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Here Comes Mother’s Day

May 8, 2013

Well, Mother’s Day is coming.  For some it will be a great day.  For others it will be a day they are glad when it is over.  I was reminded of this by two communications I received some time ago on the subject.

The first was in writing, from a woman who is a dear friend and an excellent and happy mother.  Her letter, written to a number of people, contained the following line:  “A mother’s love for her child is the greatest of all human loves.”  She went on to extol the virtues of mothers and to urge us all to honor our mothers.

The second was verbal, and came from a man in his 30s who was buying a Mother’s Day card.  He looked sad, even angry, as he bought it.  As I spoke to him he told me of his mother, whom he resented greatly.  He said that when he was nine his mother, in a divorce settlement, gave up all custody rights to him in exchange for a cash settlement from his father.  His concluding line went like this:  “My mother sold me and yet I am supposed to send her a card every year.”  Wow.

How do we reconcile those two views?  We can’t.  The truth is that while some mothers are great mothers, others are exactly the opposite.  All mothers, like the rest of us, are fallen and fallible with strengths and weaknesses.  When given in a public setting, the call to “Have a happy Mother’s Day.” will be heard by dozens of fine mothers and dozens of children who regard their mothers with love and gratitude.  But it will also be heard by mothers whose children ignore them, children with painful memories of their mothers, childless women, and people all across the spectrum of life.

How does a person of grace respond in such a setting?  Every situation is different but here are a few ideas to consider:

  • We must allow others to celebrate and remember, even if we don’t share their situation.  Mother’s Day expresses an ideal, not a picture of every mother everywhere.  If a person can’t mark this day with joy it does not give them the right to “rain on the parade.”
  • We need to be careful about using one-size-fits-all overstatements such as the one from the dear mother above.  As Mother’s Day progresses in our culture I’ve been struck by the portraits of mothers in greeting cards and the like.  Frankly, nobody can live up to the idealized standards that are being held out as “perfect mothers.”  It is hard enough to be a mom without having to live up to impossible standards.  Idealized statements do a disservice to fine mothers who are doing the best they can.
  • Churches, why not eliminate having all the mothers stand up during the service?  It creates an impression of a two-class situation.  Real women stand, empty shells have to sit.  You can celebrate some without shaming the others.  All women, and for that matter all men, have equal value in the eyes of God.
  • It’s a great time to reach out in love and consideration to someone we know who might find the day to be an emotional struggle for one reason or another.
  • It is also a good time to understand what writer Amy Young calls The Wide Spectrum of Mothering.  It is a good commentary on the “one size fits all” theory of motherhood.
  • It’s a good day to reflect on our own selves.  How am I, male or female, parent or child, doing in this area?  Do I need to strengthen/repair any relationships?  How does what I say and do to the mothers in my life on this day match the rest of the year?

That last point speaks to me the most.  In many ways, I think the day after Mother’s Day is very telling.  Do we just fall back into old patterns, having “done our duty” to our mothers?  Or do we want this to mark the start of a year in which we value and honor our mothers in a new and special way?

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From → Christianity

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