that realized that it does take a village.. and many people are needed to fill the "mom" role in a person's life. (Don't get me started on "mom role" as that's another whole can of worms!)

After I lowered my expectations on Mother's Day and realized adoration was only on commercials, I had a pretty significant thought.  It's too bad I didn't think of it back when I had that pastor that talked about the wonderful Biblical moms.... but Mary, the mother of Jesus, was more than the woman in the blue scarf of the Nativity Play. She lost her son on the way home! She DIDN'T KNOW WHERE HE WAS.  She wasn't watching him and thought he was with friends. They had to go back the next day to find him at the Temple. Yes, she was frantic.  When I read that account I think back to the times when I wasn't sure where my kids were - especially once they were driving.  There's the whole "I'm scared to death but once I find out you're safe, I'm going to be so angry" thing going on.  So maybe we only heard the good stuff of the Biblical women. We didn't hear about the times they burned dinner or yelled at kids. But that didn't mean it didn't happen!

 I'm fortunate - though my mom is gone, when I think of her, I have only smiles, not tears. She was a loving and creative mom. I also have Nancy Doty​, a dear friend that has served as a mom as well as close friend, too. Motherhood isn't easy - the joys are wrapped in trials, but I'm glad I've had the opportunity to do it. I hope that everyone can claim at least one person that is "there" for them, no matter what.

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