Sometimes my new day starts with a random thought plucked from the cosmos and landing in my consciousness for reasons unknown – at least at first. This week, it was the memory of my then elementary school daughter telling me about the creative arts activity she had on that particular day just before Mother’s day. She’s always loved the arts parts. But she didn’t seem her usual happy self. So I asked her about it. She told me that there were a couple of kids who didn’t want to participate because they didn’t have moms at home. She went on to tell about how the teacher kept encouraging them to find someone who they could make the artwork for – grandma? No. Aunt? No. Some other caregiver? My precious little one empathized with her classmates’ pain as they were strongly reminded that their home life was different from the “norm.” I thanked her for sharing that with me because I realized in the hearing that I wasn’t as sensitive to this challenge as I could be. And then we talked about how the teacher could have been more supportive.
Back to the present.
It seemed the theme of mothering would come up in a couple of other conversations that day. Each occasion takes me to a place of pondering that includes my understanding of what it means to be a mother. I know that I have a responsibility to nurture my child, to provide (as best I can) shelter and sustenance. But there’s also this part of me that knows that I have the experience of having been in the world longer. And so it is imperative that I share what insight I have – not to live her life according to my expectations, but to give her a head start on the journey ahead. There is something to be said for failing on your own so that the lesson sticks. But there is also something to sharing a fuller picture of what I’ve learned so that my failures and triumphs can be added to her life’s wisdom or spiritual tool belt. I’ve made hard decisions that she hasn’t liked and I told her why. And I confessed that I might not even be right, that every action has a consequence and that given my responsibility I had to make a decision anyway.
And of course love is a huge part of the mothering. So naturally it makes sense that not all mothering is done by mothers. I’ve also pondered this week about the notion of unconditional love. What does that even mean and do I or have I truly experienced it. And do I believe that God loves me unconditionally. But better yet, is my love for God unconditional? I think I remember knowing I was receiving unconditional love when my daughter was a baby. I really do believe it went beyond what I could/would do for her. She has seen me at my ugliest, my dirtiest and my next to lowest. And she has seen me at my happiest and loveliest. And she has loved me the same. And I want the world for her.
When she was 3, I went to pick her up after work. My parents (thank you God) were her caregivers while I was at work. As I entered the livingroom, coat in one hand and bags in the other, I hear her squeal with delight from the other side of the room. “Mommy, mommy. Get ready for a big squeezee!” I look over at her as she bowed her head and shuffled her feet like a bull would before charging the matador. I had never seen this gesture before and stopped to watch. Then she took off running toward me arms outstretched and laughing all the way. And I’m still in awe at what happened next. She jumped in the air arms toward me like Superman on a rescue mission. I mean she was totally horizontal in mid-flight coming at me from across the room. All I could do was say a quick prayer (“Lord, please let me catch her!”), drop everything I had in my arms already and bear down so she wouldn’t knock me over. Oh. My. Goodness. She had no doubt that I would catch her and when I did, I got the biggest squeezee ever. So much love and trust in those wee moments.
Now when I reflect on my first big squeezee, I wonder how all the other little children of the world are faring. I realize I want for them to have the same sense of confidence that she had, knowing they are loved and supported – that they have someone they can trust. And I think now in these months of spiritual sabbatical time for me, in these times of public shaming and name calling and open threats to personhood, unacceptance and intolerance, I am tasked with figuring out how I can advocate for them with all the mothering know-how that God has imbued me.