You’ve felt it coming for a few weeks, I would imagine. It starts with a slight annoying tug that you don’t always recognize, and then maybe a commercial or sign catches your eye. Advertisers lunge to take advantage of this time of year to sell anything and everything they can imagine to those who wander the aisles looking, just looking for something that fits. The card aisle is littered with cards for Mother, Mom, Mommy, Stepmother, Mom in Law, and on and on. You look up above the cards to see a sign with a woman laughing and cuddling her daughter, their matching angelic curls backlit as the child hands over a daffodil and the mom’s eyes shine with the knowledge of being recognized. The card company helpfully separates their cards into humorous or serious, cartoons or flowers, but no matter how hard you look, you can’t find the sign that shows where the “it’s complicated” cards are.
Mother’s Day. Pause for a second to imagine me giving you a gentle hug.
Precious friend, I don’t take it lightly. I know how awkward it is for you, this day with sentimental videos in churches and restaurants full of moms with homemade pasta necklaces on. I know it’s a struggle with knowing what to say, either to your mom or to others about your mom. I mean, IS there a card to describe that combination of hurt and anger, confusion and yet still desire for a relationship? Is there a card that can speak of distance and coldness, shielded hearts and long distances? Where is the card that simply asks “Why?”
I would never hurt you more by suggesting that I understand or can fix your pain. Sadly, our society has come to a place where absent or hurtful fathers are viewed as unsurprising yet we often forget those who have been hurt by their mothers. We cling to the romanticized version of the selfless woman who bakes and gives pithy advice at the right time. Yet I know for some of you, your memories are…complicated. I also know the word complicated is the word you use because the true words you think are too painful to speak. So you bravely face this day, vacillating between avoiding thinking about it, and trying not to cry because your relationship with your mom was or is, not at all what you ever wanted it to be.
Can I talk to you, wearing my mom hat? Know that this hat is crooked and bent, probably from me throwing it at a wall. The halo that society wants to put on my head is dull and has a few dents, but not near as many dents as I have put into my children’s hearts over the years. I speak, not as that video mom, but as one who has sat up sickened and heartbroken over my mistakes.
I can’t tell you that your mom loves you. Oh darling friend, I wish I could give you that reassurance. But I just don’t know. But here’s what I do know- it is not your fault. Hear these words- IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. For you who struggle with being hurt, know that your mom has struggles and pain that has nothing to do with you. Know that she is frail. I know that I am. Know that it isn’t that she doesn’t love you, it is that she isn’t capable of loving you the way that you want or need to be loved. We expect so much out of the concept of being a mother- as though all selfishness and fear, shame and guilt, destructive coping mechanisms and habits magically disappear when the baby is placed in her arms, only to be replaced by baking skills and a soothing voice. But here is the truth- being a mom is hard. It’s the hardest thing I have ever done. And my children don’t take away all my junk, they TRIGGER my junk. It’s not their fault (see above), but being responsible for shaping another life just adds fuel to a fire that I work to keep under control.
I don’t know why your mom speaks to you the way she does. I don’t know why she isn’t truthful, or encouraging, or why she chose that person over you. I don’t know why she pretends not to see your pain. I don’t know why she let that person hurt you or why she didn’t believe you. I don’t know why she never calls you or asks about your life, and only wants to complain about hers. I don’t know why she hates your spouse or treats your children like they are a bother. I don’t know why she makes jokes at your expense. I don’t know why your mom drinks. I don’t know why she chose drugs over you. I don’t know why your mom disowned you over your choices. I don’t know why your mom hit you and gave you away. I don’t know why. I am sorry.
But here is what I know. Sometimes “honoring” simply means a silent nod, a deep sigh, and a quiet prayer for forgiveness.
This sunday, when the beds are full of breakfast and the flowers have been delivered, you are being prayed for. Prayers that you’ll know it’s okay to cry and acknowledge that it should have been different. Prayers that you will feel the comforting weight of the One who IS a perfect parent, and longs to hold His child.