Mother’s Day 2013 was a fabulous and humbling day. I sat in church and looked down the row and all but one of my daughters were there (one had to work). And the feeling that crossed over me was just too much to attempt to explain. But I have thought about my daughters all day long. Seriously, all day.
Elijah got his finger hurt during the service and I thought about his mama. She was barely walking, but independent and curious. She reached into the trash and pulled out a ravioli can. She stuck her hand into the can which was fine, but the cut tin lid remained attached. When she attempted to pull her hand back out she caught her pinkie finger on the edge and almost sliced off the pad of her finger. Moving at what I considered warp speed I ran to try and stop her, but I failed. I packed Anna and Katherine into the car and went to see Dr. Becknell, our family doctor. He was in his eighties and still practicing medicine. He had seen much and he did a great deal to calm my mothering fears. He knew I was feeling inadequate and like an awful mom because I allowed my child to get hurt. He assured me her finger would be fine, but that this wouldn’t be the last time. He was right.
These Big Girls taught me more about mothering than any book or any other person. They exploded all my theories about motherhood and they found all the holes and gaps I had in my knowledge of children and development. They taught me that mothering wasn’t for the weak, or the timid or the impatient. They taught me that theories were just that—good ideas that sometimes worked and often didn’t. I thought I knew so much when Anna was born—I had taken care of my much younger brother and my step-nephew. I had baby sat and been a summer nanny. I really thought I was well educated, but what I learned is that I didn’t know much.
When they cried I couldn’t hand them back to my mom or my step-sister. When they cried I had to decide what was hurting them, what was lacking or what was wrong. And I learned I was inadequate. I was not an expert. I learned that the scant amount of knowledge was not enough.
This Mother’s Day I want to thank my oldest daughters—my big girls. They helped me grow up. And now they have children of their own. Because of these two older girls I was a better mother to their younger sisters. And because of them I am a better grandmother.
Occasionally I wish I could go back and repair and fix my regrets—all the things I did wrong. All the things I should have done differently. There’s a sore spot in my mother’s heart for what I didn’t know when I had them because I was ignorant, because I was clueless. But I do pray and hope that when I erred I did on the side of love. I wanted to do what was good and right for my girls. I wanted to do what would benefit them. I know I didn’t always get it right.
Now, on this Mother’s Day one of the very best unsolicited pieces of advice I can tell my big girls is that you won’t always get it all right with these sons of yours. You won’t always know what to do or how to help them. You won’t always be able to keep their hands out of ravioli cans or from being in awkward situations. And there will be times that you hold them and just simply cry because you seem to be at a loss.
I have watched you mother these boys in the past eight months. I have watched the tenderness in you toward them. I have watched you hurt when they do, cry when they have. I have seen you love them, hold them, comfort them, soothe them.
I have watched you challenge and push these boys—putting things just beyond their reach so that they will move forward to gain what they need and want. I have listened to you talk to them in a grown-up way. There has been no diluting of language for them with you. I have watched you play and laugh with them.
I have listened to you hush them to stillness. I have watched these sweet boys go limp in your arms—feeling safe, secure and loved—their little bodies sinking into you. I have watched them look at you with ecstatic recognition. I have seen you gently correct these boys already teaching them that it is good for a man to be gentle. And I know you have held these boys and whispered prayers over them.
And my own mother’s heart has been enlarged. I am so proud of you. I am so proud of the mothers you are. Elijah and Judah will be richer because of you. They will have a perspective of the world that will be different because of you. They will engage life diffently because they have you in their lives. And I am so glad.
I hope you hear me: I am very proud of you.
My big girls are women grown now, and they have become beautiful, beautiful mamas.
Happy Mother’s Day my daughters.
May these boys teach you as you taught me.
|Katherine and Elijah|
|Anna and Judah|