It is Mother’s Day. The farmer left early to sell his wood craft in the city. I was out of coffee filters and almost out of almond milk, so I had a barely passable cup of coffee to start the day. I made breakfast, the same breakfast we have nearly every day, eggs. I did add some well cooked sweet onion and spinach from the garden to the mix because I do love greens with my eggs, but we didn’t get dressed right away. And because three of the children still have a lingering cough, we decided we should stay home today instead of doing anything special. We may try to plant flowers.
I did want to do some writing, so I put on a movie right after breakfast. My oldest son bought his very first electronic device and is now happily throwing fruit at things with it. There is, ironically, in writing this today, an idea that all of this is somehow less than perfect. But I don’t think so.
I am perfectly in love with these children and being their mother. And as with all things in this life, including motherhood, I keep finding that the great and wonderful things are usually found even more so compared against their flaws. That the silver lining shines brightest next to a puncture wound, a rusty hole. Perspective is the thing.
Leading up to today, I saw many things written in a similar vein to the start of my own Mother’s day post–a kind of this is what it really looks and feels like to be a mother onslaught. And I get it, I really do. I have been thinking a lot about this heavy, hard work of being a mom, and the truth is, it is rarely easy and never picture perfect.
And yet, I can not find a bad thing to say about it. I honestly love being a mother. As often as I am at my wits end and ready to pull out all my hair–still, I love it. And even in those moments, if I can only just breathe for a second, I can find in my children’s eyes the reason for it all. It is easy, if I try, to remember what is, to me, the hallmark of feeling and being a mother–the endless and boundless and unimaginably deep love we carry in our hearts for these small humans.
All mother’s feel this, it is hard wired into us, but it isn’t always easy to stay with that feeling. We are human, too, after all. I made it easy on myself when I entered this job the first time around and just did nothing else at all for the first many years of my mothering journey. Looking back, I am sure that this is what made my time with a precocious and needy and busy first born baby boy so easy. I gave him my all, and we didn’t expand too often outside our own insular little lives back then in Nebraska, so there were rarely any squabbles, rarely any hard times. In fact, I remember so completely the first time we ever had to come to terms with feeling upset with each other. He was nearly three and I was nearly ready to birth his baby brother. It was a hard moment for me, I was a little heartbroken. I hadn’t imagined mothering would ever be hard.
But of course, many more such times have followed since. Now that we are a family of four kids and two businesses, not to mention my own mid-life need to resume some activity related to those non-mothering dreams I once had, there are many squabbles, and many hard moments, and ever so much give and take. I was definitely living in a kind of fantasy land back then, thankfully so. However, I’ve found that for all the perfectness I felt in my first three years of parenting, I have eaten crow for it all a million times over as we travel further and further down the road of time together.
But that is okay, because this is essentially the most important thing that has come to my mind as this Mother’s Day approached, the knowing that this road passes by faster and faster each year. That those tiny feet grow into big ones and we don’t even remember the sleepless nights or the spit up and messy floors. Believe me, we don’t. I long to remember, really, because that would mean I could also recall the smell of the newborn better, and the way it felt to hold them in my arms when they were so little. All of the things they said and did as they made there way out of babyhood and into toddlerhood, and then childhood and beyond. Sigh.
Instead of being able to remember it all, we learn. We learn that we do indeed continue to change and grow and evolve along the way, as well as devolve a little too. We learn that we can not foresee the future, nor make any real claims about whether we did a good job or not. We learn, hopefully, that we will all do amazingly well and that we will all fail miserably, that to say otherwise is the real fault. And we learn, ever so humbly, that they will be there own people and that they really will be okay.
We learn that even though it is really so hard, that doesn’t mean that some of us can’t always say good things about this work, because for some of us, that is our nature. Others, blessedly, can make us laugh about the insanity of it all–to wear your heart outside yourself so that it can constantly take a beating seems outrageous and ludicrous on the face of it.
But that is what mothers do. And really, despite the holiday and the really wonderful way in which we kind of deservedly get our kudos on this day, this work, this loving, is for the most part, and for so long, done entirely thanklessly. If we are doing a good job of it, we only get thanks in the form of sticky kisses and hugs. Or from taking in the tiring but intense need those small hands have to hold ours while it lasts. From being the one they come to at their worst. We are meant to be taken for granted, to always be there for them, to not be thanked until they have done their growing and are happy and healthy young adults who look back in wonder at this magnificent, unending love they were given.
I don’t really remember getting all of this when I was young like my children are, but at some point, despite the many, many failings of my own parents and the fate of illness that left my own mother bound to a nursing home when I was just entering my teen years, I came away from it all seeing that both of them did have this same fierce love for me. And that has been enough. That has held me despite it all.
So, mother’s, today, hold onto this love and take respite in knowing it is enough. Above all, let it guide you, day in and day out. It is hard to do, but it is your gift to your children and to the world. As another wise mother puts it so perfectly, “Spirituality doesn’t look like sitting down and meditating. Spirituality looks like folding the towels in a sweet way and talking kindly to the people in the family even though you’ve had a long day. ” Silvia Boorstein, from On Being.
Your Mother’s Day will probably look a lot like mine. Even if you have others around you and you do get to go out to dinner or have a bit more of some things special, you will, all day like every day, be doing your highest work as well. You will be mothering. It never ends, never goes away.
And even if you are tired or cranky or sick of it all for the moment, you can, perhaps, still just fold the towel sweetly, with a nod to that special love in your heart, and they will feel it. It will hold them through all the things near and far. Your love will hold them, always.
Happy Mother’s Day.