In honor of Mother’s Day, I asked readers to tell me something specific that their mothers did right. Responses came in droves, most offering some loving motherly nugget.
However, I also heard from people who didn’t win the mother lottery. For them, this day is not full of warm fuzzies. There aren’t many Mother’s Day cards along the lines of, “I guess you did the best you could. I’m still working to forgive you.”
In the spirit of honoring the spectrum of motherhood, I’ve included a little of everything below:
– When I applied to college, I applied to one school, the closest one to our home. When I went to orientation with my mother, a counselor advised my mom that I would not do well if I was spending two hours a day commuting. The counselor offered me a spot with on-campus housing. My mother jumped at this opportunity for me. She knew my father would be extremely angry, which he was. He eventually forgave her. After I graduated from college and then Stanford Medical School, my father acknowledged that my mother had made the best decision for me.
– My mom always lets me pick the music and we always listen to it turned all the way up and dance every time we ride anywhere (without Dad).
– My parents died within weeks of each other, much too soon. Mom had gastric cancer. She never complained, even though it was brutal. Shortly before she died, she was sitting with me waiting on CT scan results and crying quietly. I hugged her and asked if she was hurting. She shook her head and said, “No, I miss Quincy.” In that moment, I realized just how deeply she loved Dad — something I’ll always treasure.
– My parents divorced when I was 9. My sisters were 8 and 3. My mom had married very young and never gone to college. She went back to school with three kids and became a nurse. I remember getting up for a drink of water at night and mom was outside with a study group, under a security light so they didn’t wake us up. She taught me that education is that important and once you are a mom, your kids come first.
On the flip side of motherhood:
– The thing my mother did for me was to leave my siblings and me with grandparents when we were very young. I had to fend for myself and learn right from wrong all on my own. Her leaving me turned me into a strong, responsible, hard working, strong-willed, loving, and caring mother to my three children and husband.
– My mother is narcissistic. She who probably loves us — her children — but instead often shows us meanness and selfishness. I don’t mean to be a downer about it, but as everyone gushes on this day, some of us don’t.
I found solace in a sermon delivered by a minister who spoke of these kinds of mothers in relation to the commandment to honor your mother and father. He asked if that commandment held if they weren’t good, kind parents? He suggested that we’re not commanded to love them, agree with them, aspire to be like them — but simply to honor them as a parent, who for better or worse got us here. This thought was extremely helpful to me and brought me peace in that regard.
When I was 18 or 19 and in college at LSU, my mom came to pick me up. By the time we reached Butte la Rose, she was furious with me because I wasn’t a sorority girl like she had been. She pulled off the interstate and kicked me out of the car and left me alone in the swamp (before cell phones). She drove off. I was terrified. I walked to the other side of the interstate where there was a small building, but it was empty. (This was before there was the big rest area facility there.)
I just sat on the stoop and waited, not knowing what to do. Eventually, she came back for me and later acted as though everything was just dandy. We have never spoken of it, but I relive it every time I drive past Butte la Rose, which is fairly often.
I doubt this is the kind of story you want for Mothers Day, but I know I’m not the only one who didn’t have the wonderful kind of mother. I tried to be a better mother and have two loving daughters to spend my day with — as well as a loving mother-in-law who loves me in a way my mother couldn’t.
Happy Mothers’ Day to you. May you find joy and peace in the day.