I see you.
We think we’re different. Me without the salt and pepper evenly dispersed on my head. You with more wrinkles finely placed as marks of wisdom and joy expressed. We both have stretch marks denoting our mama warrior camaraderie from growing life inside, and smile. You have a sense of peace, a knowing; because, you’ve been there. You bring to the table this amazing tapestry of stability. I bring the reminder of the trenches, how it’s currently hard. While you bring reminders to carpe diem, I bring reminders to enact understanding and empathy.
As I returned from a month away from my husband while he worked, and got our house ready to sell, I stood at my new kitchen sink having a sort of epiphany moment. I spent a lot of my daughter years being the mother to my own mother. I have learned to rely upon myself for what needed to be done, and held close a rather impenetrable sense of trust for others coming in. I got used to being the strong one, the wise one, the one who tended. I believed the lie that I didn’t need a mom like some of my friends had. I believed when I became a mom myself, my need and want for my own mother-daughter relationship would feed into my own relationship with my daughters.
But, there I stood washing dishes, allowing the emotions to come down.
When I was 18, I moved out of my mom’s house to go to school. When I was almost 19, I moved to Washington state to work at a summer camp. I remember the first time I got sick over 1200 miles away. The only person I wanted was my mom.
She always knew how to make it better and reassure me I wasn’t dying. Somehow moms have this supernatural force used only for their children; but, by golly, it’s the best superpower us kids are given.
On our drive back home from Arizona this summer, we stopped in Milton- Freewater, Oregon to visit my Grandma Cox’s grave. It was the first time I visited since her death in 1988. She died far too young at age 57, and my heart still hurts not having her here. She was everything a Grandma should be, exceptionally caring and full of unconditional love.
Sometimes I hear stories about parents disowning their children for making bad choices in life. My Grandma was the antithesis of this. She cared deeply, loved Jesus and in my mind, shouldn’t have died so early. As I stood there above her grave, I wept and asked Jesus why He had to take her. Didn’t he know how much we missed her, how much more was needed to love her family. Not just a legacy, but an in the flesh, warm embrace from her.
Plates being rinsed and God standing beside me. He has a way of showing up in the least likely places. I like that about Him. He showed me how much moms are needed. He pointed to the sunny day as my hair whipped through the wind with my Grandma buried below. It’s why Mother’s Day is so hard for so many. Be it the reminder of death taking the mother’s life, or a strained relationship.
But, it all boils down to the heart’s desire for a mother who is present, attentive, and drops everything to let us know, “Oh honey, it’s going to be alright. You are loved and wanted.”
Through years of adding a self-protecting layer, I have believed the lie that don’t need my mom. I have guarded my heart to avoid pain when she doesn’t love the way I need to be loved. I have stood strong to appear resilient, when in fact, my soul is a crumbling hot mess.
On that day at my kitchen sink, juggling my own relationship and role as a mama with my relationship and role as a daughter, I realized this.
Whether you are a mom of a day old child, or your baby is 65 years old, your job as mama is not done.
When your child rejects your affection and advances of love, they are not rejecting you. Rather, they are seeing if you are going to keep pursuing them.
When your child becomes a parent for the first time, they need you to tell them they are normal, this job is hard stuff. They need you to pull up your own memories of how hard it was to parent. They need you to be vulnerable, admitting how you didn’t know it all; but, they need to see your brokenness. It helps them to see you are human and relatable.
Above all, they need you to love them without limits or borders. They need you to stand in the gap. They need you to keep at this job, even when they don’t live in the same walls as you. They need you to be an active listener, to give input when needed and to seek to understand. They never stop needing you. You are the only mother they have, and God didn’t make a mistake when he made you their mom.
My job is not done when my girls are fully grown and out of the house.
Older mamas, please know we need you. Oh something desperate. We are in ever need and want of you. Your presence to comfort us when we are at the end of our ropes, when no one else is there to tenderly hold us–it’s you who sit with us. We see the greater complexity of our God when we see how you love. It’s different from a father’s love for us. I urge you to not believe the lie your job is outsourced or void. If your relationship is strained with your child or children, then now is a good time to reconcile and fight for a new relationship. Examining how you have not loved well, handing it over to Jesus and working through forgiveness is the best start. Our God is a God of redemption–always, always.
Lastly, remember this, at the end of life, if the only accolade by your name is ‘wholehearted mama’ then believe me, you made an impression of God’s handiwork no one else on this Earth could accomplish.