As children, we see our mothers through rose-coloured lenses. They’re that wonderful combination of softness and warmth combined with wisdom and a steely strength. They’re the ones who whisper endearments to us in the middle of the night to ward off night terrors or patch up scraped knees and elbows with ease or remove a splinter or two with the expertise of a surgeon. They somehow anticipate every one of our needs and seem to have an answer for every question. By far, they are our greatest teachers as well as our greatest advocates.
As children grow, mothers become our confidants, providing advice and guidance through the often-murky waters known as adolescence. During these tumultuous years, they can always be counted on to have our backs. Even when many teenagers invariably end up chafing at the maternal bond in their quest for independence, they know a mother’s commitment is always there, steadfast and unwavering. After all, mothers are in it for the long haul.
It is this selfless devotion of motherhood that is so admirable. Maybe it’s simply hard-wired into us through evolution in order to ensure the survival of our species, or maybe it’s the fact that we have far fewer offspring these days so we must invest heavily in them, but I tend to see it that children are an extension of ourselves. They are by far the greatest thing we will do in this life.
Certainly, mothers aren’t in it for the thanks we get, that’s for sure. Most of us are lucky if we get a quick hug on the fly or a “thanks, mom” tossed over the shoulder. But that’s okay. None of us are in it for the adulation. Our reward comes years later when our children turn to us in their hour of need or share the joys of their own children with us. Being included and invited into their adult lives is the best reward.
It’s not until we make that journey into parenthood ourselves that we can truly understand and appreciate our mothers. This hit home with me when I was shopping for a Mother’s Day card for my own mother a number of years ago. At first, I was engrossed in my own search for the perfect card—not one with any cheesy sentiment, or a lame sing-song rhyme or the inadequate one-liner, but something special, something heartfelt.
After several minutes, I gradually became aware of a middle-aged couple standing beside me who were also on the same quest. The wife kept showing her husband different cards, but he rebuffed each one with a sarcastic or critical remark or a dismissive wave of the hand. Finally, he found one of his own choosing and headed up to the cashier. As the woman replaced the card she had been holding, she gave me a sad smile and said quietly, “I wish I still had a mom to buy a card for.”
My heart went out to her and I smiled back in sympathy, but I really had no true appreciation of her comment until my own mother passed away on the day after Mother’s Day in 2017.
Now I am left to contemplate all the things I wish I’d said to her, the truly important things like I’m sorry I caused you sorrow as a result some of my choices, and thank you for always putting your children first and supporting me during the darkest times in my life. I wish I had told her of the esteem in which I held her quiet, gentle nature, how she never had an unkind word for anyone, how much I wished I could be more like her.
In hindsight, I realize I never got the chance to ask her things such: as did she have any regrets? Was there a pivotal moment in her life? Was there anything she would have done differently? Those sorts of questions that a daughter doesn’t think to ask her mother, except when it’s too late. What I wouldn’t give for just one precious hour together with my mother, to sit down with her and hold her hand and ask her all these things—to get to know her as a person, not just as my mother.
In thinking about the definition of motherhood, I naturally call to mind my own mother—someone who loves you unconditionally, would bear any burden for you, and would go to the ends of the earth for your happiness.