I really don't love Mother's Day.
I've been trying to figure out how to acknowledge this day without being negative, but I'm not sure that's possible. I just don't love it at all. I don't love the expectations. I don't love the talks in church. I don't love the inadequacy and the pressure I feel.
I love being a mother every other day of the year...except this one.
My mom and I weren't very close when I was growing up, and I maintained a sort of respectful distance from her most of my life. She was a great, great woman, but so unattainable and such a mystery to me. I don't know if we would have become closer or more understanding of each other as we aged because we didn't get to age together. She died in 2008 when I was 38 years old. And I knew nothing then about relationships or being understanding or seeing the good in people.
I remember sitting in church every Mother's Day as a child and listening to sermons on the compassion of mothers, the tenderness of mothers, and the blessings that our mothers bring to our lives. And I knew in my head, even when I was little, that there was something incongruent about what those people believed about mothers and who my mother actually was. My mother was strong and powerful. She was stoic and hard working. She knew how to pull herself out of the mire without assistance. She could move masses of people. She had no tolerance for weakness, vulnerability, or tears. She was neither compassionate nor tender. She didn't believe in being "friends" with her children. She did not apologize or cry. She was guarded and suspicious of people. I learned many. many things from her and I am eternally grateful for the sacrifices she and my dad made to adopt me. But I didn't then, nor do I now, gush with overflowing feelings of tenderness and love when I talk about my mother. Most days I wish I could dig deeper into my heart to find those feelings.
When I became a mother in my mid 20s, nothing about my new job was innate. I didn't instinctively know how to kiss a boo boo, give a compliment, or nurse a baby. I didn't have years of deeply rooted family traditions to pass down. I didn't have parenting plans for my children's future. What I knew was how to organize stuff, keep people safe, and make dinner. The rest, I made up as I went along. Fortunately for me, I was blessed with children who weren't rebellious, demanding, or adventurous as babies.
Along the way, I have figured out how to use my small handful of gifts to benefit my family, and that is a very good thing. But not one of those gifts includes the "refining of little spirits" or "being an example of faith and righteousness." I am not an "angel mother." I do not have a soft spoken, faithful demeanor that makes my home a "holy place to live." I have not shown anyone how to "love unconditionally." I actually cringe when I read those things or hear them in talks because they are attributes of a group of women in some mothering club that I definitely don't qualify to belong to.
This morning, some very well meaning teenagers and a very nice man gave talks in church about the virtues of motherhood. The primary children sang three lovely songs about mothers. I tried so hard to stay in my seat during those songs and see the sweet faces of those kids. And I tried to hear what those teenagers MEANT to say in their talks and not what they actually said. And then the kindest man in our ward started speaking about the righteousness of mothers and how we refine our children like little pieces of coal, or something like that... When he started listing the characteristics of mothers...faithful, divine, righteous, charitable, virtuous, selfless...I couldn't stand it anymore and went to hide out in one of the bathrooms. I am not all of those things. I fight every single day to try to be, but even with great effort and a lot of prayer, I don't even come close.
Do you know who is all of those things in my home? Craig. He is the one who is selfless and kind, faithful and righteous, patient and compassionate, unconditional and unflappable. I mostly just try to follow his lead and keep up with him. I'm grateful for his example, and for kids who love me despite all of my flaws. Those five people have taught me more than I could ever teach them. I'm grateful for a smelly diaper pail and uncomfortably warm temperatures in that bathroom that made it impossible for me to hide out in there for long. I'm grateful for all those wonderful teenagers in my Sunday School class who seemed genuinely happy to see me when I finally wandered into class. And I'm really grateful that we had cake BEFORE dinner tonight. The day got a lot better after I left the bathroom.
I think I might just stay home from church next year and enjoy a quiet Mother's Day in my jammies...with the cake.