Tate and I celebrated 16 years of marriage last Friday. I have to give him credit, he gave me a great card with a wonderful note. I, on the other hand, apparently gave him the same card I had given him a few years ago! My reason for buying said card was different than the reason I bought it before, or so he tells me. The other card is on his desk at work. Anyhow, I am nothing if not consistent and it would seem, forgetful.
Sixteen years ago, I would never have guessed I would be the mother of nine children. (Therese is coming so very soon!) I had a great desire to be a mother and certainly looked forward to sharing the experience with Tate, but never would I have thought nine. More than that, I had such a vague idea of what motherhood would be. I had the wonderful example of my own mother, but it is really something that must be experienced to appreciate. You can’t articulate the joys of meeting your child for the first time or the love that wells up from the depths of your soul. You can’t understand the sacrifice of sleepless nights, runny noses, or the dreaded stomach bug. These, and many more, are by their nature experiential.
It is part of what makes being a parent so difficult, you have to learn as you go in some respects. However, you can help to prepare for it by developing an appreciation and understanding of what love is.
I do not know what my children's’ vocations will be. Priest, consecrated religious or married; they will need to know what true love is. It is my responsibility as a mother to teach them through my daily interaction with them. If I can teach them what authentic love is before they venture from the nest, I will have done my job well.
This past weekend, the priest we had in while visiting Gatlinburg had a wonderful homily on just this subject. He defined love as having three characteristics.
It is other oriented
It is action oriented
It is expensive
First, love is not focused on self. True love focuses on others and their needs. There is no room for selfishness here. A good mother knows well that her life is no longer her own. She has been given the gift of a new life. She has been entrusted, with her spouse, to raise that child to know, love and serve God.
Second, it is action oriented. Love is not abstract or something we just keep to ourselves. True love requires action. We must show our love for others by caring for them, listening to them, anticipating what they need before they even ask. If we truly love someone, it should be apparent by our every action. Although it is important to tell someone you love them, it is even more important to show them through our self sacrifice. Mom is always the last one to sit down for dinner, isn’t she?
Finally, love is expensive. My body is a walking tribute to the physical cost of carrying a child. I am certainly forever changed. However, I am grateful for all my stretch marks because with them came my children. Just so, I am thankful for the tears and heartache of infertility. The expense of these tears and sadness brought the gift of my adoptive children. Love requires a giving of ourselves that is at times painful. It is not easy (or fun) to remain patient with a petulant child or back talking teenager. I am not sure how we function at times on the amount of sleep we get. It can be difficult to know what the right thing to do is at times. Even after our kids are in bed, we spend hours thinking and talking about how to be a better parent. The sacrifices evolve and change over the years, but they are always there.
On this Mother’s Day, it is my prayer for my children that I can be a mother that embodies all three of these traits. It is my hope that through my example and that of my husband, they know what authentic love is; love that remains through the laughter, heartache, joys, and struggles of life. I can only accomplish this through much prayer and the grace of God. I know for certain I will fail more often than I would like. However, with God’s help I can succeed more than I fail.
As always, I can look to Mary as my ultimate example and ask her to pray for me to love those God has entrusted to me as she loved Christ. JMJ