As I write this, it’s only a few hours until Mother’s Day. As is often the case, I’m woefully under-prepared. I bought cards (thanks to Kiana reminding me) and planned to send them, but a tea-related transit accident killed ruined those intentions. I haven’t replaced them. The meal prep I should have sorted out by now is still waiting for a Google recipe search. All my good intentions for celebrating the most important women in my life (my wife, mom, my mother-in-love, and Nana) now sit in the “maybe next year” pile.
Looking at what I haven’t done, I realize it’s the kind of stuff that those important women always prioritize, plan in advance for, and ceaselessly find themselves ready for when the day arrives. It could be part of a mother’s love … or maybe it’s that I’m still losing to a heart that’s turned in on itself.
All that said, moms have been on my mind tonight. I’m working a late night shift stocking footwear at REI. It’s peaceful in the warehouse and, beyond my podcasts, my only company is my thoughts. So I shuck shoes and think about moms and their love. Then, when on breaks, I’ve been scribbling down my thoughts.
So here are three takes on a mother’s love from three moms who’ve been part of my life. Please share your story in the comments below and happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there.
A Mother’s Love: My Mom
Recently my mom commented, “I tried to be the mom I wanted growing up.” Here are a few important details to help make sense of that statement.
First, my mom is a first generation American. Her parents are English and Scottish immigrants who didn’t have the family support or generational wealth of, for example, my dad’s family. Life wasn’t easy. Second, my mom was a surprise package and is almost a decade younger than her next oldest sister. Finally, my mom’s dad died at a Christmas party when she was 13. If that wasn’t enough of a blow, days later the life insurance salesman came by to finalize his policy.
When you put those pieces together, life growing up was far from easy. My mom wanted her parents to be an integral and active part of her life, but it wasn’t an option. So, from the moment I came into the world, she dropped her life to be there for me and two years later, my brother.
Instead of working a traditional job, she focused on being a wife and mother. From the time we first went to school until we left the nest (the first time), there was always someone at home to kiss us goodbye and welcome us home.
Now, it’s important to note that I didn’t say, “She didn’t work.” Nor did I say she stayed at home. Yes, she said goodbye and hello, but she worked relentlessly. Her elementary and middle school volunteer record is impeccable. The kind of parent teachers and administrators dream about. I doubt she missed a PTA (or was it O) meeting. Our Cub Scout pack thrived because of her efforts. She used presence to express her love.
I can’t help but think that her childhood experiences also shaped the way she lived during the Christmas season. We decorated the house and cooked seasonal treats. There was a joy, energy, and liveliness to our home during that month. And then there was everything under the tree.
I’ve heard stories about my mom’s legendary gift acquisition skills. Driving across town to buy the one copy of a hot new Nintendo game that barely made it off the truck before she had it on hold. She found Cabbage Patch Kids when there weren’t any to be found. Hiding presents at the neighbor’s house and bringing them home during a Christmas Eve blizzard. Waking up to find the entire He-Man collection set up in the living room. One way or another, our most prized possessions always ended up beneath the tree.
My mom embodied the joyful giving spirit of Christmas and turned a season with heartbreaking grief for her into a season of wonder, mystery, joy, and delight for us.
Overcoming the life you’ve known to give your kids the life you wanted … that’s a mother’s love.
A Mother’s Love: Robbie’s Mom
I don’t talk about my ex-wife much. I don’t plan on talking about her much moving forward. However, it’s long overdue for me to take a moment on Mother’s Day and honor one aspect of her love for Robbie.
Tim Keller tells a story about a bridge near his childhood home. While the bridge looked sturdy, whenever a semi would drive over it, cracks would become evident. He goes on to compare that bridge to marriage. There’s something about marriage that makes our cracks evident.
My first marriage was one of living in denial about my abundant cracks (fissures might be a better term). For most of a decade, I lived angry, broken, addicted, and in denial about it. Something about the intimacy of marriage triggered the very worst in me. I was a horrible husband and disconnected father … and I unjustly blamed her for it. Yes, I could make it look good on the outside and say all the right things, but my life was a sham.
Yet, in the hours following a horrendous public embarrassment, she encouraged me to spend time having fun with Robbie. We went to Chucky Cheese. Those hours sparked my desire to be better as a man and a father.
Moreover, she stayed close to my hometown, rather than going back to her family in California. I would have followed Robbie anywhere, but there is no doubt her decision made it far easier on me. After all, I didn’t just destroy the remains of our marriage, but my career.
Why? From what I’ve heard, in part, she did it because she wanted to make sure I remained in Robbie’s life.
Perhaps it would have been easier to get me out of the picture. Making things more difficult for me could have simplified her life. Yet she chose the hard road because she believed it was best for Robbie. Apparently, she believed a disengaged dad who might get his shit together someday was better than no dad at all.
She took a much harder road in the hope it would bless Robbie’s life … that’s a mother’s love.
A Mother’s Love: My Wife
Why do mothers do the amazing sacrificial things mothers do? Science tells us that oxytocin, also known as the cuddle hormone, plays a major role. It’s a hormone that facilitates bonding during, among other things, labor and breastfeeding. One of the effects of oxytocin is social and emotional bonding. It is a chemical explanation for why mothers love the way they do.
So how do I explain my wife Kiana? The only answer I can come up with is the Holy Spirit moving in and through her. If you haven’t seen Robbie and Kiana together, or haven’t heard Kiana talk about Robbie, it’s amazing. Honestly, I often find myself envious at how natural this whole parenting thing is for her.
While those hours with Robbie at Chucky Cheese made me want to be a better man and father, life with Kiana, both through observation and relationship, teaches me how. She helps me tune into his heart and soul, challenges me to always put his interests first, and calls me out when I’m not being the dad Robbie deserves.
But beyond shaping me as a dad, perhaps the best example I can offer comes from the story behind Robbie calling Kiana mom.
The first part of the story involves a conversation he and I had before I proposed. After months of Robbie prodding and not-so-subtly hinting that he wanted Kiana and I to get married, I decided to pop the question. As a part of the proposal, I wanted a video of him proposing and asking her to be his …. um?
Knowing this day would come, Kiana and I had discussed some options. Robbie and I talked about each of them. Step-mom wasn’t one of them. As Kiana says, “My heart knows no ‘steps’ between us.” We also ruled out mom as a mark of respect for my ex. We finally settled on Kiana’s proposal, “Bonus mom.” That’s the term Robbie used in the regretfully deleted video.
Fast forward a few months to a reception after our wedding. Robbie comes up to Kiana and the following conversation ensues:
“You know it’s ok if you still want to call me Kiana.”
“I know, Mom!”
“Or you can call me Ki.”
“I know, Mom!”
“How about Ki Ki or Keeks?”
“That’s okay, Mom!”
“Maybe your bonus mom?”
“That’s okay, Mom!”
“So I guess you’re going to call me Mom.”
At 5, Robbie knew exactly what he saw in Kiana … a mother’s love.
Please use the comment section below to share your take on a mother’s love.