There was something about the role of mothering that came natural to me. It started, perhaps, as granny mothered me in times I only know through photographs. Mama was in seminary where they couldn’t take their kids in those days. Daddy was pastoring a church while mama finished so granny filled the gap and so began a relationship that would keep us connected for long enough for her to see our first baby.
I mothered my dolls. Wrapped them in the blankets and fed them pretend food. The magic bottle that came along was the best invention to my pre-school aged self. I nestled my babies in the crook of my arm while putting the plastic bottle to her plastic lips and watch the pretend milk disappear as if she was drinking it down.
This was mothering. Dressing, feeding, cleaning and comforting my baby dolls.
Motherhood held a few surprises for me, the first of which was not expecting to be so sore in my arms after giving birth. I hadn’t realized how tight I’d gripped the arms of the hospital bed during, what was, an easy delivery.
I didn’t expect how sleep deprived I’d be those first few months and how hard that would be.
We’ve learned to be more inclusive when celebrating mom’s. That’s why I like the word mothering. One doesn’t have to have had children to know how to mother.
Long before Henry’s sister had a child, she babysat for ours. She’d keep them for weekends we attended out of town church functions or anytime we needed her. Her mothering skills were tested on more than one occasion watching our two and I think she handled them better than I would have.
I’ve written about becoming mom to men in recovery and my initial reluctance.
Today, John and Rob will say “hi mom” when they pass me in the hallway. Both men well into their 50’s and the age of my brother. We smile a knowing grin, one that acknowledges the figurative role I’m honored to play.
Our son became friends with the boy across the street. Ivan was 5 years older than Jonathan. Enough that I kept a close eye on things not knowing much about his family other than he and his older brother were latchkey kids. His mom wasn’t comfortable with English so we politely waved across the street to each other. She made conch chowder at her house that our son discovered he liked and I doled out the snacks with a careful eye.
When school was out for the summer Ivan spent longer days in the pool with our kids. With him 11 and our son 6 it wasn’t a friendship I would have encouraged except for kids need mothering. I didn’t try to take his mom’s place or disrespect
her role. This is what you do when the need is there.
In our group of friends at church we mothered our children together. Our values were the same so our kids knew what to expect no matter whose house they were visiting.
I wonder who you’re mothering? Is it the elderly woman, or man, you see in the grocery store? The one who gets a bit turned around and needs direction?
Are you mothering the neighborhood kids as they run across your lawn to get their ball and welcome their energy?
I’m so thankful for the women who’ve mothered me. For aunt Juanita and Phylis, two women who’ve given the gift of presence and listening. For teachers who nurtured, some with a firm voice and rule. For friends who’ve walked with me in times of parental frustration and who’ve understood a mother’s broken heart.
We didn’t recognize it so much then as community but that’s what we know now. We help raise each other, young and old, sometimes the younger teaching the older and we understand it works better doing this together.
May you find comfort in mothering and being mothered.
May you feel the breath of grace around you as you are nurtured and comforted.
May you shine Jesus in every life you touch.