Sunday, May 12, 2013

On my mother, motherhood, the Atonement, and Grace.

 I always miss my mother, but there are times when the loss of her companionship is more acute.

I miss her when I give birth.  Although I have been blessed with help from my mother-in-law (invaluable this last time!), and my sisters, I really have just wanted my mother--my mother who could just come and take care of everything, all without it being awkward.  I miss her as I try to parent a three year old.  I suspect that I was a pretty terrible three year old since I can remember throwing some epic fits.  I want to ask her how she and I both survived.

My mother died when I was still a self-adsorbed child.  (And, yes, I can say that I was still much a child at the age of 19.)  We had an excellent relationship.  I would tell her anything and everything about my day.  I often preferred sharing her company to that of my friends'.  She was my best friend and the best mother.  Yet, I have no idea how she occupied her day while I was at school.  I have no clue what her opinion and thoughts were on any given subject.  (The exception to this: mothers giving talks at church on Mother's Day.  I remember quite clearly what she thought about that.  Hint: it wasn't positive.)  I find myself longing to know who she was.  What was she like as a child, a teenager, a young mother.  Who is she now?  What I crave is an adult relationship with her.

Being a mother is hard.  I feel like I have stepped into a role for which I am vastly unprepared.  I feel like I should be more patient, more loving, more of a spiritual rock to my family than I currently am.  I want to be more like my mother.  But then I had an epiphany.  When I think of my mother and her attributes, I think of her as a mother of mostly grown children.  I didn't know her as a mother of small children.  That gives me hope.  I still have time to become more like her.

In the not so distant past, I called my sister.  I was sobbing.  I felt at the end of my rope.  I was not being a good mother.  I was being too rough, too callous, too overwhelmed.  I felt out of control of my emotions, and I had a child who didn't (and still doesn't) understand the statement, "I need to be alone."  After talking me down from the ledge, my sister said a profound statement.  "It is at times like these that we have the Atonement."  At the time, I took that to mean that through the Atonement we can be forgiven of the moments when we are lousy parents.  And there is that.  However, I think it encompasses more.

I mentioned that I didn't know or remember my mother as a parent of small children.  (I am the youngest by the way.)  I am pretty sure though that there were moments when she wasn't emotionally or even physically present.  My dad worked really long hours; we lived on a really tight budget; and I suspect there were periods of depression (although this has not been discussed as a family).  The raising of us four kids stood on her shoulders for the most part, and both physical and emotional resources were limited.  I think it is safe to assume that she experienced days like the one I mentioned above.  I, however, don't remember them.  I don't have memories of horrible days.  I feel like I had a blessed and idyllic childhood.  I feel like I was raised in a safe, secure environment.  

And this, I think, is the Atonement in action.  I know that my mother tried really hard to do her best, to be the best mother she knew how.  But I also think there were times when she fell short.  But because she was faithful, and trying her best, the Lord made up the difference.  As a result, I don't remember and wasn't affected by those times.  As an imperfect mother myself, this gives me hope.  I hope that through the Atonement, not only can I become a better parent, but my kids will be buffeted from my imperfect parenting--that Grace will make up all my woefully lacking areas. 

Because of the Atonement and the Resurrection, I can hope to see my mother again.  At that time, I imagine we will have a long, lengthy, adult conversation about being mothers and how we survived the age of three.


Jaimee said...

You're not alone in feeling like you fall short as a mother. I think we all feel this way. We're all doing the best that we can with the resources we have and the fact that you are constantly striving to do more, be better suggests that you are an amazing mother and your children are blessed to have you.

I read your other post about missing your mother just now. I wasn't aware of your blog back when you wrote it. I distinctly remember when you told me about your mother's passing. It was Mother's Day. My mom had come up to Western to visit me and for some reason I was on the phone with you. I asked you how you were spending Mother's Day and that's when you told me your mom had died. I can remember having no idea what to say, feeling horrible for not knowing and for bringing up fresh pain for you on what was likely a very painful day already. I also remember you telling me it was okay, how could I have known, and those other comforting things you probably had to tell dozens of people. But I really didn't have any idea- you were so strong and handled yourself so well. Many people in your position would have found finishing the school year impossible. But you came back and aced your classes.

Anyway, I just wanted to share that memory and assure you that you are much stronger than you give yourself credit for and your kids will grow up feeling they, too, had an idyllic life.

Much love!

MBC said...

This is a really beautifully written post and I think you're right about the application of the Atonement in motherhood. The early years are rough, aren't they? All the best to you.


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