A rare Sunday morning at home amp’d up by the knowledge that there was something special about the day, I waited. The question of going to church put to rest ’cause of health issues, I tried basking in the glow of a blissful morning in bed with no immediate requirements for getting up, a cup of coffee waiting on the bedside table graciously brought to me by my husband.
Then, the sound of light exuberant footsteps down the hall, the eight year old (and only boy) in his Spider-Man jammies appeared around the corner waving a piece of paper. “Happy Mother’s Day!” He cheerfully said and handed me his card. And for a few minutes, I felt full with the acknowledgment of my self, my purpose, my vocation. Oohs and aahs uttered and every nook and cranny inspected, studied, discussed, and celebrated, the boy left, and the waiting resumed. Coffee sipped and returned to its bedside post, I think I may have actually folded my hands and pursed my lips, maintaining my station like some frozen, bitter, thin-lipped spinster.
See, I’m the mom here.
There are five children in my care aged 8 to 17. I stay at home to care for and educate the younger ones, though my specs matter less than the role that ‘Mother’ does on this day. If you’ve acted as mother, been one, longed for one, longed to be one, need a gift for one, are wrestling with your thoughts towards one, Mother’s Day feels big. And for a few smug, lonely, self-righteous moments this morning, I felt cheated out of what I was owed. As though my title is what ought to have earned me accolades instead of my merit.
They’re not here right now. That’s big all by itself. I’ve joked the handful of times that the library or bank ladies have pointed out my lack of children-presence that, “I don’t know what to think about!” when the kids aren’t with me. I joke, but it’s true. And just now, with no one to think about, no one to consider but me as I’m hungry and in need of a meal, what in the heck would I do were I to sustain continuous days of such a lack of consideration? What would I think about were my thinking not continuously interrupted by a smaller, younger, newer person inevitably in need of something whether it was a meal, or a word, direction, or instruction? What would I produce were I left to think about anything I wanted for an unchecked length of time? I don’t know. And frankly? (I realized to my utter surprise and joy) I don’t care.
Because it’s not time for that. Right now, I have the rare and blessed privilege of caring for others. It’s not optional (which is probably the only reason I’m still doing it). If I don’t show up, if I don’t figure out the meal, the schoolwork, yeah, maybe someone else could step in, but there’s only one me. There’s only one me who knows these children quite the way I do. And that’s pretty darn cool.
I keep a journal for each of my children, and though I don’t write nearly as often as maybe I originally intended, I try and write at least once a year as a way of “checking in.” I’d planned to record in words all that I inevitably wouldn’t record in keepsakes or photos. Like all things motherhood (caring-for-anotherhood), it was an easier thing to think about than it was an actual keeping-up-with-in-real-life thing. But it turns out that as I write, I know things about these people in my care. If being a mom wasn’t so terribly humbling for all the mistakes, it might be terribly heady as a power trip. You know some things about some people. And if you don’t, you should.
Maybe that’s the lesson. Mom’s? Celebrate knowing some things about some folks and in that, use that knowledge to build up and empower them in a way no one else on earth can do. Mom’s? Or those-acting-in-as-mom’s? Think about how much you know about those in your care. If there are some gaps, celebrate this Mother’s Day by getting closer… ‘Cause there ain’t no replacement for a mother’s love; unless it’s a damn fine substitute. Earn your “Happy Mother’s Day!”
‘Cause that’s all our opportunity. To be the thing-that-no-other’s-willing-to-be to another human being. A love that sets aside all its own agenda for the sake of another. Mom’s? Celebrate the opportunity. Mom’s? Celebrate looking forward to doing better. Not a mom but aware of Mom-Power? Celebrate getting to be a damn fine substitute.
Ain’t nothing like a mother, people. Ain’t nothin’ like love. And if the two aren’t synonymous for you, they ought to be. Love like a mother. Love like you wanna be loved, wish you’d been loved, imagine being loved. And if you’re the mom wanting celebrated? Be celebration-worthy.
My kids are awesome. Did they deliver what I wanted? Maybe not in the way I wanted, but love isn’t about what we get. It’s about what we can give.
A good mom celebrates what she can give. Not what she gets.