Sunday, May 13, 2007

Reflections on Motherhood

I think I’ve told this story before, but because it’s Mother’s Day I’m going to tell it again.

When I was a teenager, being my mom wasn’t the easiest job in the world. For a variety of reasons I was rebellious, self-centered and all of those horrible things that make parenting teens such a heartbreaking job. From the age of about 14, until about 17 I made my own mom secretly wish she had opted to raise dogs, instead of kids. (I think she actually said that once).

Fast forwarding the clock about 5 years and there I was: 22 years old, married with two little girls of my own.

One day, my angelic little Caryn (she was about 4 at the time) was being especially naughty and refusing to do anything she was told. After several hours of this I finally spanked her and sent her to bed for the afternoon. Highly exasperated, I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down to watch an afternoon talk show. The topic was child abuse, and the show had on as guests, some children that had been so extremely abused at the hands of their parents, that they were physically scarred for life. I’ll never forget the one little girl who had been so horribly abused and neglected, she was unable to walk, sit up or even feed or dress herself. When she was little, she was a normal, healthy child, but by the time she was 12 years old, she weighed about 40 pounds, and was still the same size as a 5 year old. She had to be carried or pushed in a wheelchair, to get around. The doctors said she would never physically recover from her years of abuse and neglect.

I sat there watching this little girl, with tears streaming down my face. When the show’s host talked to her, she smiled and her eyes lit up – she had the prettiest little face, and would be forever locked in a broken and unworkable body. She was like this directly due to the brutal hands of her parents.

Well, I couldn’t take any more of it so I got up and turned off the tv. Just then I heard Caryn still crying in her room. She certainly had been naughty and deserved her spanking, but now my heart just melted so I went in to check on her. She never cried for more than a minute or so after she’d been spanked, so this was unusual for her. I went in and sat down on her bed, and she just looked at me and said “mommy, you hurt me”. That was it, I was undone. I picked her up and held her as tight as I could and told her how much I loved her and bawled my eyes out right along with her.

The rest of the day was a pins and needles sort of emotional day for me, as I continued to think about that little girl on tv, my own little girls, and then eventually my thoughts turned to my own mother and motherhood in general. More than anything else in the world, I wanted to be a good mother and raise my girls right. I wasn’t a Christian at the time, but I prayed all the same that God would show me the right way, and help me. It’s sort of interesting to note that I prayed that way all the time as a “cultural Christian” and finally one day about 7 years later, He did exactly that when He brought me to repentance and faith in Christ.

That day though when Caryn was little, something changed in me. On a very deep level, something in my understanding about motherhood changed radically, and somehow I knew that it was (and is) the most important thing I will ever do in my life.

Of course I considered my own mother and how she raised me, and how I rebelled so horribly in my latter teen years. That night as I thought about that, a fresh wave of tears rolled down my cheeks and the only thing I could ask myself was “why did I do that?” There never really was a good answer, so I did the next best thing I could think of to do, and wrote my mom a (handwritten) 22 page letter, telling her just how sorry I was for being such a difficult child, and thanking her for never giving up on me. I cried so much writing that, that I’m not even sure most of made sense, but I sent it anyway. It wasn’t so much that I wanted her to know how much I appreciated her as my mother, it’s that I needed her to know it, to understand that even though I didn’t show it at the time, she did do a good job of raising me. Being a mother myself, I knew that she needed to know this.

That all happened 20 years ago. That little girl that I spanked that day is now older than I was, when I wrote that letter. She sent me a beautiful basket of flowers/plants yesterday, and this is what the card attached, says:

from my humble daughter

Apparently, I did something right. (You'll notice how humble she is, by the way she described herself on this card)

Twenty years later with 7 kids and one beautiful grand-daughter, and you’d think I would have learned so much by now I could train younger moms in all the best ways of parenting. You’d be wrong, since I’m not even close to being the best mom in the world yet, but I’m still trying, and still learning every single day.

I know one thing for sure. Every passing year that I spend in the role of mother (24 years now, and I still haven’t received a raise!) I appreciate my own Mother more and more. I wish I was at home with her this Mother’s Day, but since I’m not: Mom, this is for you.

for my mommy!

I love you Mom! Happy Mother's Day