Did you know that the woman who championed making Mother’s Day a recognized national day never married or had children? Anna Jarvis conceived of the day as a way to honor mothers and the sacrifices they make for their children. The first official Mother’s Day celebration was at the Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia in 1908.
The commercialization of Mother’s Day is as offensive as having to designate a day for mothers and women but, as women have endured since the beginning of time, it’s something. Add to that the insensitive emphasis placed on women around motherhood, childbearing, and childrearing and we’ve created another category of haves and have nots.
Now that that’s out of my system, there are three attributes a truly awesome mother, whether she’s a biological mother or a chosen mother, possesses that we would all do well to nurture in our relationships.
1. Listen. I was a single mother working multiple jobs when I was raising my sons. I was the master multi-tasker by necessity. Peter and Luke would follow me around, talking to me as I flitted from one task to another. On more than one occasion, when one was sitting on my lap, they’d put their little hands on either side of my face, look me in the eyes and say, “Mama, I’m talking to you.” My heart would have broken if it didn’t melt first.
Listening, really listening without distractions and jumping in with your own words, is a gift these days. Everyone is so focused on talking and sharing and trying to grab attention, that people are not exercising or experiencing the fine art of listening.
Listening is a problem for most people, so if YOU can be a listener, you will always be held in high esteem. Most people don’t have many, if any, person who will just listen. We all need someone who will listen as we explore our options, process our feelings about something, or brainstorm potential solutions to challenges we’re working through.
You will earn the right to share once you’re trusted to listen.
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19).
2. Love. A good mother’s love is unconditional, abiding, and trusting. A mother may not like her child’s behavior or choices, but will still love that child no matter what. When I was visiting in the jails and prisons, mothers were often the only regular visitors many inmates had. It was astounding the change in demeanor and language when an inmate’s mother was visiting. The lost, little boy emerged when his mother visited from many who had been tossed aside by society.
It’s disconcerting to see a mother who is making judgements about their child and passively manipulating them into extensions of herself. That is not love. Love speaks truth in love and then releases the outcome to the child. Of course, what is shared, how it’s shared, and when it’s shared must be age appropriate. Boundaries and guidance are an important part of everyone’s life, even adults.
Nurturing love provides a proper sense of self and worth that empowers each child as they grow and learn through all stages of their development. They learn to take risks and fail and succeed and negotiate, all skills that are essential in adulthood.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love (I Corinthians 13:4-9, 13).
3. Let go. Mothers, parents, guardians – whoever is charged with raising a child – must learn to let go from the very beginning. I was awestruck how each of my sons’ little personalities started showing from their very first minutes of life. Parenting is the most humbling job on the planet. Your role is to make it possible for that child to become their own person – not a clone, but their own unique person. For that to happen, you have to eventually get out of the way.
The hardest part in healthy relationships is learning to let go. When we learn to let go of expectations and outcomes we can enjoy the gifts that emerge when each person is allowed to be who they are. Sometimes it’s painful watching the growing up process, but it’s necessary in order for them to eventually step into their own skin and their own life. You can’t take away the pain or discomfort, but your abiding love can help reassure that it’s okay.
The hardest part about letting go is knowing there are no guarantees that our efforts will yield the results we hope for. All God expects of us is to do our best with what we have to work with at the time. We will fall short. We will fail in some of our efforts. We will flounder. Those were the times when I leaned into God for strength and wisdom and guidance for myself and let go.
Maybe this Mother’s Day can be the beginning of a new way of looking at your role in nurturing others and yourself. You don’t need to be a mother. There are plenty of opportunities to be a nurturing presence. Listen. Love. Let go.
photo by: beingmyself