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.