Thursday, May 8, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

The quality called “motherly instinct” did not come to me until I held my firstborn in my arms. Throughout my pregnancy, I worried that I wouldn’t be a good mother. I was inexperienced with babies and children, and what seemed to come so naturally to my parenting peers did not seem natural to me at all. But in those seconds of that first fresh holding, mothering took up residence in my heart with such a comfortable finality that suddenly I could not even imagine or remember how life had felt without it, only twenty minutes before. It was a sharp corner I turned. But since the night of June 2, 1980, I have never looked back to wish for or long for the time “before kids.”

When I look at my children - all adults now and taller than me - I see them through the lens of a lifetime of memories. I recall each of their births distinctly and clearly, as if they happened in slow motion so each detail would be etched in my mind as permanently as children’s handprints in concrete. I remember the first time I felt Nathan, my oldest, kick in the womb, Karen’s maturity and leadership when she was yet in elementary school, John’s metamorphosis from boy to man during a summer of work with my Dad. I remember their spiritual crises, their first cars, their weddings, their first homes, new jobs, the births of their children . . . and I remember all the moments in between. My heart swells and my breath catches at the joy I feel in my sons and my daughter. They make my eyes light up and my soul feel satisfied. Oh kids, you are loved beyond imagination. I am honored that I get to be your mother.

Their own eyes shine when their daughters walk into the room, and their faces break into smiles as they scoop up their little ones for a hug and a kiss. They listen with amusement and adoration to kindergarten jokes and made up stories, and they applaud at impromptu dances, cheers, and gymnastics. They grieve at nightmares and sorrows felt in young hearts.  I catch them in the act of loving their children unconditionally, abandoning their hearts to chubby toddler fingers, delicate fairy-princess curls, and long-legged pre-teens, and see a mirror image of my own love for three children born in 1980, 1981, and 1988. I know in a few years they will also love their teenagers and their young adults with the same pathos, wringing their hands and their hearts as they whisper:  Please God, let them be safe.

Sometimes when I look back on my childhood, I dwell most on the angst of my teen years and the ways I intentionally or unintentionally caused my mother pain. But I understand now:  it was not the tension and conflict that weighed more in Mama’s thinking. Rather, she looked at me with my lifetime of memories shining behind her eyes, her mind etched, from my Day 1, with things special, precious, unique, her heart swelling, her breath catching at her joy and pride in me. Oh Mama I understand, I get it -- I was loved beyond imagination, and I thank you.

It is indeed a good day to be a happy mother. And without reservation, I am.

Happy Mother's Day.

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