Moms who Mop

There is a poignant scene in Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie, The Passion of the Christ, where Jesus’s mother, Mary, is desperately wiping his blood from the cobble stone walkway where He was just brutally tortured moments before. It’s graphic and gruesome. Yet, to me, it is such a vibrant picture of motherhood. Here is a mom, who’s firstborn son has been wrongly accused, and is about to be crucified. Mary has watched Jesus grow from a tiny baby into this radical man who has had such an impact on His world, and although she doesn’t understand it all, she knows somewhere deep in her heart, that she must do something to support Him… something, anything… even to the point of wiping up bodily fluids.

From The Passion of the Christ 2004

I had a wonderful mother’s day weekend away with my own mom and daughters this year. We had fun together and enjoyed our time. I read the posts on social media about mothers everywhere… flowers and cards and beautiful Sunday brunches. Florists all over Canada just moved into the red based on their sales for this one day a year. But let’s be honest, moms. Motherhood is tough.

Children do not come with a set of instructions. There is no book, no podcast, no blog or youtube channel that will tell you how to mother your beloved. Because there is no one exactly like you… and no one exactly like your kid. God made each and everyone one of us special. Which makes mothering hard — and absolutely beautiful at the same time!

I am really quite amazed at how resilient God made us mothers. Our bodies take a beating and fight back. We survive sleepless nights and midnight feedings, we kiss skinned knees and manage the daily task of hair brushing and teeth flossing. God knew what He was doing when He made babies so cute… because despite all the paranoia, we often do it all again… and then a third and a forth and a tenth time! What were we thinking?!

And then! Then, we pray for soul mates and fret and worry when they leave the nest and fly away and become their own. And we get angry because it’s not how we wanted it to be. They deviate from our perfect mother-knows-best plans and we can no longer shelter them. We have to let them go — and let God. Or we don’t understand why God has given us this challenge, this extra need, this life curve that throws us off our plans for a future of flowers and rainbows. And we cry out “Why”?! Trust me, I’ve been there.

Or maybe you have to be the mom to your own mother now. Roles are reversed and you have to be the caregiver to the one who once cared for you. The vulnerability is still there. You have to make hard decisions, and be the one to fight for dignity, and be courageous and kind. You become like Mary in the movie. You don’t quite know what to do — but you have to do something! So, you mop the floor.

I have met many brave moms. Courageous mothers who fight like momma bears for the sake of their children. They advocate, protest, speak out and speak up. Still others who quietly, yet equally as bravely, support their children with every ounce of their being, through silent prayers whispered late at night. Parenting is hard. This is why God gives us families and communities and villages… and the internet! We need each other. Good grief, if even Mary didn’t know what to do in her crisis situation, we can consider ourselves in good company.

So, if your Happy Mother’s Day bouquets have now slightly wilted, and you are feeling a little frazzled by it all, remember that there is no magic wand. No fairy godmother to make it all go away, and no enchanted mice to clean up the messes. God has chosen each one of us for His specific plan, and the specific plans for each of our beloveds. We must learn to trust that God knows the why. We just have to bring along the mop buckets sometimes.

Mother’s Day Hoarding

forgetmenot2By 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 weloveditheld 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.

08harlow

It’s in our very nature to connect… especially to our moms. (Photo: via UoT research archives)

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.

treasures