In the US, it is Mother’s Day—and yes, I include aunts, sisters, grandmothers, dads in this day. Anyone who is loving and raising a child deserves recognition every day, but today in particular because you are making a difference.
Today is a day of contradiction. While I am celebrated by my own children today, I am an orphaned child myself. My parents are deceased. My mother passed away in August of 2012, just five short months after my sister died of cancer. As a mother, I can’t fathom the incapacitating grief my mom must have felt over the loss of her child. She didn’t show it much, though. I’m not sure if it was stoicism, numbness…I know she cared in her own way, but my mom was never one who processed emotions well. She ate her feelings and died from the myriad complications of morbid obesity. As her children, we were, for the most part, passively mothered long before our mom passed away.
Today is a day of contradiction. My mom was a brittle and bitter woman. Born in 1926, she was raised during the Great Depression by an abusive alcoholic father, and a mother who didn’t have many, if any, options of escape back then. It was a hardscrabble life. My grandfather died in 1967, when I was two, so I don’t remember him. But my grandfather was a malignancy my mom carried with her all her life, and it informed every part of her. She ate her feelings and died from the myriad complications of morbid obesity.
Today is a day of contradiction. I am that contradiction. I am nothing like my mother. And I don’t say that with any bitterness at all. I say it with a great deal of gratitude, in fact. My mom wasn’t always easy to like, but I did love her. There’s a line I remember from the book A Separate Peace by John Knowles, a book I haven’t read since high school, but this line meant everything to me then and now: “When you really love something, then it loves you back, in whatever way it has to love.” As I got older, I was able to see through the cracks in her façade to the broken heart and soul beneath. And while I felt a great deal of anger at her at times growing up—for taking the belt to me, or the yard stick, or her bare hand, or verbally and emotionally manipulating me—I also grew to feel just as much compassion for her. My mom didn’t teach me how to be a mother. My mom taught me how not to be a mother. I will always be grateful to her for that gift.
Today is a day of contradiction. I am that contradiction. There has never been, nor will there ever be, a day that goes by that my children doubt I love them unconditionally. I am their warrior, their champion, and I hope their biggest hero. Yes, they screw up. Yes, they make me angry and yes, I get frustrated, and sometimes I open my mouth…and my mother comes spewing out…and I am sorry. What has been said can’t be unsaid. But I can work every day to do better. I am that contradiction.
Today is a day of contradiction. On this day we celebrate motherhood, even as those who are celebrated have abandoned their sons and daughters because of who they are, who they love. On this day we celebrate motherhood, even as those who are celebrated might see the day come when they consider abandoning their sons and daughters for how they were born to live and love. I am that contradiction.
Today is a day of contradiction. I am that contradiction. I beg any parent reading this today to give your child a better world. And if you aren’t capable of loving your child with everything you are, regardless of your beliefs in the right and wrong of living and loving, be the contradiction. If you can’t be your child’s warrior, champion, hero, give your child a safe place to land, a place they’ll feel safe if that place can’t be with you. You owe your child that much. You, dear Mother, gave your child safe harbor in a space under your heart for nine months. Your child is an amalgamation of your atoms, your molecules, your genes. When you fail your child, you are the failure. You owe it to your child to be the contradiction if you can’t be the love and acceptance your child deserves. Someone will love and care for your child if you can’t.
I celebrate those of us who make a difference in the life of a child every day; those of us who stumble but get back up again; those of us who make mistakes but never stop trying to do and be better. We are the foundation and the dream makers and we hold the power of the future in our hands. May we all be the rule rather than the exception. <3