It is human nature to wish that Mother’s Day will be a wonderful day of gratitude and blessing for every mother and every son and daughter. Surely for most, it is that kind of day.
But the reality is that not every mother handles the responsibility as a sacred calling. Likely just about everyone can name a mother who is or was an outright failure as a parent. And the historical record is replete with sons and daughters who did the kind of things or were the kind of people who shamed their mothers.
Some children lament that their mothers failed them and generally made their lives miserable because they did not encourage their offspring, did not offer a good example for them, beat them down physically or emotionally, did not support or protect them or failed in other ways.
Many a child has broken the heart of a mother who certainly did all the right things as a parent, but whose child or children hurt — not honored — her.
We easily understand why Mother’s Day is not a day of gratitude and joy for everyone. For many of them, some of the memories — or current realities — are almost too hard to bear.
Yet it is important to have a day when most mothers can be elevated as women who made a positive difference in the lives of their children, even as we understand the difficulty of the holiday for many. Mothers should be prayed for and honored every day, of course.
Motherhood is not always easy. That is because every person — among both mothers and children — has a variety of influences in life that sometimes stretch this maternal bond to the breaking point.
Many of us who are sons and daughters recognize we really tested our moms even before we recognized that they were — or are — not perfect themselves. Falling short, at least occasionally, is a human condition that affects all of us, even though we were created in God’s image. Throughout life, we recognize this as fact but seek to do the best we can.
I am the first of my mother’s four children and was born shortly after Mom turned 20. I know that my siblings and I disappointed Mother from time to time. When we were younger, she sometimes pointed out our failures. And, once identified, some of those transgressions earned what Mom and Dad regarded as appropriate verbal and/or corporal punishment to help us as we grew into responsible young people and adults.
“This is for your own good,” each would say before they administered parental justice. As a parent, I have done the same thing.
Conversely, our parents sometimes made mistakes in this realm of mothering and fathering, just as I have. From time to time, my siblings and I registered our complaints when what we perceived as parental foibles affected us personally.
Our mother has gone through some sobering life experiences that her children have not yet experienced, and each of us has lived through some difficult experiences that Mother has been spared.
Mom was widowed back in 1988, nearly 27 years ago, and she has suffered for more than 17 years with a debilitating illness. Her children, all four of us in our 50s and 60s now, have lived through our own challenges and crises. Some have been devastating. In that regard, we’re just an average family.
Mom has done what every mother should do when disappointment or heartache comes to her kids. She understands what each of us might be feeling at the time, communicates her concern and tries to help. In her own way, she shares our burdens. Every person should have a mother like that. And we do.
I am thankful that my mother willingly carried four children to term and proudly took on the responsibility of motherhood. It was a voluntary commitment — not a small commitment. Women who choose to do this do so at some risk to their own health and experience significant changes in their lives as a result. That’s no secret; it comes with the territory.
Mothers who strive hard to live up to the challenges of ideal motherhood deserve praise, appreciation and adoration whether they give birth themselves or made the wonderful choice to be a mother by adoption. Mothers who choose to grant all the blessings of motherhood on children they did not birth are unique blessings to their own families and quite often to the birth parents and birth families of the children they adopt.
Good mothers step into the gap in all sorts of circumstances, motivated by love and motherly care. In time, they often become grandmothers and, I have observed, let go of some of the rigidity they might have practiced as parents.
At their best, mothers who are grandmothers try not to interfere with their children as they themselves try to raise the next generation. They watch with pride (and sometimes with amusement) as their sons and daughters persevere and strive to survive parenting in times no less stressful than previous generations.
One of the best things a Christian mother can do is to model faithful living for her family. And mothers who are not yet what they should be can use Mother’s Day to make a commitment to their children to improve. There is still time.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms. God bless you.
Bill Webb is editor of Word & Way.