…on mothering and “daughtering”

img_9659Adding the letters i, n, and g to all kinds of nouns has got to drive the people who make a living “teachering” all kinds of crazy.  I, for one, embrace language enhancements of all sorts.  If you have read any of my other posts, you’ll find made up words and made-over phrases because, sometimes, the proper wording just doesn’t properly convey meaning.  And today, of all days, conveying meaning is the point.  Today is Mother’s Day, the day my reasons became my reasoning for all of the “ing’s”.

The first “ing” turned expect into expecting.  Becoming a mother was more than an expectation of me… it was an underlying knowing that I would simply be one and so the question was never “if” it was merely when.  As expected, I graduated college, got a job, got married and then had 3 great kids.  And when I found myself unexpectedly expecting, again, at the age of 44, when my first three were 17, 14 and 11, I knew that plans had nothing to do with planning.  Plans defied planning, once more, when grounding myself in my love for my children became grounds for mothering on my own.

The process of becoming a single mother after a 26 year marriage was a blur of legal and logistical and relational obstacles that began blurring the roles that I had always carried.  My adult children began filling in the gaps with their younger sister when I needed a break.  They assured me of their love with their presence and consistence and gave me space to grow and change.  They honored who I was and who I was becoming.  Their caring for me became the care that I needed to give birth to a new life that was mine.  Somehow I had mothered my son and daughters in a way that the mothering came back when I needed it most. My children had learned the “ing” that turns love into loving.

Mothering mostly comes down to doing what you need to do and one thing I didn’t do very well through this process was be a daughter.  A wise friend once told me that a mother can only be as happy as her saddest child and so while my focus was on my children, my mother’s focus was on me.  I needed to move through this and figure things out for myself and I was so grateful for her support and listening ear.  But I pushed back when she pushed too far.  The push that brings a child into your life is just the first pain, among many pains, you will willingly bear in pushing your child into their own lives.  Our job is to make them not need us but when they are needing help it is natural to pull them close, hoping to close the wounds simply by closing the distance.  But letting a little distance between our hands teaches them to stand on their own.  A little distance when they are playing or learning or leaving teaches them that you have faith in them.  The faith that what was once umbilical becomes an umbrella that you pray will shelter them as they walk through life’s storms because just like the storms, a mother’s protective instincts will always come.

My mother came when I needed her.  She also came whether I wanted her to or not and img_9658that was hard for me.  Because when I was hurting, the last thing I wanted to worry about is whether I was hurting her.  But, how do you recognize when you need daughtering when your entire adult life has been about being strong and independent?  She mothered me into strength and independence and at that moment it was her response as a mother that made me feel anything but.  But now I see something differently.  Now that there is some distance between those moments and these moments I see that she wasn’t needing me to be the daughter.  She needed me to be the mother she taught me to be.

The one who soothes the hurt by seeing the one who is hurting.  The one who connects and corrects with a look or a touch.  The one who knows it doesn’t matter who is holding the handle of the umbrella as long as the other hand is free to be held.  She needed to see that my pulling myself through this situation was not pushing her away.  I did not need to hold her hand to walk on my own but I forgot that maybe she needed to hold mine.

juneI come from a long line of strong women.  The photo here is my mother’s mother and the strength of her love is present in our lives even though she left us when I was just 8 years old.  Her way-to-soon death means that my mother hasn’t been mothered for 47 years.  Yes, the gap has been filled by a step mother and my mother’s aunts and friends but I can’t imagine how hard it has been for her to mother without her own mother.  And more than that, right now, to ask for what she needs, even if it means she has to stop mothering and daughter, a little.  We shouldn’t care what the nouns are that are attached to the ing’s when it comes to caring and loving and living.  Mothers and daughters share rocky relationships but the woman who created boat rocking waves during my childhood became baby rocking ripples of influence and support.

Let me mother you, mother.  When it comes time, drying your tears and calming your fears means that my love is just loving you, well, like you.  Until then it will take forgiving each other in a seemingly unforgivable world, blurring the roles of who is mothering and who is daughtering with the only reasoning being unreasonable love.  Because even if mothers go away, the mothering comes back, on the days, like today that we can always expect and hopefully, faithfully,  in all the ways we weren’t expecting.