Friday

For Mother's Day

originally published in Abilene Families
(originally written May, 2006)

As a mother, you would think that I would be all about Mother’s Day – a day just for ME, a day to get, get, get, and a day when praise is lavished on all mothers. Who could ask for anything more? Truthfully, mother’s day – especially the Hallmark version of it – makes me very uncomfortable. You know which kind of image I’m talking about – a young mother, clad in a pristine white gown in an immaculate, beautifully decorated home, holding a perfectly chubby, cooing baby as they gaze into each other’s eyes.

The poetry accompanying the image details the sacrifices the loving mother makes and how wonderful she is and on and on and on. I simply can’t relate: My home has never been immaculate OR decorated, I learned a long time ago not to wear white while holding a child of any age, and I regret how much time I didn’t spend gazing at my babies before they transformed into galloping toddlers, now pre-teens.

The words are what make me squirm the most. Mothers are not defined by the Hallmark moments, but by the horrible moments. Anybody loves to play with a giggling baby or rambunctious toddler, but it’s mom who cleans up when potty-training is not quite successful. It’s mom wiping heads and doing laundry and providing a clean basin when the stomach virus tears through the house at 3 a.m.

It’s mom holding constant vigil at a hospital bedside or waiting room. It’s mom lifting, feeding, bathing, and caring for a handicapped child day in and day out. It’s mom wearing a trough in the carpet next to her bed as she kneels for a child who has lost their way or is fighting in harm’s way or whose heart is broken beyond repair. I don’t know of any woman who would ask to be put in any of those situations, but those are the moments that define motherhood. We don’t want praise or pretty words about things we do that we would rather not do. It’s just what we do. It’s being a mom.

While these flowery thoughts and sentiments make me somewhat uncomfortable, they can be downright painful for many people. Mothers who must wait until they get to heaven to hug their child again, mothers who selflessly blessed an adoptive family with their own baby, mothers whose only children are really nieces, nephews, and friends since life has not brought her children of her own and countless other situations can bring pain and disappointment to this day of celebration.

As you think of the women you know that you would consider “extraordinary mothers”, they are probably women making it just one day at a time in extraordinary situations. You probably don’t call to mind a mom of two healthy children with a healthy spouse still living in the home. You probably don’t think of someone like, well, me. The extraordinary mothers we know may have many children raising them all to be successful individuals, may have handicapped or chronically ill children, may have lost a child, or may go to great lengths for her children to have normalcy in the midst of difficult life circumstances. Few of these women would want the accolades or flowery words of a Hallmark commercial. They are simply putting one foot in front of the other because another being in this life depends on it. It’s just what we do. It’s being a mom.

I can’t speak for all moms, but as much as I love words, I don’t want to hear many about what kind of mom I am on Mother’s Day. For me, it simply reminds me of all the places I fall short or what a bad attitude I occasionally have while doing what I do – being a mom. Oh, sure, I won’t turn down any gifts – diamonds are my favorite, sapphire is my birthstone, and if you’re buying a ring remember that my fingers are crazy skinny – but if you need to use any words, a simple, “Thanks for what you do” will suffice, and I wouldn’t mind hearing that once a week. Not saying, “But I don’t want to” when asked to do your job would be nice, because I rarely want to cook your dinner or fold your clothes, but it’s what I do. It’s being a mom. And, most of all, just grow up to make your momma proud.

Unfortunately, in the past year, my children have been acquainted with several children who have lost a parent to death. Knowing that anything can happen, I have been reminded at those times to let my children know what I want most for them out of life. At one point we were driving and discussing a child who had lost a parent and how hard that would be. I said, “If anything ever happens to me, first I want you to know how much I love you. And all I want for you in life is to love the Lord and to marry someone who loves the Lord.”

This brought a know-it-all nod from one child who said in a satisfied tone, “I knew you were going to say that.”

Very well, then. Carry on. That’s all I need to know for a happy Mother’s Day!

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