Last week my fourth child, John, graduated from the OU College of Engineering with a degree in Chemical Engineering. I remember when he was eight years old or so, sitting in our living room/school room, immobilized at about problem three of a math facts timed drill; he was in tears, unable to move forward because he couldn’t remember that particular math fact. As always, I told him to skip any problems he couldn’t think of right away, continue with other problems, then come back later to those he’d skipped.
No matter how encouragingly I spoke, John could never get over that “hump,” whether on a math drill, a grammar question or a writing assignment; he was fully capable of sitting for hours, staring at the paper and dwelling on the fact that he was stuck. Well, I say “never”–he obviously figured out some way of dealing with this, or we wouldn’t have had any graduation ceremony to attend!
Each of my five children has had his or her own personality quirks and “humps” of various kinds to overcome, and most of the time I felt that my efforts to help were really inadequate. That’s the thing about being a mother–you feel this overwhelming desire to make life go smoothly for your children, a passion for willing them to succeed, as if the force and depth of your love for them could cause “every valley to be lifted up, every mountain and hill to be made low.” We moms often feel inadequate to our calling, and a sense of guilt is always just around the corner when we think we’ve either pushed too hard, not done enough, or somehow not done the “right” thing.
Rarely is anyone there to offer us reassurance and encouragement, and far too many of us don’t remember (or didn’t have) lessons observed of our own mothers’ skills at mothering. Often, all we know of being a mother is what we’ve seen on TV, or read about in books or magazines, much of which seems to be filled with alarming stories of how easy it is to completely destroy our child’s health or psychological well-being.
If only we could place in our child’s hands the tools to complete the task at hand, the weapons for overcoming the bully, the skills to conquer frustration, awkwardness and loneliness! If only we could see victory and success and triumph before our very eyes! Instead we see tears of frustration, hear sighs of discouragement or hurt feelings, and all we can do is put our arms around them and tell them everything will be okay; we wipe away the tears, tell them we love them, and encourage them to try again. It can feel pretty lame.
And yet… in sharing their frustration–not rescuing them from it–in just being there, encouraging them to go on, by our presence giving them the assurance that they’re not alone, we’ve provided more than just a leg up or a pep talk.
Because of who we are–our child’s mother–we provide something to our child that no one else can: that all-encompassing, totally accepting, self-sacrificing, uncompromising, somewhat demanding (in the best possible way) thing called a mother’s love. If you don’t believe in mystery or faith, if everything to you is biology or psychology, you will never understand this. For most moms, though, when we gave birth, mystery and faith were born in us on a completely different level for the first time.
This Mother’s Day, rejoice in being someone with tremendous, near-magical powers! Don’t let the drivel you hear around you about “leaning in” to a career, or “having it all” rob you of the joy–the pure, unparalleled joy–of being a mother.
Happy Mother’s Day!