Sunday, 13 May 2018

The Cranky Crow Squawks on Mother's Day

It was a busy week, but I did intend to write a blog yesterday. Unfortunately, the crow was unusually uncooperative and cranky.

“I suppose it’s going to be a warm and fuzzy Mother’s Day blog,” she muttered petulantly.

“And what’s wrong with that?” I asked.

“Don’t bother,” said the crow. “Everybody already knows what you will say. You’ll tell everyone how much you loved your mom and all the mother-figures in your life."

Embro, 1954

"You’ll say how wonderful motherhood is – how it added colour and sparkle to your days," the crow continues. "You’ll add a little tear-jerker vignette about the time your kids brought you breakfast in bed. How you wish you could go back to those days."

Devon, Christmas 1978

"Just don’t bother," warns my inner crow, "because everyone else is already writing those blogs or articles in the newspaper. Go have a beer in the garden and enjoy the flowers instead. Don’t waste my time.”

When the crow speaks, I’ve learned to listen. I went out to the garden and enjoyed the beer and the flowers – and then felt guilty because I hadn’t written a blog praising all the women in my life. Because guilt is what mothers do best. 

This morning the crow prodded me some more. She said, “If you’re really going to write a blog, tell the truth.” Ay-yay-yay. Really?

The truth is, Mother’s day makes ME cranky. It bugs me that commercial interests have taken it over. It bugs me that advertisers are dictating to us what the perfect mother’s day looks like, and how the best mothers behave. It bugs me when I read wonderful flowery tributes to the perfect super-mom. It's all about hearts and flowers and butterflies.

I’m cranky because Mother’s Day makes me feel inadequate. The truth is, when they plunked that bundle of new life into my arms, I did not feel an instant gush of mother-love. It took me weeks to bond with that baby (but he turned out great, anyway.) The truth is, when older women saw me mothering my troupe at the playground and told me to enjoy it while it lasts because these are the best times in your life, I wanted to scream. Really? These are the best days? Please don’t tell me that. Tell me it gets better. (It did! And those kids survived and thrived in spite of me.)

The truth is, there were days when I parked myself on the sofa with a novel and put my children on hold, with only one ear cocked to listen for sounds of distress. (Actually, the kids cooperated beautifully – maybe they didn’t want mom hovering over them all the time.) The truth is, I shoved my kids out the door to do their afternoon paper route instead of going with them to help them. The truth is, I was sometimes to tough on them. The truth is, sometimes – well, more than sometimes – I lost my temper and did things that embarrass me now, like packing up their coats and boots that were littering the back hall into a plastic garbage bag and making them pay to get them back. That’ll teach them to hang things up, I thought grimly. Really? I did that? Yes. Like I said, embarrassing behaviour.

Yes, I’m cranky because Mother’s Day makes me feel inadequate. The truth is, I was a fair to middling mom, like almost everyone else I know. As my friend told me recently, we did the best with the choices we had. We muddled through with the skills we had, we made mistakes, and yet, in spite of all that, the kids are all right. And I am so glad that I am their mother; I'm intensely proud of them all.

And now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I want to say something about Mother’s Day that’s really, really important. There is no substitute for mothering love; it shapes who we are and how we view ourselves. The thing is, it comes in so many shapes and varieties. I have had, and still do have, the most amazing people in my life who fulfilled, and still provide, a mothering role, and they include both women and men. My mom and Oma shared their unconditional love and made me feel incredibly valued; my aunts and uncles have been there forever with their kindness, concern and inspiration. My sisters are always there to pick me up when I fall down, and my children and their spouses know just when to give me the hugs I crave and words of wisdom that leave me in awe. My best man, the resident sweetie, lets me cry on his shoulder without feeling like he has to fix me, and listens to my grumbles. Occasionally, he even sets me straight when I need it. My friends, both single and married, both mothers and not, both men and women, listen and laugh, and tell me the truth about myself, with love, of course. Mentors have brought out the best in me and opened up my heart to new adventures. And even the stern church ladies and elders of my youth have had their role in teaching me the value of hard work and practical acts of kindness. Surrounding all that, there’s Creator God, who delights and encourages me in my struggles to become all that I’m meant to be. These are all forms of mothering love, and perhaps on Mother’s Day we need to honour these forms, too. After all, it takes a village to raise a child.

It comforts me to know that I do not have to be the perfect mother to my children, the perfect grandmother to my grandies, because they too have people in their lives to fulfill the mothering roles that are so vitally important to our emotional health. Not all of them are mothers, either.

As I’ve been writing this down, the cranky crow has settled down. Her feathers are no longer ruffled, and she’s tucked her head under her wing for a rest. Like a mother, she knows her job is done – until the next time. Thanks, Crow.

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