Mother’s Day, as it is for some other people, is for me a day of complicated emotions. Like many women my relationship with my mother was complex but the older I’ve become the more I am able to accept and love the person my mother was both the great things about her and the not so great things. Few of us get the parents we wanted, always appropriately attentive and loving. The key is to learn to embrace the parents we have or had.
Because my feelings about my mother are complex and because my feelings about being a mother are complex, Mother’s Day is a complicated day for me. It is filled with sorrow and regret and joy and love. It is a lot of emotion for one made up holiday.
My mother died several years ago and so I don’t need to attend to the outward symbolic trappings of Mother’s Day. No flowers to send, no special meal. Which presents another set of emotions on this day.
This Mother’s Day I have been thinking about my own life as a mother. My sons are 21 and 18. My relationship with them is inevitably changing as they grow and mature.
I almost wasn’t a mother. I wasn’t sure I wanted children. I wasn’t sure I could be a good mother. It seemed like a big risk to just to give it a try and see how motherhood worked out. I mean, what if it didn’t? But as I thought about it, parenthood seemed like a risk I needed to take. So I, actually we, did.
Fortunately my first pregnancy was a textbook pregnancy. Morning sickness started and stopped when the pregnancy books said it would. The baby kicked when he was supposed to. He was even born on his due date. After he was born, I looked at him and thought, “Well everything has changed now. I hope we can do this.” I spent the first couple of weeks after his birth feeling like a stand in parent and waiting for the real parents to show up. And then one day I realized that we were his real parents and no other people were coming to pick him up. I was glad because I knew could never give him up. I am still astounded by the intensity and ferocity of my love for my sons. Committed pacifist that I am, I would kill you in a second if you harmed them. Really, I would. That kind of love is frightening to us reserved and introverted parents.
With my second son (not a textbook pregnancy) the ambivalence about being a parent was replaced by wondering how it would be possible to love another person as much as I loved my first child. I still don’t know how that is possible, I only know that it is. Love, somehow, miraculously expands.
Being a mother is the most difficult and the most wonderful thing I have ever done. It has been filled with joy and fear, pride and anxiety, hope and wonder. I am amazed at the people my sons have grown to be. I am grateful that they are the people they turned out to be. Loving your children and doing your best as a parent is no guarantee that your children will turn out well. By the grace of God they are both kind and strong and caring young men.
Being a mother has changed me in ways I could not possibly imagined. If I had know what being a parent entails, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to do it. But I am so glad that I did. I am a better person because of my sons. My heart has been broken, broken open in the best possible way by them. This Mother’s Day for me is not about my sons thanking me, but it is about me thanking my sons because without them, I would not be who I am.
This Mother’s Day, I have written two posts about the day. For a lsomewhat crankier view, see here.