I think one of the hardest parts about being a mother is that we are real… and so are our children. Parenting is a continual act of living in reality…even if we would much rather just live in a world where our children didn’t get hurt, didn’t make mistakes, didn’t have to suffer. I remember when my first four or five children were little. My oldest was no more than 10. Sometimes it felt like I was the mother duck and they were my little ducklings; if I looked behind me, they were all following…my little brood. I’m sure I thought this was real, and it was. But it was also only temporary. As my first few children embarked on the teen years, the “real” was not so easy. When I looked behind me I didn’t always have the same view. What I saw was the older ones venturing off in different directions and I couldn’t as easily herd them back. I started to lose that control that I must have believed I would always have. It hurt a little, and my fur got a little tattered.
I love being a mother. But it certainly isn’t the easiest thing I have ever done. The role comes with tremendous rewards. But it also comes with disappointments and hardships. There is not always the appreciation we would like. I know I didn’t really begin appreciating my own mother until I had children myself. And now everyday I appreciate her more, especially our friendship. I realize that was a process, however. And I know that my own journey as a mother is also a process. In that process my fur will become worn and old and my hinges a little shaky, and I will be very real. But that “real” is worth any hardships that I will have to endure, and the joys of parenting always seem to outweigh them anyway!
When I ran the Marine Corps Marathon for the first time in October 2010, my mom was there. She and I had driven first to pick up my son, Charlie, at college so that he could come too. He cheered me on at mile 10, 15 and 26. Sitting with both of them at lunch afterwards, I felt like the luckiest person in the world. As a mother, I will always treasure sharing that with my son and my mom!
I have written on this website before about how vital exercise is for making me a better mother. At times it is my source of inspiration, at other times my escape. It is what keeps me physically strong, mentally sharp, and sometimes emotionally stable. I have even called it my secret weapon. I don’t really see it as optional. If you figure the time frame of active parenting to be about 18-20 years (maybe longer these days), I’m not even half way there. I was in my early 20’s when I started this mothering journey, and I will be in my 60’s when my youngest is in his 20’s. I’ll need some serious stamina to carry me through! In fact I sometimes have a fear that I will simply run out of energy. But I don’t worry too long about this…I don’t have time!
I am grateful on this Mother’s Day weekend for my faith as well. The vocation of motherhood comes with many Graces, and on this I rely constantly for strength. Part of becoming a little worn and tattered in motherhood is that we are forced to rely more on faith and less on ourselves. To me this is a relief. Like the skin horse, I know there is a price for being “real”, but I will gladly pay that price…even nine times. If in my 60’s (when my youngest – Sam- is venturing into the teen years) I am tattered and well-worn, there is no doubt I will be as real as I can be…and I will be a very happy mother indeed.
To all mother’s…have a very Happy Mother’s Day!