So as I sat in mass last night I was turning these things over in my mind, wondering how to allow my kids to celebrate without drawing a whole lot of unwanted attention to myself. My thoughts kept going back to one of C.S. Lewis' reflections entitled "The Perfect church service".
“Every church service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best– if you like, it ‘works’ best– when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it." C.S.Lewis
It really struck me that this applies also to Motherhood. Good mothering is the 'long familiarity' process in the life of your child. Good mothering brings a sense of safety, security, happiness, stability, order, and love to a family. It is the force that allows children to grow up and get on with their own lives without having to worry and struggle daily over food, drink and the grown -up anxieties of life. Good mothering fades to the background so the life or lives it supports can get on with it and learn to fly. It makes itself unnoticed.
As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance.A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling." C.S. Lewis
As a consequence most Mom's who are getting things right are likely to ask themselves questions like "Do they really know how much I have given up for them? Do they have any idea of how much I care? Will they ever understand How much of my life I have poured into them each day in the countless unnoticed acts of mothering like cooking, cleaning, washing, teaching, nursing, loving, and praying?" Be careful with how you answer this one- it's liable to make you feel neglected, and under-appreciated if you dwell on it too long. The answer isn't as simple as it seems, at least it isn't for me.
The truth is I don't think I ever really appreciated my own Mom while she was with me. I called her regularly, had a great relationship, shared the same values she did, and was overall very close to her. Yet the moment she was gone,and many times since then, I wanted most of all to be able to go back and simply thank her again for the endless love she showered on me and my siblings. Her love was so strong and steady and powerful that I grew accustomed to it, and took it for granted. But here's the catch- I think she meant for me to. I think she wanted me to know that I didn't have to wonder if she would be there, or if she cared, she wanted her love to be so certain and stable so that I didn't have to worry or fret about it, but could simply move forward secure in it. I say this because it is what I want for my own kids and what most moms that I talk to desire for their children as well.
Last night Freddy took four of the boys out and I put the little girls down early. Peter and JP were at home with me on a Saturday night while I graded tests for my sixth grade class, and did some planning. Peter asked me what I wanted for Mother's day, and I told him nothing. Then he stopped and asked "Mom, what do you get out of being a Mom?" and I could feel a serious conversation spring up in the room for the three of us. You all know that is an impossible question to answer. Telling him he gives my world form and meaning and that I have learned to love by being a mother and to be human, sounds so silly even when its true. The chance to take a little soul and shape that person for eternity is pretty heady stuff and not easy to translate into words. Sort of like the dandelions that get pressed into my hand as a sign of affection from my little ones. On their own they are weeds, but when given to me by my sweet child they are transformed into heavenly treasures only a fool couldn't see.
The conversation died down and I went back to my work. Next thing I knew, and without warning, I was being scooped up by the big strong arms of my second eldest son. He didn't want to look at me when he spoke because, just like when he was little, he is still a bit shy even of his own feelings. So he picked me up instead and hugged me and whispered in my ear "I never know what to do for you for mothers day, because the truth is I never thought I deserved a Mom like you. And I wish there was a way to say thank you for always making dinner, and cleaning, and teaching us, and giving us a good life, but I still don't know how to do it. But I really do love you even if I don't deserve you." and then he let go and left me in a puddle of my own tears and it took me five whole minutes to pull it all back together.
The truth is, we all deserve that kind of love. That unconditional steady support. The kind of love that is so strong and certain it goes unnoticed like the air we breathe, or the heart that beats in our chest. The less attention it draws to itself the better it is. It creates a place for people to become human. It is all worth it. Being a mother is the stuff of life.