Just Like You and Me

My mother and I, Christmas 2012

It’s Mother’s Day, and the mom mystique is on full display. Flowers and candy are front and center in the grocery store. Pink, flowery cards overrun the rack at the mini-mart. Today we will hear sermons about extraordinary mothers. The ones who we deem are doing well at mothering. And we will honor them, as we should.

But mothers are just women. Ordinary, struggling women. Warm and loving women. Women desperately trying to live up to the title of a “good mom”. Women who have given up. Women who lived full lives before and after being mothers.

How many decades does it take us to recognize our mothers’ humanity? To stop measuring them by how well, or how poorly, they parented, and try to understand who they are as individuals—the hearts beating underneath the badge of “Mom”?

My mother tried hard, but she also had demons to battle. I had to learn to see her beyond her role in my life. To understand her craving for something always just beyond her reach. Still, though I grew to somewhat understand her, I never really knew her. And I wonder, how many of us do?

My mother lost her own mother as a young child, and that loss colored the next 88 years of her life. She put the pieces of her story together, little by little, over the following decades, and in so doing, honored the mother she never knew, and the essence of her mother that lived on in her.

This Mother’s Day, I’d like to offer a suggestion. There is a gift that we can give our mothers that is more meaningful—and more costly—than flowers or a card or breakfast in bed. Give her the gift of understanding. Take time this year to truly get to know the woman who parented you, whether she still lives or not.

The more you come to understand your mom, the better you will understand yourself; for it is she, whether through her loving presence or sorrowful absence, in her pain and struggles, accomplishments and adventures, who had the largest part of forming you.

It may require a large amount of grace for her failures. You might have to navigate some deep waters of forgiveness. Or you may better appreciate the things you already cherish about her. You definitely will uncover some surprises. Above all, honor her story with compassion and kindness.

Because, after all, she is just like you and me.

“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Ephesians 6:2-3

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