Three sons left home, went out on their own and prospered. Getting back together, they discussed the gifts they were able to give their elderly mother.
The first said, “I built a big house for our mother.”
The second said,” I sent her a Mercedes with a driver.”
The third smiled and said, “I’ve got you, both beat. You know how Mom enjoys the Bible and you know she can’t see very well. I sent her a parrot that can recite the entire Bible. It took 20 monks in a monastery 12 years to teach him. I had to pledge to contribute $100,000.00 a year for 10 years, but it was worth it. Mom just has to name the chapter and verse and the parrot will recite it.”
Soon thereafter, Mom sent out her letters of thanks: “Milton,” she wrote the first son, “The house you built is so huge. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house.”
“Marvin,” she wrote to another, “I am too old to travel. I stay home all the time, so I never use the Mercedes. And the driver is so rude!”
“Dearest Melvin,” she wrote to her third son, “You were the only son to have the good sense to know what your mother likes. That chicken was delicious.”
Have you noticed getting it right on Mother’s Day is one of the most challenging tricks in the whole human relationship bag?
Maybe that’s because Mother’s Day is the most mixed-bag holiday of them all. On social media Mother’s Day is the happiest, tear jerking-est, most sentimental celebration and day of mourning all wrapped up together. The happy pictures of mothers and children hugging and smiling together, the posted cell phone pictures of springy bouquets and shiny gifts of jewelry spelling MOM or displaying kids’ birthstones, run right alongside messages to mothers in heaven and stony silences that cover a world of relational pain. No other holiday yanks us around with the emotional power of Mother’s Day.
So here are some “Mom thoughts” that reflect what I believe about mothers and their children.
First: We gave our mothers more joy than we will ever know.
We were precious to her and whatever else she had to deal with in life, we made it all worth it. Trust me on this. I’m a mom. I know.
For nine months while she carried you under her ribs you were a source of awe and wonder to her. What would this child look like? What kind of a person would emerge? The very idea of you growing under her heart was awesome.
And when you grew . . . your smile was the best, your jokes the funniest, your triumphs the most important. To a mother a child is nearly everything in life.
Whatever has been lost in translation through the years that truth remains.
Second: We gave our mothers more pain than we will ever know.
When you have a mom, you never suffer alone. Your struggles are her struggles. She is linked to you for better or worse. The consequences of poor choices, the agony of defeats, the suffering of trials, the heart-wrenching problems you experience all flow from your life to hers. On some level, we all broke our mom’s hearts. When she could no longer shelter us, when we had to grow up, when the downside of life slammed into us, she felt it – big time. We bled and she cried. One of the best gifts some mothers could receive is a simple recognition of how we have impacted her emotionally along with a simple “I’m sorry, Mom.” or “Thank you for being there for me.”
Third: Death can’t break the mother/child attachment.
Strange thing . . . even though my mother has been gone for over 30 years, I understand her better now than when I was young and she was living. I appreciate more. I recognize her role in my formation more. I remember her with gratitude and joy and less mourning every year. Our mothers have a hold on us that lasts for our lifetimes.
So, with those mom truths in mind . . . what gifts could reflect this most intimate of human relationships?
The gift of presence
My seven-year old grandson, Rowan, announced to me that he always wants to live with his mother because he loves her so much! I hope when he grows up he remembers that a part of his mother is always lonely without him. Call. Write. Show up.
The Gift of allowing for her humanness
Mothers are far from perfect. They irritate and wound us. Is it possible though that our love could cover a multitude of sins, imperfections and disappointments? Unless she is toxic (and in which case I recognize you may need a pass to deal with her) the answer is yes. It is a fortunate mom whose adult children know how to forgive, accept and still love.
The Gift of rising up and calling her blessed
A growing number of scholars believe that the command to honor one’s parents was not directed toward young children, but adult children for the purpose of caring for their aging family members.
What is being commanded when we are told to honor? Honoring parents is not an attitude only. It is demonstrated through positive action: meeting their needs, listening to their advice, recognizing their worth, and doing so in all sorts of ways large and small.
I witnessed this so beautifully when I attended a breakfast to honor the parents of kids graduating from high school in Bangladesh. Each child had written a page to thank their parents for their care, love and support. Each kid read it publicly. It was powerful. A man next to me wept out loud and I thought he must really love his child and then I realized it wasn’t even his kid who was reading those meaningful words!
Why was this so impressive?
It was public.
It was a long-time coming. Sixteen or seventeen years!
It was expressed in the throes of teenage relationship stress with parents.
It’s Mother’s Day. I just thought your mom might like you to know what she’s really thinking.