Saturday, May 07, 2005


I have always hated Mother's Day. Every year it's been a reminder of what I didn't have in a mother and also what I haven't been as a mother. As I type this I realize I don't dread tomorrow. I didn't know that until just right now. Wow - that is a first. A good thing. Healing sneaks in sometimes unawares. I can face tomorrow and be okay with where I am as a mother. I can be okay with my own mother. Wow and double wow.

Motherhood has so often felt like such an icky thing. There's just no perfection to it. I read a statement this past week that just delights me though. It said: "You don't have to be perfect to be wonderful." It still makes me grin to read that statement. I think I am beginning to believe that truth for my very own self. I hope one day I can look at own mother and believe it for her too.

I grew up with an abusive mother. For so many reasons she was what she was. Raised by a mother who wasn't nurtured - who then found it easier to nurture animals than children. Married so young and a mother so soon. Breast cancer with 5 children at home, the youngest only three. Disillusionment. Babies close together. Babies dying. Babies born too soon. She wanted to be a perfect mother. She wanted to be wonderful. I know that. She gave me the impression that she was perfect. How confusing as an abused child to be given the message that your own mother thinks she is mothering so well. She was doing it better than her own mother. She wasn't perfect. She wasn't wonderful either though. Darn, I want to write that she was wonderful, but in crucial ways that I needed her to be wonderful she wasn't.

Every year picking out a card for her on this day is really hard. I read all the sappy cards and wonder if there is a mother alive who lives up to the drivel. Does every mother read their cards and want to put up their hand and say, "yes, but..."? Or is it only me? I grew up wondering if my mom loved me. Stood outside her bedroom door too scared to knock and ask her if she loved me cause I couldn't take the chance that her answer would be 'no'. She betrayed me. She was the queen of double bind statements. I know she is harder on herself than I could ever be about her mistakes.

And I wonder if I am growing more merciful towards her because my own day of reckoning as a mother is coming. That sounds so shallow and self serving. As if I must hurry up and forgive her and say all is well quick before my own kids hold my mistakes against me. As if working through it all and arriving at 'perfection' will be any kind of insurance. I did, after all, follow in her footsteps. I was an alcoholic and abusive mother too. Part of me wants to protest and say that at least I got help. Sobered up. Changed. Did the hard work of healing. But the reality is that I inflicted wounds. Deep ones. In my own mothering and the mothering I received as a child I hold up to the Light that God is bigger than it all.

There is no easy way to tie up this post. And maybe that is simply the tension that mothering brings. It is so normal to want it all wrapped up in a pretty package. I want the pretty package. I want it all held up to the Light and dealt with. But I don't necessarily want the purifying process that goes along with it. To live with the tension between intention and reality is hard. But it must be. Lord have mercy.

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