This past Mother’s Day presented more than the usual number of challenges. It has always been fraught with the uncomfortable reminders of loss, regrets and sadness beyond belief. It often brings anxiety and expectation as well. This year, a new dimension was added—isolation. Those who wanted to be moms, those who lost children, those who have been estranged from their moms or have felt like failures, all have this “in your face” day and this year they faced it alone.
The additional distance was stressful, even for the most solid of relationships. The greeting cards may have brought comfort, but whatever Hallmark was selling, a lot of people weren’t buying it. Brunches were replaced by Facetime, flowers came in virtual holograms, greetings were Zoomed, called, or text-messaged.
Raising three sons was the best and most challenging job I ever had. I studied for it. I read the books, took the classes, asked the questions to the wise and experienced parents who came before. I took notes, memorized terms, and worked at it, determined to be good at it.
I know now how ridiculous all that preparation was. No matter how much you prepare, no one is ever truly ready. When a new human being arrives, all bets are off. They not only don’t come with instructions, they bring their own playbook, written in a code, not to be deciphered by anyone else. Each comes with his or her own wiring so that no amount of training equips the parent with ability to reprogram many of the circuits.
Sleeping patterns, eating habits, allergies, skills, creative and intellectual development all are as unique as snowflakes. We do our best. We offer what we can. We provide the experiences, education, nutrition and safety as best we can. And we love them so fiercely we think nothing will ever harm them. Until it does.
We all try. We think screening gory fairy tales or MTV or graphic war movies will protect them. Then one day they are living the horrors of a fairy tale or a war. We teach them political correctness, kindness, and justice and then they see their own leaders going against civility, the law and common sense.
The opportunity to model behavior is always there, but we know even our own examples can fall short on occasion. Try as we might to be chill, pancake syrup on our slacks just before walking out the door can be cause for less than exemplary behavior.
It seems to me that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are every day. Once you have another human being you are responsible for, there are no days off. At the end of the day, your evening is baths, stories and bedtime—which can take hours. Just when we think we are home free, curfews become an issue.
The part I didn’t expect, was that it would never end. The routines change. You may no longer be charged with bath and bedtime, but the responsibilities of teens, the uncertainties of young adults and then full-grown people out in the big world can be just as weighty. The ever presence of their needs and feelings are there forever.
During this stressful time for all families, the worry switches to grown children and their children seamlessly. Their homeschooling, their need for toilet paper and hand sanitizer and one more activity before bed becomes our concern. Their joblessness, uncertainty and exhaustion are ours too. That’s what it means to be a mom or dad or loving uncle, aunt, or even neighbor.
Mother’s Day isn’t just for mother’s anymore. We need all the help we can get and we want to celebrate anyone who offers a helping hand or caring heart. That goes for children and parents alike.
Kay Stellpflug is an educator and trainer in interpersonal and professional communications. She works and lives in Beaver Dam and can be reached at email@example.com.
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