Sunday, May 12, 2013

Maternal Musings

This was my childhood, and perhaps the reason why my mother drove in the distracted, clutch burning way I (and all my friends) recall. I have no two-legged children of my own - I've always been mother to the four-legged, furry variety - but that hasn't kept me from exercising innate maternal instincts to serve, protect, and discipline my own students, niece and nephew, and other young children in my charge, as well as function as surrogate seatbelt as the need presented itself.

In the days and weeks leading to this Mother's Day 2013, I've had the opportunity to reflect on mothers and motherhood in a variety of ways. Age and circumstance does have a way of providing perspective, and Mother's Day is about more than just buying the token gift of appreciation. So, in no particular order, I offer the following musings of a non-mother, middle-aged woman.

Musing 1:  I'm at the age where I and most of my friends are learning to adapt to aging mothers - and sometimes experiencing a bit of role reversal. Once discussion of who is taking Lipitor and acid reflux meds and how much, concludes, the topic often turns to the enormous difficulty of maintaining respect for one's parents while feeling the need to take on a parental role with them. It often feels like a delicate balance between respect and neglect.

Musing 2: Several of my closest friends have lost their mothers recently (from as early as 6 weeks to 2 years ago). We all lost our fathers earlier. And I am faced with the very real prospect of joining them as a member of the middle-aged orphan's club in the not too distant future. It is sad to ponder, but for all of us, we have great memories, and our mothers lived (and in my case, continue to live) full and fulfilling lives. They miss their mothers, and I will miss mine, but our mothers were there for us through the tougher parts of life, and we are all better people for it. I saw a comment on Facebook this morning from an old college friend to another close friend that I found particular poignant - "In general I don't like Mother's Day. It is an unnecessary holiday if we love and value the relationship. But once our mom is gone it is a reminder to recollect and celebrate times past, much like observing saints days. Happy Doris and Daphne day to you." I really like this - thanks, Cheryl.

Musing 3: And then there are those who lose their moms way too soon. I see this with some of my students. Some fare better than others, with great step-moms or surrogate moms. Some find themselves toughing it out in foster care, or with relatives who aren't as supportive as one might hope. I don't always know the details of their stories, but everyday I see the results. I also see the detritus of kids with great, though imperfect, moms - who love them passionately, even if imperfectly at times. I worry about them, because they get angry with their mom's imperfections and lose precious and special moments with their moms during those angry times that they shut them out. Someday, when they are 52 and their mom is gone or aging to the point they aren't quite "the same," they will regret those lost moments and memories. Or worse, the unexpected will happen, and they will lose their mom way too soon, and they will find out too late that they can never get those lost minutes back. I was reminded of that when I read the Facebook posting of one of my strong, smart students on Wednesday: "I want my mom. I want her to come see me sing tomorrow night, and I want to give her flowers on Sunday, and I want her to see me pass junior year. I just want those simple moments. Nothing fancy, just the little things." She gets it. And I'm sad for the kids whose moms are still around who don't.

Musing 4:  My mom and I have never had one of those "warm, fuzzy" touchy-feely relationships. I suppose there have been times in my life where I wish we had.  But, we have always been close, and we have always had the ability to communicate - good or bad, happy or sad. There has never been any doubt in my mind that she loves, and has loved, me to the very best of her ability to love. We are both imperfect humans, and we have both disappointed each other at times, but I don't think either of us has ever doubted that we were there for one another. That's the love part, friends. Happy Nancy Day.

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