Have I ever mentioned that my parents divorced when I was 8 years old? Just wondering if I’d ever mentioned that before.
Mother’s Day is one of those awkward days for me. None of the cards say what I would say to my own mother. I rarely even shop for a card anymore. The sentiment just isn’t quite right in most of the cards on the shelf.
Even as I work through the pain and resentment I have regarding my mom-issues (like I did with my dad-issues), I actually had a little break through this Mother’s Day.
I thought about all the things my mom did right and tried not to think of the things I resented. And, I must admit, I can list reasons to admire, respect and love my mom.
1) While we were growing up, my mom never had a boyfriend. Seriously. My mom did not date strange men while she raised the five of us by herself. One could argue she simply didn’t have time for all that. But I believe it was purposeful. Have you ever watched the news and seen horrible stories about abused kids who land in the hospital? Or even those worst-case scenarios where a child has been beaten to death? Have you ever paid attention to how many of the abusers were “the mother’s boyfriend”? Looking back, I believe it was absolutely intentional that my mother didn’t date…she couldn’t bear the thought of someone sexually molesting her daughters, or beating her children.
2) My mom worked her you-know-what off. My mom had to care for the five of us, go to nursing school full-time, buy the groceries, pay the bills. No matter how much I want to focus on ways she screwed any of that up…the truth of the matter is that 98% of the time, she did the right thing and she did the best she could do. Sure, there were hiccups along the way…she lost her mind and lashed out at us in anger. But when I think about the fact that the woman was trying to take care of five stubborn, loud-mouth, high-energy kids while she was trying to learn Anatomy, Physiology, Kinesthetics, Statistics, pay the bills, keep her own sanity and so on…well, I doubt I could be 100% loving 100% of the time either.
3) My mom made sure I made it to swim meets growing up…every weekend…every practice. My mom made sure we made it to all volleyball games and basketball games and track meets as we got older. She never made excuses like, “I really have to study for my exams, you’re going to have to miss your game” and she never made us feel bad for having a game when she really should have been at the library. And she always cheered us on and was happy no matter HOW POORLY we might have played that day. No matter what, we were the best players on the court. No matter what, she was sure to tell everyone how proud of us she was.
I could probably think of more, but those are the things I am thinking about right now. I think it’s good for me to remember that my mom didn’t get a manual for raising children that came with each of us just like I didn’t get a manual for raising my own children. She is a human being who was bound to make some mistakes…just like I make mistakes. I can’t hold a grudge or remain angry with my mother over things that hurt me as a child and memories that rear their ugly heads every now and again. Even with some bad experiences and some hurts, I can still see that my mother loved me and my siblings more than anything. She sacrificed so much. Sure, it’s not like she CHOSE to sacrifice the way she did and chances are she’d never CHOOSE to do it all over again. But, she did what the Lord asks us all to do…she picked up her cross and she carried it…with Grace.
My mother called me on Saturday. We talked for a little bit. I was exhausted as we’d had a track meet that morning and I didn’t really feel like talking. But I talked to her anyway. We had a nice chat and wished each other a Happy Mother’s Day. I thought about the fact that maybe Mother’s Day is an awkward day for her, too.
Anyway, after we hung up, my cell phone rang again and it was my mom’s number…she must have forgotten something. I picked it up and said “hello” but my mother wasn’t talking to me. I heard her talking to her husband (apparently I was “butt-dialed” LOL). And she was singing my praises. She was telling her husband what a great mom I was. She was telling him that she needed to call me and tell me that she knew I was a terrific mom. She was listing all I have going on right now, “I mean, you know…she has those four kids and one on the way…and she’s coaching Sarah in track. I mean, she’s coaching LOTS of kids, not even just Sarah! And she works full-time! She is so busy!!“
And it was right then all of a sudden that I realized that I do all I do because I watched my mom handle so much on her own. The tables could be turned…it could be me telling people about my own mom…”I mean, she had five kids and she had to take care of them all by herself. She takes care of the grocery-shopping and the bill-paying and she takes them all to swim meets, and ball games. oh yeah, and she goes to nursing school full-time!! She is so busy!!!“
Maybe I need to lay to rest all the “demons” in the form of memories that do nothing but serve to stir up feelings of resentment toward a woman who sacrificed much for me and my siblings. Sure, my childhood wasn’t perfect. But those are my crosses and Jesus walks with me as I carry them. I learned some valuable lessons about raising children – what to do and what I wouldn’t choose to do.
But it’s obvious that I learned some really great things from my mom. I learned to sacrifice my wants and desires and needs for others. I learned to carry my cross. And I learned to find ways to be happy even when sorrow abounds.
I learned how to love…from my mother.