By the time you read this post, Mother’s Day (in Canada at least) will be over and the flower shops and restaurants will be filling their coffers with yet another year’s profits. Teachers will be breathing a sigh of relief that their entire class of 27 six-year-olds managed not to kill off their forget-me-nots, which were sent home on Friday, delicately blooming in hand-painted pots destined for moms and grandmothers. The “mommy-I made-it-all-by-myself breakfasts in bed” kitchens will once again be tidy and neat and the dose of antacid tablets will be taken to settle the fact that you actually ate that “mommy-I-made-it-all-by-myself” breakfast. *gag* The moms will smile and wink at the dads who managed a card and who dressed the kids for church and dinner so you could get two more full seconds of sleep on this “special day” (Trust me… little girl tights are not something dads should handle). Oh… but friends, I promise you this: We loved every minute of it!
Even now, as mom of two teens, a semi-adult, and an almost grown-up pre-teen, I still appreciate the grunt and nod of acknowledgement that is directed my way every once and awhile. Come to think of it, I also still have to clean up the kitchen from the “mom-I-made-it-myself” messes. Hmmn. So, I muse: Why? Why do we, as moms, savour every glimmer of appreciation from our kids? Why do we never forget a Mother’s Day, even as adults? I think because we were given this God given gift of connection the moment we held those beloveds in our arms for the very first time. According to some early-stage scientific research, we have things called “u-opioids” that are released in our brains when we are socially connected to someone… specifically our mothers. It’s that whole bonding/proper imprinting thing that is exemplified by those little ducklings illustrated in classic children’s books. Moms make us feel warm and fuzzy — so we connect — and are now willing to follow them into the water even though we have never swam with our newly hatched tail feathers before. It’s already pre-wired in our brains. (Reminds me of that post about chocolate. In case you missed it, you can read about that here.)
I remember studying about Rhesus monkeys in animal behaviour — when removed from their mothers and isolated, the tiny monkeys clung to warm pieces of cloth in their cages… anything to help them feel safe. Even the basic need for food was only used temporarily… the monkeys went back to the warm, safe feeling momma.
Not withstanding the controversies of animal research in the 1960’s, these studies certainly showed us something about our need for connection. I’m sure it’s biological. And spiritual. Or both. How much more do complex humans struggle to connect and bond than our animal counterparts? Our relationships are the key to our existence. A God woven ticket into our complexities. We are too fragile to exist without one another. Every good Hollywood film or compelling book sets it’s protagonist in an entanglement of relationship woes — and we, as an audience, rejoice when they “live happily ever after”.
I don’t have any research to back it up, but I suspect that even moms who are not particularly close to their kids still hoard things that connect them to their children. A picture, a note, a card. Even estranged or adoption birth mothers reflect on the day of their child’s birth. Just a little bit. It’s really hard to ignore something that grew inside you for nine months. I’m a die hard scrapbooker and have been since I was a child. I collect every ticket stub, brochure and report card. I have file folders for each one of my beloved offspring and a couple of random ones for the leftover stuff. I am compelled to save these random trinkets — just in case. Just in case I need to know that in grade 2 your sister got an 82 in English and was a “pleasure to have in our class”. Seriously. I have no idea why I keep these things. I’m sure it has something to do with u-opioids. Some inexplicable bond that keeps me connected to my kids and my kids to me — through random photos and sticky, wrinkled papers rescued from the bottoms of backpacks. These things remind me of the experiences we have shared together — and so I hoard and pile them up as the kids grow into adulthood.
This was the first mother’s day without my sweet mother-in-law. She was taken from us all too soon from the end stages of Alzheimer’s. Even though her memories were clouded and her fragile body was fearful at times, the family rejoiced in glimmers of recognition at an old hymn, or at some pattern in the table that struck a chord with her somewhere back in the depths of her memories. She loved to look at my family scrapbooks. She’d point and smile, and you could tell something clicked. This is why we keep these little bits of memorabilia. Our humanness wants to connect. We need to feel loved and nurtured.
So, if you are a young mom still struggling with sleepless nights and piles of laundry, I hate to tell you… not much changes. We still have sleepless nights and laundry. Only now we are awake because they are out past curfew. And the laundry just stinks more. But you learn to treasure the coloured mother’s day cards complete with sparkles that’s hoarded away in a folder. Why? Because they remind you of the times your little ones believed that you were all that mattered in the world, and they were willing to follow you into the pond water — no questions asked. As they get older, your treasures become the Facebook likes on your posts, or the “mom, how do you make that meatloaf I love?” texts. You even relish in the “Can you please wash these pants in time for tomorrow’s presentation?” just before midnight. And when your mom needs to be the one who gets cared for, you rejoice that you have made the connection complete. And you’ll smile when the time comes to clean out her closet after she is gone, and discover that she hoarded a few photos and mother’s day cards from you, too.