I am fortunate enough to be spending part of my Mother’s Day doing what I love and what has become necessary for me to survive and thrive through this cancer journey- sorting through my thoughts and writing them out here to share with you all. I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to write about mothering today, so I will indulge.
Someone recently commented that I don’t write about my own mother here, and that I don’t properly thank her for her efforts in helping me and my family through this enormous battle. First, I have to say that while I share a lot here, I do not share everything. I often worry that I am offending someone by not saying enough, or not saying the right thing about what they have done or how their interactions have left me in a better, more peaceful place. The truth is there are so so many kind efforts done on my behalf that I will probably never get it “right.” The magnitude and scale of generosity has been overwhelming and my capacity is sometimes so small that I am sure I am missing things. I hope I have the opportunity to appropriately thank everyone who has brightened my day and lightened my load properly at some point, and it may take months or years to accomplish that end. However, for now, when we are as bombarded as we are and trying to get through from day to day, please know that your kindnesses are wholly known and deeply felt and that we do appreciate everything from everyone. Sincerely.
As for my own mom, her support through the this has been incredible. She has spent countless weeks here away from her home trying to make our lives easier. To say we need her right now is a gross understatement and she has answered the call. Both Tom and I are are incredibly grateful for her support and her care of our children while we are drudging through cancer. She has been awesome and it’s been just the relief we needed to feel like we are gaining a little headway on the climb.
Her willingness to come out here and knock away at the task list is no surprise. My mom is a doer. She is a roll up your sleeves, nose to the grindstone, work your ass off kind of lady. She is the one who taught me to work hard, to bulldoze through. I grew up watching her chew her way through elephants one steady and determined bite at a time. The woman has the stamina of a person half her age. She is an absolute marvel and I feel incredibly fortunate to have grown up with her example of “anything is possible if you just put your head down and work hard at it.”
She was also hugely self-sacrificing for her children. There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do for us to make sure we were comfortable, stable, happy and healthy. She absolutely made it her goal to give us more than she could have ever dreamed of as a child, and we probably somewhat ungraciously took it because we had never been through the hardship of knowing anything different. She raised us to be kind, respectful, good and moral people and I believe all three of us largely turned out to be so.
My mom is also a very good person. But sitting here thinking about Mother’s Day, I begin to realize there is a huge difference between the person our mothers are, and the myth of mothering.
As an adult, I have started to appreciate my mother as her own person. It was a clunky and painful transition, the move from dependent child to adult peer. I am not confident every woman will go through that heart wrenching adjustment, but it seems not uncommon for woman when they start having their own children. For me, it was a loss of that idyllic doting relationship, and the taking root of a much deeper, much more independent rebirth as woman and a mother in my own right. It was a time of grieving punctuated by periods of great strength and resolve in choosing the direction for my own life.
And it wasn’t because anyone did anything wrong. It wasn’t a bad thing. It was a necessary thing. It was the normal and important march of time and maturity pressing forward. Someday we will all have to learn to live without our mothers. Fortunately, mine prepared me for how I was going to do that by giving me the space and strength to stand on my own. My mother and I no longer have to subscribe to the old roles that defined us when I was a child. We are now free to be who we are. To share the things that connect us and lean into our worlds in both our unique, fierce ways.
So I don’t really believe in the hallmark card Mother’s Day myth of “my mother is the best” or “she is perfect.” I feel like these wistful adages fall flat in the face of what mothering really is. To me, mothering is the idea that we are always preparing our children to survive on their own. We are preparing them to be careful, thoughtful, good people who add more to the world than they subtract. And we do that by giving them the moral fortitude necessary to do that when no one is guiding them, when they are out making judgments and decisions on their own. That requires that we let them go to discover their great big worlds while praying to God that we laid the very best foundation possible for them to thrive.
And we are screwing it up.
The one thing I know for sure as a mother of two children is how often and how profoundly I am screwing up the one thing I am supposed to be paying the most attention to. I don’t say that to be harsh or to be completely self-deprecating. I say it because people are sensitive, fickle organisms- especially little people. And even when we are doing our best we have very little control over the way our messages are received. So we do the best we can with these weird awesome little people we have been given charge of and that looks nothing like “perfect” or “best.” It looks a whole lot like love though because if I’ve learned nothing else from my mom it’s that you keep trying.
Mothering is about not quitting, loving even when it hurts, trying again even when you’ve failed. It’s about having the strength and resolve to keep coming back to the table to rebuild that bridge for the millionth time because it’s still weak in that one (or one hundred) spot(s). It’s about being kinder and gentler to yourself so you can be kinder and gentler with your children. It’s about knowing when to hold on and when to let go, and then mending your heart when you realize how quickly it all went by while you were busy getting through just another day.
And so I’m off to go snuggle my littles while thinking about what kind of woman my mother has allowed me to be. For my girls, I am here even when you don’t want me to be, righting the wrongs and continuing to show you my undying love and support. For my mom, I love you to the moon and stars and back again, even though I’m no longer your little girl. Thank you for letting me be an adult beside you though- the best is yet to be.
Give em’ hell