Tuesday, July 19, 2022

M is for Motherhood

 June 30 marked five years since my mom lost her battle with cancer. I hear people who've lost loved ones say they miss them every day and, while there's truth to that sentiment, it doesn't come close to describing the shape and flow of the actual feelings. 

Not that there's any good way to describe such a loss. 

There are so many things about life and motherhood that I understand because of my mom. The most obvious is the kind of mother I want to be. It wasn't something I could fully describe and, even though there was much I wanted to emulate, it was definitely disconcerting when I heard her words come out of my mouth. 

My mom taught me about big things, like loyalty (Do/say what you will about me, but don't mess with my husband or my kids) and less significant things like shopping (On sale. Always).

I've been thinking about my mom a lot lately, and missing the phone calls I took for granted for so long. I've been wanting to talk to her about mothering a child who's no longer a child. About supporting the independence you raised your child to value and express when you want to call her every hour to make sure she's okay. About how long it took to adjust to the idea that your home and her home are no longer the same place. 

About how long a period of mourning is appropriate before you take over her bedroom closet. 

And about how I hope it's a few months after she signs the lease on her first apartment because I moved clothes into my daughter's closet yesterday afternoon (with her blessing, I might add).

As an adult, I was lucky to have a friendship with my mom, something I believe I've emulated with my own daughter. And I remember my mother saying how wonderful it was to have raised people she enjoyed being with as adults, something that is definitely true with my daughter.

Not all mothers do the job in the same way. Some are overbearing, some are distant. Some are cooks and crafters and gardeners and some would rather do shows, write books, and talk about psychology. 

La_Petite_Femme via Pixabay
But, in nearly every instance, mothering is a job that shapes both parent and child, leaving its traces on both hearts and souls even after mother and child no longer live under the same roof and, indeed, after one no longer inhabits this earth. It develops slowly through family dinners and vacations, gab sessions at Starbucks and texting across oceans, and inhabiting the same space, but doing different things. 

Mothering teaches us about ourselves, coaxing out strengths we didn't know we had and leaving us in awe as our children exhibit talents that seem to have emerged from thin air. They learn and we learn, we love and they love, and the tapestry of a life is created. 

It's exhausting, fulfilling, exhilarating, heartbreaking and the thing that makes us smile through tears. No matter what we do, we wonder if we've done enough, if perhaps we could have done it better, and if we've taught them all they need to know as they pack that suitcase, emptying out the closet that will, one day sooner than we think, be used for something else. 

And, at the end of it all, the love we began with is multiplied beyond anything we ever could have expected. 

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