Saying something supportive and celebratory about mothers seems a bit odd. It’s like celebrating kindness, or an end to war, or ice cream. Of COURSE, we all love, support, celebrate those things. It’s just human nature to do so -only a monster would not be happy about things like a great cup of coffee, or a birth, or less gun violence.
However, Mother’s Day is not about the concept of motherhood, but an opportunity for those of us who have had strong, kind, caring mothers in our lives. So here are my thoughts looking back on my life thus far, realizing how blessed I’ve been.
Of course, my own mother. The woman who put up with a lot from me in the first 18 years or so of my life. (After 18 I did not immediately become mature or wise, but I became somewhat less her problem and more someone else’s). Everyone who meets my mother realizes immediately that she is kind, giving, and generous. No one gives more than my mom, and looking back on my childhood I realize that her kindness was one of those things that I took for granted. You assume your family is normal, that your childhood is more similar to others, that the way you experienced life is more the norm until you really face the world. Looking back, I realize that I and my four siblings were raised in a house where our mother was so incredibly giving, and kind, and generous, and gracious with us. When we didn’t deserve it. Honestly, when we didn’t ‘need’ it. (But of course, you always do). She’s travelled to see us in Kazakstan, France, and Burundi two times. Not many people in their 80’s will take ~30 of flights by themselves to see their kids and grandkids, but my mother shrugs it off as if it were nothing compared to the joy of visiting us. Because to her it really isn’t
My mother-in-law who has been an influential part of my life since I was 16 years old (!) Beliving in me, and thinking I was good enough for their daughter, often being able to see things in me I think I didn’t see myself. Celebrating my wins and consoling my defeats for the past three decades, I was blessed to have her in my life early enough to be so influential on who I’ve actually become.
Then there is the unique joy that comes from watching someone become a mother. Being there with Susan from the birth of our firstborn, over 18 years ago, to the time she went to bed last night gives me a pretty unobstructed view on the kind of mother she truly is.
The honest truth is that it is a privilege to be able to parent our children with her.
She wants our kids to be kind, and generous and to stand up for what’s right and to be assertive. She is bold enough to have whatever hard conversation needs to be had. She wants them to show kindness to others, to look out for those who are often overlooked, and to show compassion.
She wants our kids to be brave more than safe. (Every year I realize a bit more how incredibly beautiful and uniquely hard thing that is for a Mother). But she doesn’t just want these things, she models them, she encourages them. She is bold enough to have hard conversations. She holds them accountable but does so in a way that clearly is based in love. She is their biggest support, and a loving shoulder they know they can always turn to. Above all, she wants them to love and serve others as a way of loving and serving God, and she makes that so evident to them, and all, by her example. The way she serves not only her own children, but orphans who have no mother, and widows who have a hard job as a mother. Her kindness as a mother clearly expands to those vulnerable, and in a difficult situation, and her mother’s heart is as huge as it is strong.
Then there are all the incredible mothers who have influenced my life in other ways. Aunts who lived in the same small town on the Canadian prairies for essentially their entire lives, and women who we’ve met as they move around the world. Those with a heart for adoption. Those with quiet serene homes where Mom is the calm bedrock, those with exuberant life busting out every window where Mom is frequently bandaging wounds. I know women who try to balance role as a mother with their running their own business, or working as a doctor in rural Africa, or working as a counsellor, professor, nurse. Those who are in the stage of life where they’ve stepped away from all formal work outside the home to focus on their kids. I have been privileged to know Godly, loving women who play out their particular role of mother in a village in rural Africa, or a Canadian city, the silicon valley, the French Alps, and so many other places. All of them highlighting a trait that shines in their lives to a unique degree, showing how multifaceted motherhood truly is.
And to those we know who find this day hard, really hard. To those mourning the loss of their mother, and those who only ever knew a destructive mother figure in their lives, and those whose deep unfulfilled desire is to become a mother. To those mothers who are going it alone due to an untimely death, or a fractured vow and feels hard to survive. I’m sorry. I pray you can read these words without feeling like the rest of us are rubbing it all in your face. Motherhood, in its most beautiful expressions, is too good to go on celebrated. I hope you can join us at least in that.