I should be excited about this, right? I should be thrilled, overwhelmed with joy! But for some reason this “first” Mother’s Day seems a little haunting to me.
Last year I wrote a poem right around this time about how much I longed to be a mother, how I would be a mother no matter what it took. Now I am a mother…a kind of mother, anyway. But what kind of mother am I?
It would be easy for me to go on and on about all the guilty feelings and selfish longings that are burdening my heart, but that’s not really what this post is about.
Today was actually one of those good days. I got dressed and ready before taking the kids to school, met a friend for coffee, did laundry, went to yoga, and chipped away at the to-do list. After school I patiently helped the kids with their homework (the four-year-old is spelling words!), took them to our neighborhood trail where they rode bikes and I jogged, even stopped by the park on the way home and chatted with neighbors. I made dinner (a new recipe!) and let one of the kids help, knowing he was needing some individual attention, needing to feel special, and it worked really well (and so did the new recipe!). We sat around the table as a family, and they all sung my praises, "Mom, you make the best dinners ever!" Then I cleaned it all up, helped with more homework, folded laundry, tended to wounds...aloe for sunburn, cream for a sore bottom, cream for an itchy bug bite, hugs and kisses for ever-hurting, ever-longing hearts. We read two bedtime stories, the boys snuggled close. I could tell they were feeling loved, and so was I.
My life isn’t anything close to a fairy tale, but that kind of sounds like one to me (minus the laundry).
Of course, today was my “day off.” Perhaps my life would be a little more like this if I was a stay at home mom more than one day a week…but probably not, right?
Because there are also all the things I left out of the story…like that I forgot to give the kids their meds this morning, only fed them cereal for breakfast, and barely got them to school on time; that after school the four-year-old’s teacher basically told me she was giving up on him (meds might have helped!), and also gave me a paper that said I needed to buy him black pants, black dress shoes, a straw hat and a red bandanna by this Thursday for pre- pre-k graduation photos (I find myself feeling super annoyed rather than excited about pre-k graduation, and then guilty that I feel that way); that we got report cards today and the nine-year-old is currently failing two major subjects; that today there were plenty of moments when the boys were disrespectful and dishonest and mean, and also when I was short-tempered, impatient, and harsh. So…what made it such a "good" day? I don’t know. Maybe it was the lack of stress here in the beginning of a new week, on my “day off,” that allowed me to look on the bright side. Maybe I’m still reaping the fruit of a very recent relaxing vacation. Maybe it’s the beautiful weather.
But what I think I need to learn from today is this, every day there is plenty of good and plenty of bad, and most of the time it’s up to me to choose what makes the day (sometimes there is more pain, sorrow, stress and true tragedy than can be overcome with a positive attitude, I don't want to fail to acknowledge that, but most days...). Furthermore, no matter how much bad there is, no matter how many mistakes I make or how much guilt I feel, or how much I long for something else, there are still plenty of opportunities to mother well, to love well, to be the kind of mother I want to be.Today someone posted on Facebook one of those little word art sayings, “UNTIL YOU’VE…counted little fingers, counted little toes, held a little hand, kissed a little nose…YOU HAVEN’T KNOWN LOVE.” I have to admit it made me angry (did they really have to put that last line in ALL CAPS!?), but it also might have cured me of my Mother’s Day blues.
Because I HAVE known love. Infatuation with an adorable infant in my arms, no, I haven’t had that privilege, but love, that I know. Love is a choice, an action, a way of being. Love is really hard work.The “love chapter” in 1 Corinthians was written for the church, for the way we should all relate to one another, but it can also be used as a good guide for what motherly (or any kind of) love is all about.
Love is patient. (This is REALLY hard work!)
Love is kind. (This is tougher than it sounds, much tougher than I thought it would be!)Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way. (Thankful for “Parenting With Love & Logic” on this one!)It is not irritable or resentful. (Deep breath…Those are tough ones for me, especially the first, but also the second.)
It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (I really should meditate every morning on this line alone.)
Love never fails.
This kind of love, this good, hard work never fails. It matters. It makes a difference. It changes those whom you love and it changes you.
I HAVE KNOWN LOVE, gosh darn it! I HAVE LOVED! And I’m not always good at it, sometimes I’m downright terrible, but there are moments when I love really well.And there are days like today when I know my boys feel loved because of the work I have done, when my time was well spent, when there were lots of really great loving moments of motherhood.
So here’s what I’m going to do, and I hope all of you mothers will do the same. I’m going to say goodbye to my guilt. I’m going to acknowledge my pain and my longings but not let them have the last word. And this Mother’s Day I am going to allow myself to feel good about the ways I have loved well.I want to try and hold onto this truth, that love never fails.
I may not always cook delicious dinners, or even cook at all. I may not always feel positive or enjoy the work of motherhood. I may not ever get to be anybody’s “real” mom. I may not get to mother the children I’m mothering now forever. I may not ever feel the certainty I desire about who my children should be. I may not be the baking, carpooling, party-throwing, volunteering, super soccer mom I always thought I would be...and I may NEVER finish the laundry.But every moment that I love is a moment of success. Every act of unconditional, intentional love is something to be proud of, and when I look at it that way it’s clear I do have much to celebrate on this “first Mother’s Day.”
And also much to aspire to.“It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”