Mother’s Day just passed, according to my Instagram feed we show love to Mom flowers, cards or chocolate. It could also be shown through vacations or experiences together. My children chose to write cards with heartfelt messages that claimed “You’re the best mom in the world.”
In our culture, a “Mother’s love” spoken of in almost sacred terms as a constant that never fades. An instant connection from that first moment you look into those tiny newborn eyes. Maybe it was just me, but I didn’t really feel an instant connection- I felt terrified. How on Earth was I going to manage to keep this tiny little human alive when I felt so awful? I absolutely adore all of my children now, but it took a while to get to know them.
It still scares me, the responsibility of being a mom. Probably because looking at the family tree – mom’s haven’t necessarily done so well. There’s the Great-great grandmother who’s daughter bore her father’s child. Also, the story of a Grandmother who slapped her daughter’s face and said “Never say anything like that again” when her daughter brought up being molested by her father. I still remover the shocked expression and statement that “Some people just bruise easy” after I shared my opinion that leaving bruises on a child is abusive. Those are just the stories I know. I wonder what pain was simply ignored or silenced out of family loyalty?
What does love for my children really look like? It can be enduring vomit filled, sleepless nights. Sometimes it’s working together on spelling words or math problems for what feels like hours. It can be helping with projects that are fun in a child’s mind but also great tests of parental patience. Love is making sure food is in the pantry and the electricity stays turned on. Parental love doesn’t always come from a biological parent, sometimes it’s just a person who is willing risk getting involved, when a parent isn’t around to give guidance and encouragement.
In over 20 years of working with youth and children, I’ve never met a parent who didn’t want the best for their child. Unfortunately, some parents are pretty adept at being clueless about what is best. We tend to see as normal whatever our own experiences were. We keep our children from the horror that we endured- yet the trauma that slips through the cracks of our protection can still be devastating.
None of us are all good, or all bad. That’s what makes love so tricky. I’m simply in the middle- trying to raise my children to be better people than I was raised to be. I try to look past their occasional angry accusations, knowing that emotional angst is just part of having teenagers (or toddlers). I try relish the moments they share appreciation. Remembering it’s a process, while we may still have a long way to go- it’s been a heck of a journey to get this far. I don’t need to be discouraged with where we are today.
When it comes down to it, I think love is simply going through life together, holding your breath when a child says “I’ve got it Mom” and helping them up again if they fall.