I’ve never been one, nor will ever be one, but like all of us, I have one. In addition, for 34 years I’ve been married to the mother of our children. So while my thoughts about “mother” are those of an observer, I think they are still valid.
I feel bad for mothers; their work is never done. They do so much that goes unnoticed and, because of not noticing, it is often not appreciated. In addition, they are notorious for adopting all the cultural pressure to produce wonderful (if not perfect) children. In today’s world, the economics of most families adds the pressure of being an employee. I could go on and on about the challenges and difficulties of motherhood, but I’m not going to. Neither am I going to create a list of all a mother “should” do.
What I want to share are some things my mother didn’t do. (Your mother’s “didn’t do” list may be very different, but this is a list about my mother.)
Mom didn’t make excuses for why we couldn’t do something. In fact, looking back I now realize there we tons of things we weren’t able to do. Whether the reason was economics, time constraints, where we lived, know-how, or a million other potential excuses, I don’t remember mother ever making excuses about what we couldn’t do. Instead, she was cleverly finding all the things we could do.
I watched this when she became a grandmother. When they were with her, our children and their cousin had a sense of limitlessness. While there might have been plenty of things she wouldn’t let them do, they never felt denied. That’s my memory too. Whether it was a craft, a game of hide-and-seek, a walk, making something from nothing, or learning something new, her ability to divert and do rather than deny and don’t was – and is – her hallmark. No excuses!
Mom didn’t rush. Oh sure, there were times when we had to hurry, but she had a pace and rhythm of going about her life that never seemed frantic. There may have been times when we, her children, might have wished her to rush a bit, but the model of living life at her pace, engaging life, smelling roses, watching a bird, and being with children were all made sweeter by the reality that, no matter how hurried, watching her live was almost a picture in timelessness. No rushing!
Mom didn’t hold back with worrisome caution to self-protect. Mom was always willing to engage – sometimes to her own detriment. I remember while growing up that, in volunteer church work, she should have been awarded the highest honors. It seemed like she was serving everywhere. In addition, she wanted to engage with everyone, which meant we were often the last to leave services. I remember one day after church. She had been greeting and catching up with everyone, and my dad was tired of waiting. He walked over to mom, whisked her off her feet, and carried her out the church door!
This past fall on our trip to New York (her first visit), we failed to explain that conversation with strangers on the subway wasn’t protocol. Her granddaughter and I enjoyed watching her strike up conversations with everyone from teens, business people, a Hassidic Jewish woman and her children, etc., etc. No caution to self-protect!
Mom didn’t vacillate in her love. There have been plenty of times when I know she’s been disappointed about behavior, choices, and processes that frustrate, but her love was steady. There was no fear that making a poor choice or even acting badly toward her would jeopardize her love. Watching her undying love for her dogs, cats, and any other creature she might befriend, seeing her care for some of the “down and outers,” and seeing her devotion and love for dad and her unfailing love for people made both her children and her grandchildren confident that nothing they could ever do would cause any vacillation in her love. No conditional love!
While we may think of God as “Our Father,” it seems to me that his most self-identifying quality may be most noticed in and learned from our mothers. (However, dads can do this, too.) When God wants to identify himself, or if he had only one thing he could tell us about himself, I believe it is that he has unfailing love and faithfulness for each of us. And while that is the one trait that most defines him, I think all four of the things I realize my mother didn’t do are awfully God-like.
No excuses, but instead enabling.
No rush, but instead a calm rhythm of life.
No caution to self-protect, but free engagement in life
No vacillating love, but unfailing love and faithfulness.
Thanks Mom for all you didn’t do!