Today is Mother's Day. I used to hate Mother's Day. I still don't care for it, really. I don't like days that put people on the spot. Days where you are supposed to have sentimental feelings and buy sappy cards and give the perfect gift to prove your love and appreciation. I am sure that there are people out there who see great things about Mother's Day (especially those in the greeting card, flower, and restaurant industries) but I see potential for so much pain: closed wombs, lost children, fractured relationships. This second Sunday in May is, to some, a reminder of loss and can be an emotional, if not visible, divide between the haves and the have-nots.
There were years that I dreaded Mother's Day. My mother and I had a rather tense relationship for a long, long time and, well, I have never been good at forking over the goods on demand. In her insecurity, she craved love from me and, in my immaturity, I found myself unable to give it, at least not on her terms.
My mother had grown up a lonely, only child. So had my father. She was a brown haired, brown eyed, stunning Southern belle and he was a blond haired, blue eyed dashing hardcore yankee and Navy pilot. They married right after WWII and spent eight years moving around the country. By 1954 she was ready to come home. My father retired from active military duty and took a job with her father's construction company and they built a family. There were four kids in all, with me as the last and bottom of the heap.
Somewhere along the way things went bad with their marriage and after 32 years, they divorced. My mother never recovered emotionally. By that time I was the only one left at home. Maybe one day I will tell my whole story but for now let's just say that life was hard and confusing for both of us. During my high school and college years, the harder I pulled away and longed for independence the harder she pulled back. It seemed to be my responsibility to meet all her emotional needs. And I have never performed well under pressure.
As an adult I wanted to love her and honor her in a biblical way but could never figure out how to do that without feeling caught up and trapped in a vortex of dysfunction and unrealistic expectations. I did the only thing I knew. I avoided her.
When I look back now, it breaks my heart to see just how much I broke hers. She died four years ago next week. God gave me nine weeks to prepare. I was there when she stepped from this earth into the presence of God. I think she knew I loved her then. I know she knows it now.
I myself am a mother of four and am still in the process of nudging my youngest two children through their teen years. Being a mother is much harder than I ever expected. I see how easy it is to take things personally, react poorly, and even run out of emotional gas and check out of parenting altogether. The fear of perpetuating the cycle of unrealistic expectations sometimes has me paralyzed. I so do NOT want to put upon my children the burden of propping up my fragile soul.
It is incredibly humbling to walk in someone else's shoes and experience life from a different angle. In some ways I love my mother more now than I ever did, perhaps because I understand her more. She was a person, just like myself, bumbling through the heart-wrenching boot camp called motherhood, with some successes and a good number of failures. But as time moves on, the bad memories fade to gray and the good ones grow more vivid and I wish I could wish her a Happy Mother's Day one more time. That was her language.