Happy Mother’s Day!
I’ve been a mother for 19 years now.
I’ve had a mother for 53 years now.
Given those two relatively long-term commitments, it would seem that I should be an expert on the whole general state of mothering. And yet, while I truly try, I truly am not.
Are any of us, really?
I mean, you’ve got a famous mother like The Old Woman in the Shoe, who, you would assume, having given birth to more children than even Michelle Duggar, would have been an expert at the job. However, let’s face reality here – she raised four score and twenty kids in a boot, fed them watered-down broth, beat them soundly, and then sent them to bed. Certainly not a role model by anyone’s standards.
Then there’s the self-titled Old Mother Hubbard whose only documented mothering experience, actually, seems to have been a failed attempt to mother a hungry hound.
Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard
To get her poor dog a bone;
But when she came there
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.
She went to the baker’s
To buy him some bread;
But when she came back
The poor dog was dead.
And in spite her self-important title, the dang dog up and died of starvation under her care.
Yet, far be it from me to judge.
Mothering is not easy.
It’s not for the faint of heart, and it’s certainly not for perfectionists of any sort.
Although I often find myself riffling through my bookshelves for it, there is no ultimate, step-by-step guide that offers the perfect words of wisdom to share with your child when, for example, at five years old he decides to get up early and bake “cupcakes” for you all on his own comprised solely of flour, water, salt and honey (half of which ends up on the kitchen floor), or when he expects you to congratulate him on being a good environmentalist because, when pressed, he admits that he has consistently “recycled” any graded papers with marks lower than a “B” in the school recycling bin instead of “wastefully” bringing them home.
Where oh where is the book with the expert words to use to reply to such incidents?
There are no prerequisites for this mothering course in life. You sign up for it, sometimes unknowingly even, and from that point on it’s perpetual late night cramming and pop quizzes for which you are unable to study since you never know exactly what material the tests will cover.
However, on those rare occasions when you get it just right and you’re rewarded with an “A” in mothering perhaps through a long, unsolicited hug, a 7-year-old fist full of wild flowers hastily secured with a bread bag twist tie, a love letter written to you in Legos, or a random, unexpected text sent from a college dorm room that simply says, “I miss you,” you realize that all of the angst you felt and each all-nighter you pulled were so very worth it.
These types of “A’s” are so much more cherished than any “A” you’ve ever received on an exam. They’re also more permanent; they’re never “environmentally recycled,” but rather are indelibly etched in your heart like initials in tree bark.
Happy Mother’s Day to everyone: to those of us who are mothers, to those of us who have or had mothers, and to those of us who “mother” the special someones in our lives in so many unique and loving ways.
Mother is a verb. It’s something you do, not just who you are. Cheryl Lacey Donovan