This one is for the mothers. The ones serving in the hardest places. Those whose children have special needs. Those whose children are battling addiction or illness or struggling to overcome difficult choices. Those who love children they have lost. Those raising not just their children but their grandchildren.
Twenty-one years ago, when I became a mother, no one told me how little of my life – let alone my children’s lives – I’d be able to control. I imagined that raising children was like a recipe, one in which if you measured and mixed the proper ingredients and waited a sufficient time you’d enjoy the desired results. And oh, how I liked the illusion of control.
What I have learned over the past two decades is that there is almost nothing in life that I can control. Bed times, on a good day. Sometimes a bath. And all the good books I can possibly read before tucking my wee ones in for the night. Church on Sundays. The food I serve on their plates. What they watch on television – at least when I am around. And making sure they are learning. It’s a short list.
I remember the day I looked out my back window as my three oldest scampered about the yard and I realized they had outgrown my ability to contain them. A little more than a decade later, the two oldest come and go in their own cars to jobs and college and to visit friends over state lines. While I still maintain some control over my youngest (as much as anyone can control a four year old), I now see clearly in which direction all this mothering goes: out of my grasp.
This week I read of a mother whose son nearly died of a drug overdose. Another mom shared an essay describing what it is like to get up early to feed, change, and care for her son – now a young man – who will never be able to do these things for himself. Yet another just returned from the Greek island of Lesvos and wrote of the challenges faced by refugee mothers caring for newborns with so few diapers, they can use only five per day and even fewer baby wipes.
Such stories remind me of the fragility of life. They remind me that so much is beyond my grip. In the best of circumstances, mothering is hard. In the most difficult, it is nearly impossible. So this Mother’s Day, thank your mom for whatever good she was able to offer you. But don’t stop there. Instead of flowers, volunteer or make a donation to an organization helping mothers in the hardest places. Befriend and support a mom whose child has special needs. Drop off groceries for a grandmother raising her grandchildren. Sit with a mom whose child is struggling. Weep with a mother whose children are with her no more. And offer up a prayer for those who are hurting.
While such circumstances may be beyond our control, those facing them are not beyond the reach of our love.
Meadow Rue Merrill, the award-winning author of Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine.