I have pondered the nature of parenthood for a good stretch now. I have the crease lines in the middle of my forehead, coming out of my eyebrows, to show for it. As far as I can tell from here, being a parent is simply teaching another human being how to be human, mostly by example. It is why Jesus came to earth as a person instead of simply telling us from His lofty perch, spectacles at the end of his nose, chin lifted to see through them to examine our behavior more precisely, what to do and how to be.
In a smaller but not very different sense, this is what parents do for their children every day.
It is my mom’s birthday today (i’m pretty sure. if not, it’s definitely tomorrow) and the older I get the more I can see clearly what she has shown me of true, grounded, and earthy humanity. Perhaps it’s the distance, or the age, or the fact that I am keenly aware that I now have three little eyes on me as she once did, but my heart grows fonder towards my mom as the time passes. She is not perfect, but she is real and defined and that makes her only more lovable to me.
So mom, on your birthday, I can’t call you because my phone is in its winter hibernation of deadness and no charge is bringing it to life, but thank you for being human – so gloriously you – in front of me. I have *learned much of love and life by having a front seat to your life:
- I have learned to say thank you, always.
- I have learned to apologize when I am wrong.
- I have learned that it is ok to say no, to others and to my children.
- I have learned humility to work on my weaknesses for the sake of my family.
- I have learned that to live my life in service of others is the happiest way to live.
- I have learned what receiving a hand written note or package in the mails feels like.
- I have learned that I shouldn’t and can’t prevent my children from struggling. It is enough to simply be available for them as they fail and hurt.
- I have learned that a mother’s cool hand on a sad or hurting body is the best medicine.
- I have learned that the slow, simple life is the best life.
- I have learned to not be so sensitive and to expect little in return.
- I have learned to play with my kids…
- that learning is play…
- but to let them lead (sometimes).
- I have learned the value of adoption, of taking people in, of treating people who need it like family.
- I have learned that “camp” (nature) is a healing place.
- I have learned the joy of being home.
- I have learned the warmth and value of cooking from scratch.
- I have learned the subtle sweetness and authenticity of a private existence.
- I have been opened, like a flower, in my heart by being asked questions and being listened to minute detail by minute detail.
- I have learned that children are precious and important. More important than clean homes, money, and most things, actually.
- I have learned to see the humor in life and people, even when they are not really.
- I have learned to stay in contact with people and to not let relationships drift too far.
- I did not learn to balance my check book or read a map. Sorry, mom.
- I have learned that being on time is possible – still working on execution.
- I have learned that a good second hand find can make a whole day.
- I have learned to see God in the small details of my day.
- I have learned to delight in my own mother, the older she gets.
- I have learned a lot about marriage. Mostly respect, friendship, and feeding.
- I have learned to cry easily at love.
Betchya you didn’t know you taught me all that, hey mom. I don’t think I knew it until these past few years. I know you doubt, as all moms do, if you did any lasting good in your children’s lives and if so, did the good outweigh the bad? If this list or the love I feel in my heart towards you says anything, I’d say so.
*by learning, I do not mean that I have mastered any of these things, but that they have become part of my values and goals in being human myself.