by Joanie Butman
Whoever chose the date for Mother’s Day must have been Catholic since May is the month the Catholic Church honors Mary – the mother of all mothers. At mass last Sunday, they held a May Day procession culminating with her floral coronation. As a mom no one has ever offered me a crown of flowers. My true crown that I cherish above all else is the collection of Mother’s Day cards from my children where they claim I am the greatest mother in the world. At least for this one day I am, and I’ll gladly take it because the rest of the year my ratings fluctuate wildly.
While I was watching the May Day festivities, I began to think about Mary and how hard her life must have been. She didn’t have disposable diapers or the benefit of the What To Expect series or any other of the glut of parenting books available today. And no one has ever written a manual about parenting the son of God though I know plenty of parents who treat their offspring as such. Then they unleash them into the world where they expect the rest of us to do the same!
I’m sure Mary must have felt just as tired and bedraggled as the rest of us. She probably even lost her temper on occasion. Above all else though, more than any other mother in history, she knew the intense pain of watching her child suffer. Any mom (or dad) knows, “You are only as happy as your least happy child.” I don’t know a parent alive who wouldn’t gladly take on their child’s pain if they could. But we can’t, so like Mary we simply limp alongside them in their pain, our love and support being the only solace we can offer – and our prayers.
This week was Sharing Day for my Bible Study group where women have the opportunity to voice anything they have learned during the year and how it affected their life. The most common emotion expressed is gratitude for our support and prayers on behalf of their children. We’ve prayed for health issues, psychological issues, school issues, addiction issues, social issues, marriage issues, job issues. We’ve prayed for children serving in the armed forces and the ultimate pain – the loss of a child. Within this group of 100+ women, life (and motherhood) unfolds with all its challenges, joys and sorrows. It is a place where we are fed so that we, in turn, can return to our roles strengthened and encouraged to face another day knowing we have an army of prayer warriors praying behind the scenes, especially at times when we can’t even find the words.
My Bible Study group is about so much more than just learning scripture. It is a support group of women – mostly mothers with children and grandchildren spanning generations. Even if they didn’t give birth, all women have mothering roles in some capacity – it’s in our nature. The fellowship of these women has made me a better person and a better mother. Any parenting wisdom I’ve accumulated didn’t come from all those childrearing books, which my mother sagely counseled me to toss in the garbage. No, it came from other mothers (including my own) and, much to my children’s dismay, through lots of trial and error. Most of our prayers for each other concern our children, spouses and parents regardless of their ages. You never outgrow praying for your children or your loved ones.
We may not have been given the overwhelming task of mothering God’s son, but we all take our jobs just as seriously. Women have a daunting role in the family as the ‘go-to’ person for everything from a lost sock to a lost love. In my house when there is an emergency, the immediate reaction is a resounding, “MOM!” It’s not because I have any medical training or formal referee experience, but in a crisis everyone wants someone who will take control, not panic, and ‘fix’ things. For many families, this is the role of the mom.
Even if the sight of a limb dangling at an odd angle is threatening to make you vomit, here’s my mantra: “Stay calm. I’m here, don’t worry. It’s going to be okay. I'll take care of you.” It's what God tells me and then I repeat it to them. What seems like a lifetime ago, I saw my family racing across the yard. My husband, all color drained from his face, holding my son with blood gushing from his head while Hannah (who had accidentally hit him in the head with a golf club) was running along screaming, “I see his brain! I see his brain!” Then in unison, “HELP! MOM!” That was just the first of a long series of visits to the local emergency room.
My key to parenting: NEVER let them see how grossed out or panicky you feel, or that you have NO IDEA what you’re doing. ALWAYS act as if you have everything under control. That’s all they want or need whether it is a skinned knee, a broken bone, a bad grade, a cut from the team, or a rejection from college. It is a common belief that Mom will know how to make you feel better. Even ET knew enough to “phone home.” My mom is still one of the first people I call with good and bad news. And who hasn’t experienced one of those panicky calls whether you are the mom talking your child off the ledge or whether it is your own mom talking you off yours!
I was driving in the car yesterday and a song came on with the lyrics, “I guess we're all one phone call from our knees.” The women with whom I spend every Thursday are painfully aware of this reality, which is why we choose to start there just as Mary did when she first learned of Jesus' impending birth. When you choose to begin on your knees, your mothering becomes a “sacred partnership with God.”
To my own mother who has never ceased praying for me and for all the other women in my life with whom I travel this road, “Have a blessed Mother’s Day!”
I will share the closing song from my Bible Study on Thursday. It is called The Servants Song, and I pass it alongin honor of all the women I’ve been blessed to have in my life and to those who came before us leaving their own wisdom to guide us.
Sister, let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant too
We are pilgrims on a journey
We are sisters on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load
I will hold the Christ-light for you
In the night time of your fear
I will hold my hand out to you
Speak the peace you long to hear
I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh I’ll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through….
Amen to that sisters!!!
A light-hearted look at motherhood: