Any holiday that results in the world being filled with flowers and slightly burnt toast can’t be all that bad. Our mother told me that some of the best days of her life as a mother were when her own children had kids of their own and felt the weight of responsibility that comes with holding a newborn. She paused for emphasis and raised her hand with a flourish and proclaimed: “Instant respect!!” And she treated all of us like people all the time – no talking down – never really couching her guilt trips (there were many; they can be useful) in a way that diminished motherhood itself.
A feminist who disdained the very word, she understood the power of matriarchy and wielded its grandly. And her belief that children are gifts from God, given to us to teach us about ourselves as part of a the pursuit of the divine was probably her greatest lesson to me. She believed in everyone having a divine purpose and often said that pride was her biggest obstacle to pursuing the path laid out for her. I get that.
Mom said she had to remind herself that she could neither control nor shape the fates of her children (though that really didn’t stop her from trying) but the more powerful thing she said was that her belief in divine providence reminded her that she could neither take credit for our successes nor blame for our mistakes. And while there were times I thought that statement was a cop out, I can see how she thought that when I look at my own children; I don’t know that much more about them today than I learned in the first 24 hours in the hospital after each of them was born. They have all been so much themselves from the very first moment we met, and yes, I factored in the autism. Certainly we must give them all the tools we can to release the full potential they have; to keep them healthy and safe but most of all to help them know and understand the power and meaning of love. It sounds simple and it’s pretty straightforward until you have that moment as a mother where the greatest love means letting go.