A little bit of Mother’s Day perspective

It’s not my norm to write on holidays but Mother’s Day is near and dear to me. My own mother has a birthday precisely one week before Mother’s Day so I’ve always been well-acquainted with the holiday. My family does much of the typical stuff – we get her a card, sing happy birthday, eat cake and then likely enjoy some ice cream thereafter. That’s fun part of Mother’s Day.

Thankfully, my two younger brothers and I are always on top of our game when our mother’s birthday/Mother’s Day comes about. Granted, we’ll still text each other a day or two before and ask just the what the heck to get her this year – which never ends well – but the thought that we should do something nice for our dear mother is always there.

It’s no secret that mothers have a special bond with their children – unique and wholly different from a father’s. They (mothers) know their children about as well as any other person on this Earth ever will. There’s an emotional connection that transcends typical emotional attachment. Considering what these women endure to bring life into the world, there’s a rather large investment to be made with their children. Hours of labor, weeks of preparation, and months carrying a new life – just wow, right?

As a guy, I can’t even begin to comprehend this situation. The mere thought of harboring a living thing inside of me makes me want to vomit. If I knew that I was to burden the existence of human procreation inside of my gut, I’d probably forego the entire process. Don’t sign me up because I don’t want it. And furthermore, don’t expect me to comply for the sake of the world. The messiness involved si not something I’m prepared to stomach.

But I’m a man. That’s the reality. I’m not made for such a task – God gave this glory to another part of his human creation. For that, I am eternally grateful, but I accept this diversity with open arms. I know my place as a protector, not a superior nurturer. I know I’m to be committed once the die is cast and fatherhood knocks upon my door and I understand that my greatest struggle with my own children will be the fine line of disciplinarian/provider and how to balance that (without my kids hating me). For the mother, she will have similar roles to play in that child’s life but hers will be specific and separate from mine. She’ll look to bring support, a gentle hand, and an even smoother touch of grace when her kids mess up – because that’s what she does as a mom, she lets you know you are loved even if you don’t think you are.

As guys, men, or fathers-in-training, we don’t get to have this immediate connection with our children. We watch the pain that the mothers of our children go through and all we can do is sit and watch. Or get hot water. Or get the nurse. Or hold her feet up while she makes that final push in labor. We’re standing by, just waiting to see what’s been cooking in that oven for nine months. And once that baby girl or boy is born, we have the choice to high tail it out of there or stick around to build up this child from the moment he takes his first breath. It’s really as simple and awesome as that (so stick around Dad’s, I promise that the journey is worth it!).

Mothers have a choice too, but the investment has already been made. Their approval has been given the moment their child is born. As men, we look at the child and silently we think of ways this baby may live into our own standards of living. We expect much and hope for the best, much like the mother, but we want our children to surpass us in our own works; to be better than we were and to see and do more than we ever hoped to achieve. Conversely, we’re not as concerned with feelings or emotional stability – we crave a fortress to shelter this child with as they grow and prosper into adulthood.

Ironically, as I grow older, I see that mothers want all of these things too, but as I said before, the approval has been made. You are her pride and joy the instant you take a breath for the first time.

I say these things because of something I witnessed this past weekend. My girlfriend and I were out with friends, enjoying a Friday night at the local Dave and Buster’s. For those that know the place, it can seem like a madhouse full of games, food and tickets. The two of us are still trying to earn the coveted 75,000 coupons so we can get a Playstation 3, but by the time we earn enough coupons, we may have been able to buy the system some three times over (but that’s another story entirely).

What happened on this particular night was something I did not expect. As we were sitting and talking, I saw four young teenagers come walking by our table. They were on their way to play in the game center, probably with the intent to enjoy a full night of games and ticket-winning, but what was special about this quartet was the company they kept: two boys, a girl, and a young boy walking with the assistance of two walkers. His legs were bent in, making a simple walk look difficult, but with the aid of his walkers, he moved at a rather brisk pace. He did a fair job of keeping up with his party, all of whom walked quickly but not too fast for him to stay with them.

I knew that this boy likely had some minor form of muscular dystrophy. I know because I used to work with handicapped children many years ago. As he made his way by our group, I kept a close eye on him. Strolling through the chaos of Dave and Busters is no easy undertaking for any person, but in this particular scenario, the slightest movement from a nearby person wouldn’t be enough time for him to get out the way. His reflexes would never allow it. So I kept a steady vigil until he was out of my sight.

I suppose you could say that I felt like he needed to be protected. This was natural, I guess. It’s gender-biased to say so, but since I’m a male, I seek protection first. Does he need someone to watch over him while he walks? Or no? But when my watch was over, I wondered what his own mother wanted for him. Did she want him protected in the way I was thinking? Or was she merely concerned that he would be playing with his friends on a Friday night? You know, enjoying himself and forgetting the fact that he was physically incapable of being “just like every other kid”. This was a real gut check for me, not just as a guy, but as a human being.

The next day, before I wrote this post, I had the opportunity to sit with an old college friend of mine. He recently felt called to start a non-profit that will work specifically with handicapped individuals, a project he wanted to speak with me on. His passion for the project is very real and I’m happy to have him share his thoughts and feelings on such an endeavor. Moreover, I’m excited to hear that others are willing to stick their necks out and positively impact the greater good. I left our meeting with a renewed sense of relief and my mind returned to the young boy I saw just a night before.

I don’t see coincidences in life – even if I use the word in passing, I’m not a big fan of ‘coincidence talk’. The fact that I saw this young boy, met with a friend on a similar topic, and found myself reflecting about it later was no mere coincidence for me. And thus, this series of events got me thinking, which led to me typing, which led to me making this post and ultimately what all this meant to me as I picked up the phone to say “Happy Mother’s Day” to my own mother. The culmination of events got me realizing how much my mother cared for me and continues to care for me.

To see that young boy racing alongside his friends made me comprehend just how much that boy’s mother must love him, wherever she may be. She brought him into the world, likely with no expectation other than to care for him. She was probably hopeful that he’d be strong, resilient, and true, but no matter what, he was going to be loved. At least that’s what I would hope for the most.

Oftentimes, we can see the love a child has in his life by the relationships he forms with others. Do they have firm foundations? Or are they easily crumbled by the slightest gaffe? This young boy, despite being physically different, had three friends walking along side him, in even stride, without disdain for his ailment. Now, unless these three others were being paid off by some unseen person, I’m inclined to think that they were all friends. The smiles, the excitement and the banter of conversation showed that, but even greater than that was the pace at which the other friends moved with this boy. They didn’t expect him to run faster, to “keep up” because they themselves were able; they merely walked along with him, sharing in the moment and not leaving him behind. That’s showing real love for another person – much like the love of a mother.

As it pertains to my own mother, I have known and felt that type of love. I’ve screwed up many times over and I’ve often made a fool of myself, but through that hardship, my mother has always been there to greet me. She accepts me as only a mother can and for that, I’m more than grateful, I’m blessed by that connection.

So here’s to you, Mom. May it be more than just a day where you receive the latest Hallmark card or dozen red roses (still not sure if my brothers picked those up or not); may it be a day where all your children fully realize the depth of your love for them. And return that love in the best way that they can. Mine just so happens to be a blog.

Thanks, Mom, for all that you continue to do.

Your son

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